Daily posts to help you connect with God
and keep yourself travelling in the right orbit
ORBIT | WEEK NINE
ORBIT – DAY FORTY TWO
Hello and welcome to another Orbit, the weekday devotional from the youth team at St Mary’s Reigate. If you’re just joining us for the first time, Orbit is a daily Bible reading, with some thoughts to help you put it into practice in your life. We hope this is useful – if you like it, please do spread the word!
BIBLE READING – Romans 15: 23-24
Sometimes a bit of the Bible immediately speaks to us. Sometimes it needs a little bit of unpacking – and I’m pretty sure that today’s reading falls into the second category.
But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.
I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth are we stopping to look at this pair of verses? It seems fairly obvious that this is a specific comment from Paul to the Roman church; a footnote which really has no relevance to us today. It is Paul talking about his travel plans: his idea of visiting Rome before his long-awaited trip to Spain. I mean, it’s nice that he got around, but really, of what relevance is that to us?
It’s relevant when you find out what actually happened next. Paul had often spoken of his desire to get some Spanish sun, and he makes quite a few mentions of his desire to stop in Italy too. He had made plans for his missionary journeys around Europe and Asia, as he spearheaded the growth of the Christian church in those parts of the world. It was very strategic; all very thought-through. But…
Paul took a while to actually get to Italy – in the end he was only sent there, in chains, on a ship which crashed on the way – because he was sent to stand trial in front of Caesar. This certainly wasn’t how he’d expected to finally come face to face with the Roman church. And here’s something even more surprising: most experts agree that he never even made it to Spain.
The greatest evangelist of all time – let’s be honest, one of the greatest Christians of all time – made plans, probably in direct consultation with the Holy Spirit, and they didn’t work out. I don’t know about you, but I find that a bit weird… and very encouraging.
It’s weird because – he’s Paul! If he can’t get a good sense of what God’s guidance might be for his life, then what hope do the rest of us have?
But more than that, I think this should encourage us – that even when our plans don’t work out the way we expected or intended, he can still do amazing things in our lives, and through us. Instead of going to Spain and Italy, Paul went to a whole bunch of other countries. If you remember the story of his shipwreck on Malta in the book of Acts, he visited places that he probably didn’t even know existed! He made his best plans, but God had even better ones.
Perhaps you have a clear plan laid out for your life, and perhaps it’s also true that your greatest fear – maybe an unspoken fear – is that those plans won’t work out. That they’ll be interrupted, or that things will go wrong. The truth is – in the same way as happened to Paul in his missionary journeys – they might not work out as planned. We can’t control everything.
What we do know for sure, is that God is working through all things for our good, and that ultimately, he will never let us down. So perhaps we need to learn to live with a little bit of fluidity – to accept that the course of our lives might not go exactly as we think we want them to. God didn’t take Paul to Spain, but he did use him to bring the Christian faith to all sorts of countries and peoples – almost certainly accomplishing more than Paul could have hoped to strategise for.
There’s an old saying that ‘Man plans, and God laughs.’ I don’t think that’s quite true. It’s more like – “we make plans, and God says – my adventure for you is even greater.” I don’t know about you, but I’m learning to be comfortable with that idea.
You might want to join me in praying this prayer.
God I thank you that ultimately, you’re in control. You have promised to be the rock underneath everything else in my life, and so I put my trust in you. I pray that you would use me in amazing ways, to advance your kingdom in the world, and that you would teach me to trust you more, even when things don’t work out the way I might have planned. Amen
There’s now a chance for you to pray, or listen to God, or simply be still for a few moments.
Each day we will provide you with a simple challenge; something to do which helps you put this little thought into action. Here’s today’s challenge:
Have you ever written out a life plan? Why not spend some time, thinking about how you’re hoping that the next three, five or even ten years might pan out. Do this activity prayerfully – asking God to show you where he might want you to go, and what he might want you to do in the future. God might speak to you through this – but also, make sure you’re holding this lightly – you never know where God might take you next.
If you want to get in touch, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Instagram – we’re @stmarys_satellites. Let us know what you think of this daily reflection – please – we’d love your feedback.
We’ll be back with another edition of Orbit tomorrow. Thanks for taking part today!