About nine months ago, I posted the original version of this teaching. Recently I have been surrounded by transition as I have had an unexpected job change and my church is searching for a new pastor. Transition can be difficult, but it can also be essential to align our path with God’s plan.
Around the time of my original post, I heard the Lord say, “Stop paddling! Let Me take you in a flow you do not know!” This could mean many different things from a spiritual perspective, but let me try to articulate what it meant to me.
God has a plan and a destiny for each of our lives and for each corporate body. It is intertwined into a larger master plan He has established for His Kingdom purposes. Sometimes we cannot see or understand this plan, so we doubt it exists. Some are tempted to feel insignificant, insecure, and unneeded in this master plan. Others sense the purpose and the destiny, but have difficulty navigating the course. Often this is directly related to striving or in this analogy paddling.
Many times God will show you the beginning of your journey and a glimpse of the destination, but He usually leaves out the path in between the two. When progress does not seem to be happening as quickly as we feel it should, between the beginning of the journey and the destination, we often want to help God with His plan.
Look at the example below. The Lord showed Abraham the beginning of his journey and the promise of the future.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Genesis 12:1-4 NASU
If you know the whole story, Abraham did not wait patiently for God to make him a great nation, he agreed to his wife’s plan to help God and the result was a child named Ishmael. His promise was eventually fulfilled with Isaac, but the side plan has resulted in conflict that continues even today. This shows that good intentions are not always God intentions!
Another great example of someone with good intentions was Martha. Martha had a servant’s heart. She was trying to prepare a meal and make everything perfect for Jesus’ visit. She was a worker trying to do the “right” thing. Martha had good intentions, but what did Jesus think about them?
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NASU
This is the best analogy I can find to explain the thought behind “Lay down your paddle!” I believe many individuals, many ministries, many churches, have good ideas but they are not always God ideas. In this scenario, we labor and we toil, striving to put together all these elaborate plans and projects to bring people to Jesus, to help Christians to grow and mature, but often all this striving just keeps us in the kitchen with Martha! Good intentions are not always God intentions.
I understand the need to plan; in fact, I am someone who tends to over-plan….I plan ahead – way ahead! When I have an opportunity to teach God’s Word, I always try to do my best to study and show myself approved (2 Timothy 2:15). I generally plan more information than I can possibly share, but if at the last minute, the Holy Spirit directs me to go in a different flow, I have to be brave enough to lay down the paddle and let Him guide the course. He knows the master plan better than I do!
When you have your day planned to the last minute, when we have our corporate services on an agenda, and the Holy Spirit interrupts the schedule because there is someone who has a need, will we lay down our paddle? Are our plan and our agenda more important than His are?
Giving up control is one of the most difficult things to do.
The small town where I reside has a sign, “Gateway to the Riverway, and is associated with canoeing on the Current River. I have personally floated parts of this river several times, but never without a paddle. The thought of doing that stretches me to think about giving up my control to the plans God has for me – to realize that all of my good intentions are not necessarily His.
There are times on a river journey where the pace is fast, rough, and scary. Other times it seems like the water becomes stagnant the movement is so slow. Try to remember that those moments are when the water runs deepest and the still waters create an atmosphere to hear better, and do not be tempted to pick up the paddle to move faster during this time.
I want to encourage you today to lay down your paddle, lay down your agenda, lay down your good plans and walk in God’s plan…..it is always the best course. During transition you may be tempted to react or to run, but this is the time you must press into God and trust that His plan is a good one and He’s got you!