I’m convinced that one of the greatest sources of spiritual disillusionment for leaders is the goofy idea that God’s plan for our life – or for that matter, his plan for the next three weeks – should be easily and clearly discernible.
Over the years, I’ve watched more than a few friends and godly leaders wade into the deep weeds of an irreversible decision convinced that they knew exactly what God wanted them or their ministry to do. So, like the Spanish explorer, Cortez, they burned their boats and charged ahead, leaving themselves no way out.
(By the way, I’ve never understood why Cortez is put forward as an example of great leadership and motivation. Have we forgotten that he and his crew were all killed off with nowhere to go?)
Recently, while working through Acts, I was reminded again how hard it can be for even the best of us to discern with certainty exactly what God is up to. Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem is a prime example (Acts 20-21).
[list type=”ul” style=”1″]Paul felt compelled to go. He was absolutely certain he knew what God wanted next.^His entire entourage, including Luke and all the prophets they met along the way, saw it differently. They warned and begged him not to go. And don’t forget, Luke was no spiritual slouch. He wrote two books of the Bible.^When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, James and the elders presented him with a plan to win over his enemies and skeptics. No doubt it was a plan they had prayed over and were convinced would work.^Their plan backfired. Paul’s enemies weren’t won over; they were provoked. They became angrier than ever.^After a near riot and an attempt on his life, Paul spent the next five years in legal limbo – surely not the outcome he or anyone had in mind.[/list]
So who was right? Who was wrong? Even with 20/20 hindsight it’s hard to know. The text doesn’t tell us. Perhaps Paul missed it. Maybe Luke and the prophets did. Certainly, James and the elders got it wrong; at least in terms of the results they envisioned. Seems to me the whole story serves as a warning to all of us who lead to be a little more cautious and humble the next time we’re certain that we’ve figured out God’s game plan or the next step for our family, our life, our church or the body of Christ at large. It’s certainly a lesson James had learned by the time he penned these famous and powerful words:
[quotes]Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16[/quotes]
What do you think?