When Plans Change: Plan A

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ ” (Mark 6:30-31)

How do you handle it when your plans get changed, even for good reasons? Does it stress you out? Do you feel disappointed, angry even? We’re going to learn along with Jesus’ disciples this week some big ideas about how to handle an unexpected change of plans.

plans_350Being one of Jesus’ disciples was a crazy life. They were worn out, too busy from ministry with Jesus among the huge crowds to even find time to eat. Jesus saw the problem and said, “Let’s get away; we need rest.”

I’d guess that sounded really good to them. They’d just come back from a mission away from Jesus; they probably felt like they needed some time with him that didn’t involve hordes of needy people. You might feel that way sometimes. Time alone with God is important. Rest is essential. We’re not built to just keep going – even in serving God – without stopping until we fall over.

So the plan was to get a break – but the break didn’t happen. Come back tomorrow.

Think: On a scale from 1 to 10, how busy has your life been, lately? Have you been busy doing good things – or just doing? Do you ever get too busy to eat properly? How are you at resting and taking some time to just be alone with God once in a while?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be busy in your life doing things that are worthwhile. Ask him, too, to give you enough times of rest and being alone with him to keep from getting too worn out.

Do: Plan some restful time alone with God in the next week or so.

When Plans Change: Saying Yes to Compassion

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34)

Sometimes our plans get changed no matter what we do. Other times we have choice: Will I stick to my plan or change course for this other person? It takes wisdom to know which choice to make. How do you decide? For Jesus, the answer in this case was summed up in a word: compassion.

plans_350Compassion is letting another person’s need penetrate your heart, your emotions. Jesus and the disciples needed rest – and made a plan to get it. The people needed to be taught by a shepherd. Motivated by compassion, Jesus put the needs of the crowd above his own need – and above the plans of his tired disciples.

Whether the wisest choice is to stick to the plan or throw it away, compassion is almost always the right motive and Jesus-like servanthood is always the right response for those who want to live like him.

Think: How easy is it for you to feel compassion for people in need? Has genuine compassion ever caused you to change your plans to help someone else out? Has false compassion (or selfish, false guilt) ever caused you to change your plans for someone in an inappropriate way? How can you tell the difference?

Pray: Ask your compassionate God to help you to feel appropriate compassion for people in need and to be willing to change your plans – or stick to them – to serve those people.

Do: Pay attention to your heart’s response to people in need this week and remind your heart to motivated by compassion for those who are hurting or lost.

When Plans Change: Can’t Get Away

“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.” (Mark 6:32-33)

Ever feel like your best plans are doomed from the start because someone can’t take a hint? Your sibling. Your parent. Your best friend. Anyone who decides they need something from you right now no matter what else you’ve got going on.

plans_350This was Jesus’ idea, remember? He’s the one who said to the disciples in yesterday’s passage: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” I wonder if the disciples got discouraged when they saw the crowds they just left behind on shore waiting for them at their “solitary place.”

It takes wisdom to know how to respond when other people try to change our plans for us. Sometimes, the plan is important enough to push through the attempts to steal away our time. Sometimes, the people are more important than our personal agenda. We’ll find out tomorrow which was happening here.

The bottom line, though, is that we’ve got to be open to the fact that the person holding that “help me now” sign might be God’s way of providing his own direction in our lives.

Think: How do you decide when to give your time and attention to someone who interrupts what you’re trying to get done? How often do people change their own plans to help you?

Pray: Ask God for the wisdom and insight to know when to change your plans to get involved with someone who wants your time – and when to stay on the task you set out to do.

Do: Notice this week how often your plans get changed by other people – and how often your needs cause others to change their own plans.

When Plans Change: Plan B

“By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ ” (Mark 6:35-36)

I’m writing this on my laptop as the battery quickly drains. I had a good plan to be productive today. Then the power went out. All the electronics beeped and buzzed and flickered and went dead. Now I have this sense that I’m using up the very last bit of electrical energy before I can’t go on any more.

plans_350The disciples felt that way, too. Remember the reason earlier in this day for the Plan A to get away with Jesus to a solitary place? Everyone was too busy to eat! Then the plan changed, Jesus went back to teaching, hours went by, and the disciples were likely still hungry – along with more than 5,000 people – far from the nearest drive-thru.

So the disciples came up with a Plan B, a very reasonable idea to send everyone hiking to the closest food they could find before their collective blood sugar dropped to critical levels. It sounds like a fine plan – and we’ll see tomorrow that Jesus immediately nixed it.

Sometimes every plan falls through and all you’re left with is trusting God to take care of the problem, to include you in his plan, to make sure you get fed and have the power to go on.

Think: How do you respond when every plan you make seems to fall apart and the problem doesn’t seem to be getting fixed? Is it harder for you to trust God when you’re really hungry? Have you found a way to let go of your broken plans and trust God to provide what you need?

Pray: Ask God to help you to keep trusting him even when all your plans keep getting changed.

Do: Notice this week how much impact feeling hungry has on your attitude and your courage to trust God in the moment.

P.S. The lights just came back on! (Now I need something to eat.)

When Plans Change: Start Where You Are

“But Jesus said, ‘You feed them.’

‘With what?’ they asked. ‘We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!’

‘How much bread do you have?’ he asked. ‘Go and find out.’

They came back and reported, ‘We have five loaves of bread and two fish.’ ” (Mark 6:37-38)

Problem: Lots of people; no food. Solution: Send the people off to buy food before it gets too late. At least, that was the perfectly reasonable plan the disciples came up with. Then in today’s verses, Jesus said, “No, I want you to serve them by doing the impossible.”

plans_350The disciples were tired, hungry, and under-funded. They got stuck on the impossible part: “We don’t have the resources.” Jesus rejected that answer just as quickly as he rejected their plan: “Count what you do have.”

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. God has nixed your Plan A (and your Plan B) – either through your circumstances or an authority in your life or the weather – but he still expects you to follow his plan. And it feels impossible. And you clearly don’t have the resources.

You have a choice: Give up or expect God to use what you’ve got to do the impossible.

Think: How often do you feel like it would be impossible to do what God wants you to do? Do you tend to give up or jump in even though you don’t have a good plan to make it work? How does that usually turn out?

Pray: Ask God to help you to trust him to provide everything you need to do what he wants you to do – even when you can’t see, yet, how it will all work out.

Do: Ask another believer in Jesus if they’ve ever seen God provide a solution in an impossible situation.

When Plans Change: Losing Control

“Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.” (Mark 6:39-41)

Notice three things about today’s passage:

plans_3501) The disciples had no idea what Jesus’ plan was for feeding all of these people. All they knew is that he had rejected their plan – and what he wanted them to do next. Sometimes the next step is all he gives us, too.

We are not in control.

2) Jesus knew exactly what his plan was right from the very beginning. He wanted everyone to see him feed more than 5,000 people with a single sack lunch. He had everyone sit in specific-sized groups (of 100s and 50s) so there would be an accurate count of how many folks, exactly, got filled up by the miraculous meal.

The Lord is always in control.

3) By being willing to give up control of the plan – or even an understanding of what Jesus’ plan was – the disciples were able to participate on the front lines of one of the greatest miracles of all times.

Being part of God’s plan is always better than succeeding at our own without him.

Think: If you’d been one of the disciples that day, do you think you would have felt resentful that Jesus kept changing your plans? Do you think that kind of attitude would have kept you from enjoying being used by God to do something impossible?

Pray: Ask God to help you to give up control over the plans and to trust him to use you for his glory.

Do: Pay attention this week to who in your life God uses to bring glory to himself. Notice their attitude when plans seem to be falling apart.

When Plans Change: Rethinking Success

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.” (Mark 6:42-43)

I don’t think God shows off, but he does know how to make a point. Five thousand-plus people eat a meal from one sack lunch – and the portions are buffet-sized. Everybody is full. And, still, the disciples pick up 12 baskets of leftovers – one for each of them. Do you think they got that message that God’s power is way bigger than even our best plans?

plans_350Don’t get me wrong: Wisdom teaches that planning is important. We must count the cost before we start building. We should seek wise counsel. We should pick a strategy to accomplish our goals, especially when the goal involves serving God effectively.

But, at the end of the day, success is not determined by whether we accomplished our goal, but rather by whether God accomplished his goal through us. Are you able to celebrate God’s win even when your plans fail? Are you able to notice what God did even when what you did doesn’t turn out so well?

Think: How hard is it for you to notice God’s successes even when your plans fail? How convinced are you that God’s glory is more important than the success of any plan we could make?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be more motivated by his success than by seeing your own plans work out.

Do: Make a quick list of three ways God has succeeded in your life or community this week in spite of your own successes or failures.