“A Change of Plans”
Hello! My name is Bret McCasland. Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “change is inevitable.” Well, that's true, isn't it? We live in a world of change; from the way we communicate to the way we travel, from what we eat to what we wear, even our plans for the day may change in a moment's notice. Yes, change is all around us. One of the recurring themes in the Bible revolves around change. God continually called upon people to adjust their lives so that they would be more in line with His will. And through His prophets and servants, God asked, even commanded, changes to be made in the way one lived out their physical and spiritual lives. Well, one of the more challenging changes we encounter is a change of plans. Something happens and what we planned on doing does not work out. Someone calls with an urgent need and we drop what we we’re doing and minister to that person. Oh, those types of changes are disruptive, but at the same time, they may be most necessary. In today's lesson, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will think about a man whose plans were drastically changed; in fact, those changes led him to going in a totally different direction with his life. Now, that may or may not be what needs to happen with us. However, as we look at this story, I believe we will find some things worthy of our consideration. I hope you will stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes, as we now open our Bibles and study together.
The story of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection is recorded several times throughout the New Testament. It revolves around God's love for people and the many lives that have been changed and continue to be changed by it. The story is quite familiar. One place where we find it is in the book of Acts, chapter 2. Some 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead, thousands of people came together in the city called Jerusalem. They came to worship God and to celebrate and to thank God for the bountiful harvest they recently received. It was called the Feast of Weeks. Later on, it became known as the Day of Pentecost. And while they were there praising God and worshiping, the apostle Peter, along with the other apostles, got up and shared a message about Jesus with them. Peter began and in the Old Testament Scriptures, mentioning how that Jesus was the Messiah. He was the One their forefathers had looked forward to receiving, and we're anticipating to come in their lifetime; and yet, He did not. But finally Jesus did come in the lives of these people. He came as a minister and a servant to many people. He had a message about the kingdom of God, as He represented God, Himself. He told the story about Jesus and His life and the message that He proclaimed, but he focused on how many people rejected Him. They rejected His ministry and His message. Many of the people, who were assembled there in Jerusalem, were the very ones who did just that. And Peter talked about how they were guilty of crucifying the Son of God. They were the ones who, who were guilty of putting Him to death and rejecting Him, even to the point they had Him killed. Well, Jesus was then taken down from the cross, He was buried in a tomb; but as Peter points out, God did not allow His body to see decay. Instead, He raised Jesus from the dead and He came forth from the tomb alive on the third day. With many other words, Peter continued to share that wonderful message. And in the midst of it, the people realized, indeed, they were guilty. They were responsible for putting Jesus to death, and so they asked the question of Peter, “What do we need to do? How are we to respond to that?” And Peter simply told them, “Well, repent of your sin, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and you're sin will be forgiven. It will be washed away and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Well, in response to that, some 3000 people believed in Jesus as God's one and only son. And the text tells us, they were baptized into Christ and their sin was forgiven and they received the Holy Spirit. Now, this event happened in either AD 29 or AD 30, and it is referred to by many people as the beginning of the church. From that time forward, many more people began following Jesus. The number of disciples multiplied. Great things were happening and it was an exciting time in the life of the early church. Some people, however, opposed the teaching about Jesus, and these people joined together to eliminate the spread of the Gospel by persecuting those who listened to Peter and the other apostles; and, they even put some of them to death. Yes, these people tried to stand in the way of the growth that was taking place, as people were giving their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And what happened next is one of the most powerful stories that is recorded in the Book of Acts. It is about God calling a man named Saul to be His representative. And that story is found in Acts chapter 9. Paul then elaborates on it in his visit with a King Agrippa, in chapter 22 and also in chapter 26. Well, the story revolves around a man whose plans were changed. Saul was one of those who did not approve of people following Jesus, and he took it upon himself, he made it his purpose or his mission, to persecute such individuals. He would drag them out of their homes or their places of worship, persecuting them, putting them into prison and even consenting to their death. Well, as he traveled to the city of Damascus, one day, to carry out that mission, he encountered the Lord. A great light from heaven shined down upon him; and, it was not the noon day sun. And it knocked Saul to the ground, and then he heard the voice of the Lord and he was blinded by that light. He was blinded by the power of God. And he did not eat for some three days or three nights, as he considered the message that God shared with him on that road to Damascus. He thought very carefully about the direction he was going. He thought very carefully about a need to change and go in a new direction, and he was quiet and he was still before the Lord. Well, his friends picked him up and they went in to the town of Damascus where they would meet a man named Ananias. Now, prior to meeting Saul, God had appeared to Ananias, telling him of that meeting that would soon take place. Well, Ananias was concerned about that. He did not know for sure if he wanted to meet Saul because of the things that he was doing, and so he had a conversation with God during that vision. Notice what happens here in Acts 9, verse 13: <Ananias said, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to Your holy people in Jerusalem. He has come here with authority from the chief priest to arrest all who call on Your name.”> Ananias was afraid. He was scared. He did not know for sure if Saul would persecute him, put him in prison or even put him to death. He did not know if he was the man to talk to Saul. But notice God's response here in verse 15: <But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to proclaim My name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”> You know, I love God's response here, to Ananias. He simply tells him, “I want you to go and talk to him because he is My chosen instrument.” Saul is the one whom I have selected. He is the one whom I have identified to go and represent me to the kings and to the Jewish people and even to the non-Jewish, or the Gentile, people, and I want you to go and minister to him. Well with that reassuring message, Ananias does just that, as we notice here in verse 17 and following: <Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. And placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. He took food and was strengthened.> Well, that set in motion Saul’s work for the Lord. He went in to Damascus. He went in to Jerusalem, to various areas, and eventually even to the Gentiles, telling people about Jesus Christ. And as he made that transition from the Jews to the Gentiles, his name was changed from Saul to the apostle Paul, as he ministered to them as well. Now, Paul would go on to tell other parts of that story to a man named King Agrippa, in Acts chapter 26. Paul stood before him giving a defense of his life and of his ministry, and he told some things that are not found there and the 9th chapter as to what happened to him. And this is what he said about God's message and what happened. He told Agrippa this, in Acts 26 verse 16: God told him, <”Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of Me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”> Well, that sounds quite similar to what God told Ananias about Saul, doesn't it? God had some plans for this man. God wanted Saul to do something special and important. And not only was he a chosen instrument of God, but we notice here he was to be a witness and a servant of the Lord. He was to open up the eyes of the people and turn them from the darkness of the world to the light of Jesus. He was a turn people from the darkness of Satan to the power of God. Well, as he continued to stand before King Agrippa, who was the great grandson of Herod the Great, notice how he concluded his story, in verse 19 through 22: <”And so then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to that vision from heaven, first to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea and then to the Gentiles. I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. And that is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But God has helped me to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.”> One phrase that grabs my attention there is Paul stated, “I was not disobedient to the vision;” and Paul was not. He obeyed God. He went where God directed him. He did what God asked him to do. And throughout the book of Acts, beginning there in chapter 9, Paul was God's chosen instrument. He was His servant and His witness. And through Paul, God's mission to this world expanded. He helped establish many churches throughout Asia. Some 13 letters in the New Testament, bear Paul's name as the author. Yes, God changed Paul's plans, and he began to pursue them instead of his own. Oh, in the beginning, in the early part of Acts, Paul was determined to do as much damage as he possibly could do to the growth of the early church. But the interesting thing about that was that he thought he was doing what was right. He believed he was headed in the right direction and he was being a servant of God. We need to understand that Paul was a Pharisee. He believed in God. He studied the Scriptures religiously. He strictly observed the Law. He held tightly to the traditions of the first five books of the Old Testament. Yes, we might say that that Saul, as he was known then, was a godly man, and he believed that he had put together a plan for himself that God wanted him to pursue. But at just the right time and in a most unusual way, God changed those plans. He changed the direction of Saul's life. And after that encounter with the Lord, he went a different direction. He obeyed God. He shared God's love and the story of Jesus' salvation with as many people as possible. Oh, the plans of God, that He gave Saul, were important and they were much different than what Saul had created for himself. But, perhaps this is key to the story; Saul was open to them. Once Saul recognized he was headed in the wrong direction and working against God instead of for God, he made a change. He realized he needed to change his plans so that they would be more in line with God's plans. Let me ask us a question. Do we sometimes make plans for our life without considering what God wants us to do? We might believe we know what we need to be doing and we pursue that with all of our energy and our effort; and we think we are headed down the right path, and we have great plans for our life and for our future. But during the pursuit of those plans, somehow, in some way, God grabs our attention. Oh, it may not be that blinding light from heaven, as Saul experience, but in some way or another God let us know there is a different plan He wants us to pursue, and we're headed in the direction and we need to make some changes so that we can be more in tune and more in line with God. In fact, He might be putting some people or some events into our lives, from time to time, that awaken us to that fact and that help us realize that we need to make some changes. We need to do something a little bit different so that we are following God's plans instead of our own. You know, something like that might be happening right now. You might believe with all of your heart that the path you are taking is exactly what you need to be doing; and that may or may not be true, I don't know. Yet, God has something different in mind and He is trying to awaken you to the fact that maybe your plans need to change. I think about those wise words from Proverbs chapter 19, verse 21: <Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.> Well, if that is true for any of us, then we may need to be still and quiet before the Lord. We perhaps might need to fast and pray, like Saul did, for a period of time. We might need to spend some time thinking very carefully about what God would have us to do and the direction that we might need to go. We might need to consider very carefully if we need a change of plans. In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, we find the story of God's people, the Israelites, in Babylonian captivity; and they were there for some 70 years. And the Israelites thought God had forgotten them. They were there for a long period of time and they thought they would, along with their descendants, simply perish there in Babylon and never be able to go back to their homeland. They wondered where God was and if He would ever show up. They were losing hope. And yet, God reminded them they were still very special to Him. He had not forgotten them. They were His people, and He was about to do something in their life they would not even imagine. He was about to change their future and to give them hope, once again. We find that in Jeremiah chapter 29, beginning with verse 11: <"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart."> Well, that must've been encouraging for those Israelites to hear. God has not forgotten us. He has a plan for us. He gives us a hope and a future. As we turn our hearts to Him, then we will be able to find Him and know that His plan for us is exactly what He wants us to be doing. Oh, today we may not know the full extent of the plans that God has for us, but we do know that He has them. And if we are open to God, then perhaps we are going to be willing to change our plans to meet His plans. And that's what Saul did. He was open to what God needed him to do, and it began with him giving his life to Jesus Christ. It began with him going there into Damascus and recognizing, indeed, that Jesus was God's one and only Son. He was then baptized into Jesus Christ and his eyes were opened up. He was strengthened by the food that he took, he was empowered and filled up with the Holy Spirit, and he went from that day forward to being God's chosen instrument and servant and witness to this world. And maybe we need to do something similar. Perhaps it is time that we think, “Maybe that's where I start. I start by turning over a new leaf and turning my plans back to God and allowing His plans to make a difference in me.” And that begins with us recognizing who Jesus is and what He has done for us, so that we, too, can go and be a servant and a witness and a proclaimer of the wonderful story of God's love and Jesus’ salvation. With all of that in mind, now, I want to close by offering two questions for our consideration. Does God need to do some changing in your life? Oh, there might be something that is preventing you from having that right relationship with God. There may be some changes you need to make, some adjustments in your lifestyle, in your behavior, or simply by starting all over with Jesus as your Lord and Savior. But then the second question is; if we need to change, are we willing to do what Saul did? Are we willing to humble our-self and to recognize indeed that that God has a better plan for us than we have for our-self? Oh, I would encourage us today to consider our plans, to make sure that they are lining up with God's plans, and that we are right with Him and that we are walking with Jesus Christ, His son, and our Savior.
When people need my time, or projects need my attention, I oftentimes just enter that onto my phone. I have a place where I can take notes for the things that I need to see about on a daily basis. And perhaps you have something similar; maybe an iPad, perhaps a calendar. But that is where you put the things you need to do from one day to the next, people you need to see or the things you need to do or the places you need to go. But as I enter those things on to my phone, from time to time I need to go back and edit those. Some changes come up and I need to make those changes. And sometimes I make so many changes I simply need to delete the entire event, delete the entire day. And when I do that, I think about the fact that maybe I put together all of those plans without considering God's plan for me, and I have my plans in a priority in front of His plans. But God patiently waits for us to be in-tune with Him and His will for us. No doubt, He has a purpose for us. He has a plan for our life, and we are to be in-tune with that. Oh, God is seeking to accomplish His purposes in our life and He patiently waits for us to be open to and aware of those plans. I would hope today that as we think about our daily activities, that we do not get in a hurry, and that we do not place our plans or priorities above His. God is patiently waiting for us to be in-tune with His will for our life; and that involves receiving Him and His son, Jesus Christ, and the free gift of salvation which He offers. I would encourage you, today, to wait patiently on God, in regards to His plans for you.
Thank you for joining us for today's broadcast. The changes God calls upon us to make may be difficult and challenging; however, when they are made, good things can happen. I hope this lesson blessed you in some way, as you considered how we need to respond when God changes our plans. If you would like to hear or view this lesson again, please go to our website, keytothekingdom.com. There you will find it, along with several other lessons. They can all be easily downloaded, and it requires no cost and no commitment to do so. Other things which might be of interest are on the website as well. One minute devotional thoughts and two minute inspirational messages may assist you in your daily walk with the Lord. These, too, do not require any cost, and I trust you will find them useful. A free app can be downloaded onto your smart phone, which will give you access to all aspects of this ministry. You can also follow us on Facebook®. Many people are already doing that. On a weekly basis, one minute messages are uploaded, which offer spiritual encouragement. I trust you will ‘like’ and share them with others. You might even call the number on the screen and leave a message. Oh, these various ways of connecting with “KEY” will hopefully inspire and encourage you and your relationship with the Lord. As we close today, I want to say again, thank you for being our guest; and, I invite you to join us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”