Whether we want to admit it or not, we all like plans. Some enjoy making them, others love the structure they provide, and even those who purposely choose not to have a plan are in essence… planning not to have a plan. Having a plan makes whatever you’re doing run more smoothly and have a higher chance of being successful. “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” right? But what happens when our plans get derailed? What happens when an unexpected turn takes place leading you to someplace unexpected? Like most things, the answer is simple enough in concept but difficult in execution: When you plan… always leave room for the Holy Spirit.
Now this is more than just what you tell your kids before they head out on a date. The idea is that we never allow our plans to supersede the often spontaneous nature of the Holy Spirit… even when those original plans include doing ministry. Chris and Courtney Reynolds saw this play out first hand during a small group meeting and saw how powerful it can be when you not only allow the Holy Spirit to disrupt your plans, but embrace it while it happens.
After coming off a break, their small group was ready to jump back into their routine of meeting. Our study on Colossians was kicking off, and as those of you who used your booklets in your small groups know, it lays out your small group time together in a nice, neat, all-encompassing format. Perfectly planned. Everyone was catching up and discussing how they were excited about the Colossians study, when, to really start their devotional time together, they went around asking for prayer requests. Enter the Holy Spirit. As one request after another came, it was obvious that there would be no study on the book of Colossians that night. A perfectly planned Bible study instead turned into a beautiful time where walls came down, tears flowed freely, and prayers from the heart were lifted to God.
Jesus had a similar experience. One day, Jesus was asked if He would heal the little girl of a local church leader. The girl was very sick and close to death. Jesus agreed and began to follow the man back to his house. Jesus was on His way to heal a child. He was on His way to do something good… even great. Jesus had a plan. As they were walking through crowds, Jesus felt healing power leave Him as he was touched. Enter the Holy Spirit. Jesus stops. He stops His walk. He stops His good deed. He stops following His original plan. It would have been so easy for Jesus to keep walking. To stay focused on the task at hand. To follow the plan and, as we find out later, continue on His way to literally raise a little girl from the dead! But He didn’t… because Jesus always allowed room for the Holy Spirit in His plans. He took the time to heal, restore and minister to a woman from the crowd. Jesus didn’t let ministry get in the way of ministry.
It isn’t always easy to let the Holy Spirit hijack your plans…but it’s always powerful. Just ask the Reynolds. And while it is obvious to see why we should celebrate what the Holy Spirit was able to do in their small group that night, it is just as important to celebrate the fact that they saw it for what it was, embraced it, and moved out of the way… even if it meant throwing Plan A out the window.
As the line from the old Scottish poem that inspired John Steinbeck’s novel (should have) said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry… especially when the Holy Spirit is involved”. And that’s just fine with us.