From Plan A to Plan A+ (Part 2)
When things go wrong, the temptation is to assume that the good thing that was lost is lost forever, and that only a “second-best” or “third-best” kind of thing can happen.
If you are doing life WITHOUT the power of God, that may very well be true.
But if you are doing life WITH the power of God, the grace of God, the guidance of God, then there is no such thing as “a God plan that founders” fails or flails…
I wonder how the apostle felt—when everything, and I mean everything went wrong.
He had travelled to Jerusalem, where he had grown up, believing God wanted him to go (the jury is out on whether he was right or wrong). Certainly, his attitude was right. He was prepared even to die for Christ. He wanted to share his faith with his kin—with Jews who were born of the line of Abraham.
So, against the better judgement of the many who told him not to go (including the Holy Spirit—see Acts 21:4!) he went, convinced that, though he would suffer there, he was being sent by God Himself to get there.
And while he was having a prayer time in the temple, a riot broke out because he was there. The crowd started to beat him—and nearly killed him. Were it not for Roman soldiers, taking him away to be examined by flogging, they would have succeeded!
Then, just as Paul was about to be whipped, he proved himself a citizen of Rome, and was placed in “protective custody.”
The next day, he was put into a mock trial. He spoke about the resurrection, and the leaders in the mock trial very nearly descended into mob violence! The Roman officer was “afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces”. He extricated Paul by force to prevent him from being ripped to shreds by his own people!
So, Paul found himself confined within the walls of a Roman Barracks, protected from his very own people by Gentile soldiers, after he was in the center of two riots that nearly got him killed!
I think we could say without exaggeration that Paul knew what it was to have things go wrong! In fact, we could rename the children’s book as something like this:
“Saul of Tarsus and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”
Where does your mind go after you very nearly get killed twice in the two days, and barely avoid getting flogged, only because you were born in the right town? Well, Paul was stuck in the dorm, waiting to find out what was going to happen next, and spent a day, a night and a day in the Roman barracks. I am sure that his thinking was likely inclined toward all those warnings that multiple people sent in his direction.
If that had been me, I would have wondered if I had wrecked the whole thing…
Plan A to
plan C, or
Perhaps a total failure,
a plan F!
Then it happened.
Jesus of Nazareth personally told him that his plan A would become Plan A+.
The evening after all the trouble happened, the Risen Lord appeared to him in those barracks. Jesus stood right beside him and told him that just as he had spoken of the gospel in Jerusalem, he would speak of the gospel in Rome (Acts 23:11).
I am sure that Paul would have taken great comfort in that vision of His Lord, appearing to him personally. It meant that Paul knew he would live for a greater purpose. He wasn’t trying to get to Rome! Jesus the Risen Lord was actually sending him there.
Jesus’ delivery method, the way he was sending him there, turned out to be unusual in the extreme:
Here is how he got there: the very next day, 40 men made a plot to neither eat nor drink until Paul was assassinated.
As it turned out, Paul’s nephew found out, and told a Roman officer.
And so, in the middle of the night, that commanding officer, aware of a plot in which 40 men would use all their powers to murder Paul, did something astonishing: He gathered a massive defence squad, wrote a letter to the governor, and set up a counterplot to safeguard the Roman citizen from assassination.
That was 470 armed, trained, vigilant fighting men to stave off the 40 who wanted him dead. Once again, foreign soldiers saved him from his own people by taking him to a jail in Caesarea.
Two years later he was still in the same prison in Caesarea.
Then the governorship changed hands from a fellow named Felix to another named Festus.
The new one wanted to do “the power boys” (i.e. Paul’s enemies) a favor… Paul knew he couldn’t win justice by working that system! So, Paul appealed to the highest authority in the Roman Empire. He appealed to Caesar—and the governor said, “You’ve appealed to Caesar—to Caesar you shall go!”
Rough translation: “Paul, you are on your way to Rome” (Acts 25:13).
What a crazy way for the Lord to carry out His plan to get Paul to Rome! Jesus told him he was being sent there. Shaft and graft, and two full years of delay forced that solution into the mix.
Now that was the plan A+ of Jesus of Nazareth…
Jesus had told him he was going to Rome… it wasn't Paul's idea. And much good would come out of the time in prison (he would write Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon while confined) and out of the trip to Rome.
Going from Plan A to Plan A+ can be a crazy ride. But Jesus (and not Paul, and not the lousy governors, and not the plotting foes) was the One who sent him to Rome through Gentiles who defended him from his own kinsmen.
So what’s your plan A? Do you wonder if you wrecked the whole thing? Surely it can’t be as horrendous a mess as the apostle went through! So ask the Lord for the A+ plan when plan A seems a mess, a ruin and a disaster. God will redeem.
© David Chotka 2020