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08 December 2017

Best laid plans...

Best laid plans...

Malcolm Kyte has been a church pastor in London for over 30 years and is a member of the Evangelical Alliance council.  

Occasionally, despite our best efforts, things don't always go to plan but our failures aren't generally made public. So, spare a thought for John Dardis whose attempted marriage proposal went pear-shaped this week. He took his girlfriend Suzannah Newham for a romantic walk along the coastal path near Newquay but slipped and broke his ankle before he'd had the chance to pop the question. Undeterred, he proposed to her (on bended ankle, as it were) while they waited for the emergency services to arrive. Thankfully she accepted. One of his rescuers joked: "He literally fell for her!"
It's a familiar part of human experience that things don't always go to plan. Robert Burns' saying is often quoted: 'the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.' Of course they do. We can't control every circumstance and neither can we predict exactly how others will respond in a given situation. Theresa May must be keenly aware of this dynamic. On Monday she failed to get an agreement from the Democratic Unionist Party on the Irish border issue and had to wait until the end of the week to secure a deal and move negotiations forward.  
All of us have dreams and we make plans to fulfil them but we're not in charge of all the events of our lives. There's a popular myth that you can be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough. We frequently hear it on TV talent shows when successful contestants generously share their wisdom with listless couch potatoes who are obviously lacking ambition. But the reality is that millions of people are enormously talented – they just don't find themselves in the right place at the right time or know the right people. If you are fortunate enough to be born in a wealthy country rather than a refugee camp, your chances of fulfilling your dreams are immeasurably greater. Occasionally we hear wonderful stories about people who have beaten the odds, like Mo Farah, who came to England from humble beginnings in Somalia and became Britain's greatest athlete. But these stories are the exception rather than the norm. The drama of our lives doesn't always stick to the script. 

James 4:13-15 hits the nail on the head when it says: 'Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this city 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."' (NIVUK)
And yet the same rules don't apply to God. He exists outside of time and space. He is not subject to the limitations and unpredictable circumstances we experience, like natural disasters or political manoeuvring. He is above it all, and as such, is able to plan with precision. 

The timing and location of Jesus' birth was no accident. It was prophesied in the Old Testament many centuries beforehand. The Christmas story was the most meticulously planned event in history and nothing was able to throw it off course – not even Herod's attempt to kill the baby Jesus.
So when our plans fail let's remember that God's plans will always succeed because He is sovereign. As the writer of Proverbs 19:21 observed: "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."   

How are you seeking God's will this Christmas? Will the best laid plans be yours, or God's?

Image: Newquay Coastguard