I remember the first time a former pastor of mine shared his testimony. He had studied to be an engineer and was successfully doing just that. He was responsible, accurate, diligent, efficient, and caring: all the things that make for a great engineer. As long as he could remember, all he wanted to do was be an engineer. I can attest to that feeling. When I was four years old I determined I wanted to be an aeronautical/aerospace engineer. Influenced by Star Trek, I wanted to design spacecraft. As I got a little older, I learned about military jets, like the ones my father worked on (he was in avionics with the US Marine Corps). By the time I was twelve, I knew the facts and details about every publicly known aircraft in the US inventory, as well as the experimental ones that had any kind of news around them, like the F-16XL, for instance. I took the time to understand what made them superior, so for the F-16XL it was the wing… not just the shape of it, but also the fact that it could mold itself to divert airflow in a way unlike any other aircraft before it. But as I was beginning to apply for college while in high school, the bottom fell out of the aerospace industry. I never became an engineer. I probably will never be one. As for that former pastor, God called him out of a successful engineering profession into the ministry. Of course he asked the question, “God, are you sure?” And he struggled with the career change. After all, all he ever wanted to be was an engineer. But ultimately he made that career change because as an engineer he considered the situation: he didn’t have all the facts and God did.
I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 1:16-22, ESV
There was a lot of stuff going wrong in the church in Corinth. Paul wanted to travel back and make things right. That’s why he says here he wanted to visit them on his way to Macedonia and then return to Corinth on his way back through. However, he chose not to make those visits. Was it because Paul was wishy-washy? Absolutely not. Paul wanted to go, but chose not to because verse 23 tells us that Paul wanted to spare them. A visit would likely be contentious and not result in the outcome Paul wanted. How did he come to this conclusion? Verse 23 gives us a clue because Paul says, “But I call God to witness against me,” meaning that his desire to spare the church in Corinth such as tension-filled encounter was the true reason he didn’t go there. And since he brought God into the mix with this, you know where the decision not to go came from. It came from God. Paul was merely being obedient. God knew better than Paul. So He gave Paul the insight not to go. Imagine what it would have been like for everyone involved if Paul didn’t have that insight and went in blind. It wouldn’t have been pretty.
So often in life we believe in our own vision, though we know and understand in the back of our mind that our vision is limited. We can’t see tomorrow, much less a year down the road. So why is it that we think we can successfully make plans without involving God? It has a lot to do with pride. Including God means admitting that we can’t do it alone. It means we need Him. Absolutely! We need Him for salvation, so why not for daily life? I think it’s because we come down to the conclusion that there’s nothing we can do about salvation, so we accept God’s “help.” But planning our future? We can do that. So God can stay in the background until we get in a situation we didn’t plan for, whatever that situation might be: losing a job, a family member coming down with cancer, totaling the car in an accident, or even something as small as losing our cell phone somewhere in our house. Then we pray and ask for God’s help. In other words, we want God on the sidelines for the times which are out of control, like some super substitute. But if God is that good that He can bail us out of a situation we can’t handle, why is He on the sidelines and not the starter?
The secret to living a victorious life is simple: Get behind God and follow His lead. Yet we let pride and other factors get in the way. We put God aside and try to figure out things with our extreme near-sightedness. Let’s not make that mistake. Instead, let’s turn to the only One who can see every second of every day clearly, the One who saw every one of our days before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). Only God can put together the perfect plan for our lives. Try as we might, we’ll never get it right. We can’t. We don’t know enough. We don’t see well enough. We’re flat-out not good enough. That’s humbling, but it’s the raw truth. God is omniscient. He’s omnipotent. He’s omnipresent. Time doesn’t constrain God. All the things that would lead to a failure in our plans don’t have a chance of holding back God. So why aren’t we living victoriously?