I'm what you would call a planner. Definitely not a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. I over think things, make lists, weigh all of the options, pray over it, view the possible outcomes of each choice, think some more, and finally after several months of deliberation...I choose what I want for dinner. How many of us would call ourselves planners? We are the ones that try to take all of the little pieces of the puzzle and put them together to see the big picture. We make our choices based on what will have the best possible chances for all of those pieces to fit together and produce the picture that we want; the final picture that we have in our head. We plan out vacations with a daily itinerary, created to ensure that fun will be had by all and that the pictures will host happy memories to last a life time. But despite all of our planning, things never seem to go as we have envisioned. There are always more bathroom breaks than we allot time for. There is always that one person that never seems to be pleased or impressed, try as we may. One day when we look back at those photos, there will be one perfect pony picture complete with bright pink lipstick all over the child's face. Hopefully, we planners have learned to roll with the punches and adapt to the changes that come along with vacations, puzzles and, well, life in general.
One prime example of a group of people that made a decision, stuck with it, and rolled with some pretty heavy blows that definitely did not have a clear outcome, can be found in a story that is frequented by all of the local flannel boards. Let's look at the book of Daniel, chapter three, where we encounter a group of friends named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Despite the Babylonian names, these were three Jewish men. They lived their lives as captives in a foreign land, but they never gave in to the Babylonian lifestyle. They remained true to their faith and to the one true God. This plan was working out great for them until the king declared a new law stating that all people would worship his gods and bow before the golden statue at the sound of the horn. The three were not swayed. They didn't fear the king, they feared their God and they made it known to the king that not only did they not need to defend themselves to him, but that, even if their God did not deliver them from the king's punishment, they would still never bow and worship his gods (Daniel 3: 16-18). The book of Daniel doesn't record any late night conversations of these three friends, or what they may have said to each other after they left King Nebuchadnezzar that day. I don't know what they were thinking. But I do know that the king was so infuriated that he ordered the furnace to burn seven times hotter before he had them thrown in (Daniel 3:19). I know that the guards that were leading them up to the furnace were killed by the heat before the three fell in (Daniel 3:22). I know that the men were tied up and walked to what should have been their death and at no time did they deviate from their plan. At no point in their walk to the mouth of the furnace did they lose their faith and trust in God. They told King Nebuchadnezzar that it didn't matter if their God saved them or not, but don't you think that they were praying for deliverance? I would imagine that they wanted that deliverance to take place before they entered the flames of the furnace. But they still never faltered. Three entered the furnace, four were seen standing within the flames (Daniel 3:25), and the friends walked out of the fire without even smelling like smoke (Daniel 3:28). Can you imagine? Look what they would have missed out on if they had've given in. King Nebuchadnezzar said himself that the fourth man in the furnace looked like a son of the gods (Daniel 3:25). Do you think that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have traded that experience inside the furnace to have been saved before they entered it, like I'm sure we would all agree they were praying for? Probably not.
Who are we to know the mind of God? Proverbs 16:9 says that a man's heart plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (NIV). I pray that as I run my race, I persevere as I walk through the fires that will inevitably come. I pray that when my plans fail, I remain steadfast in my faith in a God that works everything out for my good (Romans 8:28). I pray that I remember that as I trust in Him and keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will come out the other side without even smelling like smoke.
Join Kristy and Amanda this week as they discuss plans, unmet expectations, and walking through the fire. You can listen to this weeks podcast on Stitcher, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, or on our website at www.thesendhelppodcast.com/podcast