Frustrated Plans

“I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭13‬ ‭NLT
“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that many times I have planned to come to you, (and have been prevented so far) so that I may have some fruit [of my labours] among you, even as I have among the rest of the Gentiles.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭13‬ ‭AMP

Paul seemed desperate to get to Rome to visit the Christians there. But he “was prevented until now”. The Amplified version implies that his efforts in planning his visit were still active, but he lacked the opportunity. And the New Living Translation mentions Paul’s desire to see spiritual fruit in the lives of the Roman Christians, as he has observed in others who weren’t Jews.

Do we find the reference to “Gentiles”  mildly offensive, because that is who most of us are in our societies? The use of the word has connotations, perhaps, of a second class of person, the Jews being the first class. And certainly, that was how the Jews of that time viewed those who were not Jewish. But nothing could be further from the truth, as can be seen in the early church that was established and growing throughout the Middle East at that time. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptised into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit”. Through the sacrificial death of Jesus at Calvary, when He died for our sins, God’s grace and forgiveness was extended to all of mankind, should they choose to accept it. As some have said, there is level ground in front of the Cross. God treats everyone equally.

But moving on to Paul’s dilemma about his plans. Do we pilgrims have plans to do some work for God but have been prevented from doing so? Has God said to us that He wants us to do something but we don’t know how to make it happen? Then we are in good company. With Paul, he found a way around the problem by writing a letter. Everything he wanted to do in person was poured out though his pen, extending the reach of his God-given influence beyond what he could have achieved by making the long journey to Rome. But to Paul that was second best. He really wanted to be in Rome, right there with his Christian brothers and sisters.

Sadly, some people with God-given plans, have found themselves unable to fulfil them. and they end up living a life of frustration. Perhaps they have been held up by family pressures, or ill-health, or laziness. Perhaps they have taken a wrong turn in their lives and have become distracted by a relationship or career choice. But God never asks us to do something that we are unable to fulfil. He is not a stern taskmaster treating us as slaves, there to do His bidding. When we receive God’s call, we must submit to Him with the faith and knowledge that he holds all the resources we need to fulfil the task or tasks He has set for us. Paul couldn’t wait to do things for God. His encounter with Jesus was so real that it transformed his life, and he couldn’t wait to complete the plans God had set for him. And neither must we.

What do we do if God asks us to do something, but we’re not sure if it really is a request from God? We pray about it, asking God for confirmation. We seek counsel from other respected and wise Christians, and, if we are still unsure, we put what we feel God has asked us to do on the “back burner”. letting it simmer away in our prayers and meditations, before we take any steps that we would later regret. Remember too, that God is unlikely to ask us to do something outside our natural and spiritual giftings.

Perhaps we feel that God has not asked us to do anything for Him. If that is the case, we open the Bible. A good place to start might be Colossians 3:23-24, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ“. Another useful Scripture is Matthew 28:19, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit“. Such Godly plans might seem a bit uninspiring but often God won’t entrust big plans to us until we can be found faithful in smaller tasks. Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. We remember that Moses spent forty years herding sheep for his father-in-law before God found him ready for a bigger assignment.

We pilgrims use every opportunity to reach those who need us. If personal contact is not an option, we have social media and even emails or letter writing to keep in touch. And we remember that one day, there will be no restrictions. All of God’s plans will be fulfilled.

Dear Father God. You have tasks for us to do and we pray that You will lead and guide us in the right paths. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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