After spending about seven hours on a bus last Friday (about half of which was stand still traffic in the foothills of mountains), myself and the excited students heading to Forest Home were informed that camp was cancelled due to weather. As the students processed through the disappointment, we were all harshly reminded of this life truth: plans change. Whether we like it or not, the plans that we make, that we look forward to, that we rely on - they change! It could be an unexpected move across the country, not getting into the school of choice, not making the team, or camp being cancelled - our plans in life are subject to change. When we are bummed out about upended and revised plans, how do we deal?
In Matthew 4, we read about Jesus calling His first followers to follow. Jesus assembles a crew of disciples to teach them, pour into them, show them the glory of who He is - so that one day, they would take what they have learned to the ends of the earth. He approached the fishermen at the Sea of Galilee, and famously told them in Matt 4:19,
“Come, follow me… and I will send you out to fish for people.”
We continue to read that these men immediately drop their nets to leave and follow Jesus. This bold move of faith would assuredly prove to be a massive life change. They walked away from their profession of catching fish and providing meals for their families. They left family - literally James and John left their father in the boat! These men who left to follow Jesus left the comforts and plans that they established for themselves, and in the face of that big change, they followed Jesus.
It is important to note here, that this is not the first time they encountered Jesus. In the Gospel of John, you read how Peter and Andrew heard the teachings of Jesus and have already come to believe He was the Messiah they read about in the books of the prophets. They did not drop all of their comforts and plans to follow a random stranger - they were well aware of who they were deciding to follow. These were good Jewish boys who studied Scripture their entire lives, so when they said ‘yes’ to following Jesus, they were taking hold of an opportunity of a lifetime.
This is a crucial truth for us as we face big changes: know who you follow. When you’re freaked out about a big change - disappointed about a cross-country move, frustrated with a broken bone preventing you from competing, or plans just not working out the way you planned - remember who you follow. Jeremiah 29:11 says
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Christians, the same God that said that is the same God you follow. Don’t lose sight of that in the face of big plans that have been switched up! God has a plan, and at times it will require change that may be uncomfortable. But it’s good. Those fishermen knew exactly who they were following, don’t forget who you follow in times of massive change.
Now, these fishermen knew what they were doing when they left everything and moved forward with massive change. But that would still be scary and difficult to do, right? What kind of perspective did they have when they entered into this big change in their lives? I think the perspective they had and that we should have when we face life adjustments: hold on to your plans with a loose grip, but cling tight to God’s will. These men were established with jobs, families, homes, and comfort. I am sure they had their own ideas of what their future looked like, and I’d have my doubts their plans involved Jesus flipping their lives completely upside down… We are going to make plans in life, and that’s a good thing! But we must hold onto our plans with a loose grip, be flexible for God to change things up, and value His will above our plans. Proverbs 16:9 gives us some proper insight:
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”
Are there plans that you cling to so tightly, that if they changed you’d be absolutely devastated? What school you plan to go to - what if you didn’t qualify? What if you plan to make a particular sports team, but didn’t make the cut or injury prevented you from advancing? What if you plan to live in SC with all of your friends, but life takes you to a small town in Alaska? My encouragement to you: hold those plans loosely, so that when God changes them, you won’t be devastated - but you’ll be ready to charge at that change because you know the God you follow has a good plan in store for you.
The students on that bus to a cancelled Forest Home weekend, I am extremely proud to say, were the perfect model for this lesson. After the shock and disappointment cooled off, we had students singing PRAISE songs to Jesus on the bus! How cool is that?! We took the sad changes and turned it into joyful worship and a fun night. We stopped at In-n-Out and enjoyed tasty burgers and proceeded to a fun sleepover at PCC. Let’s try and model this in areas of big change in our lives. If we remember who we follow and hold onto our plans loosely, when big change comes our way we can charge after God’s will with no fear - just like those four fishermen.