Our Plans and God’s Plans

25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages. 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship.  (Acts 8:25-27)  

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)  

8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,  neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. 9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,  so are my ways higher than your ways  and my thoughts than your thoughts.   (Isaiah 55:8-9)
As we finally gather back in person as a church together, it’s only natural that a lot of people are asking, ‘What is Everyday Church going to look like after lockdown’. It’s a pretty obvious question, but when we read the eighth chapter of Acts the Lord warns us that the answer is less obvious.

Acts 8:25-27 is an antidote to the idea that we need to map everything about our church out for ourselves. Philip doesn’t make a plan how he can reach an important Ethiopian government official. The elders of the church in Jerusalem hadn’t made a Five Year Plan for how they might plant a new church in Samaria. A wave of persecution had simply scattered them there and, as they lived their Christian lives in a new location, a new church emerged. Similarly, the elders of the church in Samaria didn’t concoct a masterplan for reaching the continent of Africa with the Gospel. They simply stayed close to the Lord and did whatever surprising things the Lord said! Back in 2013, we planted Everyday Church with very simple strapline: Loving Jesus and Living His Mission. That’s still what we believe that God has called us to be together. We don’t have to map it all out. We just need to stay close to Jesus, who is the Way.  

God’s plans often look quite strange. We are warned about that in the Old Testament, in Proverbs 14:12 and Isaiah 55:8-9. We also see it in the New Testament. Jesus tells a group of people who need wine to fill some jars up with water. He spits on some mud and rubs it in a blind man’s eyes. He tells a group of villagers to roll away the stone that seals the tomb of a man who has been dead for four days. God’s ways often look very strange to us, but they are always far, far better. God always knows best. He isn’t looking for advisers, but for foot-soldiers who will simply do whatever he says.  

I wonder how you would have responded to the Lord’s direction if you were Philip. There is an amazing revival taking place in Samaria. People are being saved, the crowds are being healed and a new church is being planted. Philip is really needed there. He is living the dream, when the Lord suddenly commands him to “Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes south from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Leave a vibrant city in the midst of revival in order to go to a road in the middle of the desert? You’ve got to be kidding me! And yet, it is as Philip obeys something that sounds a bit crazy that God brings breakthrough to his Post-Lockdown Church.  

We don’t yet fully know what Everyday Church will look like after lockdown. We know that God will call some people to new places, like Adrian and Julia Holloway, who we sent out to lead a church on the Surrey/Hampshire border during lockdown. We know that some people who were leaders before lockdown will not be leading when we regather, like Peter and John and Philip in Acts 8, or like the handful of staff members that we have sadly made redundant during lockdown. All of this is painful – we are really going to miss some of these leaders, just as the Samaritan Christians must have really missed Peter and John and Philip. But we trust the Lord to reposition people as he wants them for his great purposes. Our faith is in Jesus, not in the servants of Jesus. We know that the biggest enemy of any church’s future success is it’s past success. The biggest danger for any Christian community is its longing to remain the community that it has been up until now. Together as a church, we want to say together, Lord, we are open to you leading us in any direction. We are regathering back together to follow you!
1)   Put yourself in the shoes of Philip in today’s verses. Put yourself in the shoes of the Samaritan Christians, waving goodbye to three of their most gifted leaders in a matter of three verses. How would you have felt about it?  

2)   What good did the Lord bring out of this strangest of instructions to Philip? What does that teach us about his ability to bring good out of anything that lies ahead of us as a church too?  

3)   What would it look like for us to trust that the Lord knows best for us, like Philip and the Samaritan Christians?
Father God, I confess to you that we have just lived through some of the most difficult months in our lives. Covid has thrown so much up in the air, and not everything is landing in the same place as we regather back together. Please help us to trust you, like Philip in today’s verses, and to say a resounding ‘yes’ to your own plans, even when they clash with our own. Amen
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.  

If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.  

Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.