"PAUL, THE PLANNER"

First Corinthians 16.5-9

 

INTRODUCTION:

1. It has been said by more than one man that "he who fails to plan plans to fail." And, you know, that is very true. Planning is essential to success in any venture.

2. No matter where you look you find proof that this little axiom is born out. A man who fails to plan for eternity certainly plans to fail in eternity, for he will spend the ceaseless ages of eternity in the lake of fire. Why? Because he thought he was too busy to plan for eternity.

3. In the business world much the same thing is true. The business which does not look to the future, which does not plan for the future, is a business which has no future.

4. Itís the same way in the Christian life, as well. Too many so-called believers think they have done well in the long range planning of making sure where they will spend eternity, but they never get around to planning anything else in their Christian lives.

5. Are you aware that it is Godís will for you to grow in your Christian life? And are you aware that Christian growth does not operate along the same principles as physical growth?

6. While physical growth comes about without any conscious planning on the part of the human being, spiritual growth in the life of the Christian is not so easy. It comes only as a result of planning and diligent application of that planning. And the same is true of serving God. You must plan to serve God, Christian, for ministry will not find its way into your life by accident, and then you must work your plan.

7. One of the great things about the Word of God is that we can actually examine the lives of men and women who were successful in their Christian walk. And we can discover the principles which made their success possible.

8. Weíre going to do that in the life of the apostle Paul today. Weíre going to take the time to discover one of the reasons why he was the greatest example of the grace of God this world has ever seen. Weíre going to understand one of the practices of his life which made it possible for him to say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

9. Turn in your Bible to First Corinthians 16.5-9. In this portion of Paulís closing remarks to the Corinthian Church we catch a glimpse of one of the keys to Paulís success as a Christian, one of the reasons why he was seemingly a winner in every situation he found himself in, one of the reasons why Paul was a master of circumstances instead of someone who wandered aimlessly through life letting circumstances master him.

10. Stand with me, out of respect for Godís Word, and letís read this passage together:

5 Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia.

6 And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.

7 For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.

8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.

9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

11. On first reading you might miss it. In our text Paul is simply describing his goal to reach the city of Jerusalem by way of Corinth, Macedonia, and then Ephesus. But to achieve such a simple and straightforward little goal, to accomplish something that seems to be so insignificant in such a great manís Christian life . . . he had a plan.

12. If it is the big men who do small things well, then one of the "secrets" to Paulís success as a Christian, one of the reasons he accomplished so many goals, even the small ones, was that he planned to accomplish them, he planned to succeed at them, the result of a daily life of communion and personal consecration was the development of a plan.

13. Christian, to grow, to accomplish, to serve effectively, to be successful at any endeavor, to be victorious over sin, to have a great marriage, no matter what it is you want to be or do . . . you must plan!

14. I want you to notice the three parts of Paulís plan. That is, three parts of Paulís preparation for success in his journey to Jerusalem.

1A. THE FIRST PART OF PAULíS SUCCESS ORIENTED PLAN IS HIS PRONOUNCEMENT

In verse 5, we find two ingredients that are found in this phase of any success oriented plan:

5 Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia.

1B. First, Paulís Plan Was Extremely Simple

1C. Paul wanted to travel to Macedonia, Corinth, Ephesus and Jerusalem. Now, when you think about it, that might make for a complicated set of arrangements if you consider all the problems Paul had to face. First, robbers and bandits. Then the particular physical health problems he had to deal with and take into account when traveling. And donít forget the large number of people who traveled with him in his party.

2C. How does a leader solve a rather complicated planning problem? Simple. He breaks his large problem into four smaller problems. The problem of getting to Macedonia. The problem of getting to Corinth. The problem of getting to Ephesus. The problem of getting to Jerusalem. And to deal with each of these smaller problems takes a greatly simplified plan.

3C. If you read the text carefully you will see something else of the seasoned leader in Paul. The only plan Paul shares with the Corinthians is the plan that is directly related to them. After all, why complicate their life? Right?

4C. Friends, if you have a goal in your life, make a plan. If the plan seems too complicated for you to achieve, or if itís too big an undertaking, break it down into several smaller tasks with a simple plan for accomplishing each task. That way no problem is ever too big to tackle.

5C. Read Peter Uberrothís autobiography sometime. In it he reveals that this was the secret to organizing the most financially successful Olympic Games ever held, the Los Angeles Olympic Games. All because he knew how to plan.

6C. Tackling a spiritual problem in your life? Break that big problem into several bite sized problems that can each be dealt with using a simple plan.

2B. Paulís Plan Was Extremely Simple, But It Was Also Publicly Stated

1C. Paul let the people who were affected know what he planned to do. Not everyone in town, mind you, just the affected people. Letting the affected people know what you are going to do is both beneficial and necessary, for several reasons:

2C. First, when you tell those who need to be told what you are going to do you have committed yourself. Once you say youíre going to do it you have to do it. Right? That is, if your word is worth anything you do.

3C. Second, if you tell people what your plans are they will be able to pray for you and help you to achieve those plans in other ways. If a man will have the personal character to stand up and tell folks he plans to stop taking drugs, or to stop drinking, or that he plans to start up a business, or that he plans to live for Christ in earnest, his friends will pray for him and will do everything in their power to help him.

4C. Third, when you publicize your goals you put God to the test. And thatís good. You can show people by your life what God can do. But you need to be very careful that you accomplish your goal and that you fulfill your plan. And make sure your plan isnít a proud boast that will get no help from God in accomplishing, since God resists the proud, just a matter of fact statement of purpose that you hope to accomplish by Godís grace.

5C. Oh, just between you and me. If you are unwilling to publicly state your goal . . . forget about your plans . . . youíre not really serious about it, most of the time. And if you are serious, but itís the fear of embarrassment that springs forth from pride that keeps you from going public, you can still forget it. As I mentioned before, God resists the proud. He wonít help you accomplish your proud plans.

6C. So, the first part of any success plan is the pronouncement. It must be simple and it must be public. And if you need help with such a pronouncement, remember, thatís why God gave pastors . . . to help in such matters.

2A. THE SECOND PART OF PAULíS SUCCESS ORIENTED PLAN IS THE PROPOSAL

6 And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.

7 For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.

This is the actual plan that Paul formulated. Now, rather than dwelling on the specific details of Paulís travel plans of 2000 years ago, letís notice three considerations involved in every good plan. And since Paulís plan was a good plan, we see these things in Paulís plan.

1B. First, Every Good Plan Involves Possibilities

Paul wrote, in verse 6, "And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you . . . ."

1C. You see, Paulís plan considered two possibilities. Either he would abide, stay with them through the winter, or his stay would turn out to be a short one.

2C. I want you to understand that Paul is not being wishy-washy or indecisive here. He is simply realizing, as we should always realize, that things change, that things can come up, and when they do youíd better have some alternatives thought out.

3C. "Iíll meet you at the turnstile at the north end of the Coliseum at 10:00 sharp. If Iím not there, meet me at the elevator directly under the press box, on the ground floor, no later than 1:00 PM. If we still miss each other, call the county coroner and see if they have received my body yet."

4C. Folks, every good plan must have a consideration of the possibilities, since nothing ever turns out exactly the way you think it will when you draw up your plans.

2B. Second, Every Good Plan Involves Proprieties

1C. When I use the word "proprieties" I am referring to things that are proper, things that are right and good. When you make plans you should plan to do right and recognize that right may not be done to you. But Paul properly expected the Churches to do right by him.

2C. Paul wrote, "That ye may bring me on my journey withersoever I go." Paul planned on that Church doing right by him, and with good reason. Galatians 6.10 says, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."

3C. How would you react if a missionary wrote you and told you that he was coming and that you should feed him, house him, and take a love offering for him? But isnít this exactly what Paul did? Sure it is. Some day you folks will open up your houses in such a way to missionaries coming through. And if your house is open to such things now, please let me know.

4C. Letís apply this propriety thing to our own planning. When planning a family budget, do you plan to give to the Lord? When planning on a vacation, do you plan on attending Church along the way and telling folks about Christ when you stop for gas and meals? You wonít do that unless you plan to.

5C. When you come to Church, do you plan to stay afterwards to fellowship with the saints? Do you plan to invite visitors out to eat after Church to show them how much you welcome their company? You wonít do that unless you plan to do it.

6C. At work, do you plan to tell folks about your Savior? Folks, if such kinds of plans do not include such features as the proprieties I have just mentioned, you donít have good plans. How many of you have never, one time, brought a visitor to Church from work?

7C. Finally, in your Christian life, if you donít plan to attend Church as often as you can, sitting under the preaching of the Word of God, your plans for living for Christ are not good plans.

8C. And what happens if people donít treat you right in return? As I said, thatís one of the possibilities you consider when making your plans. But no matter what people do to you, execute your plans to do right by them.

3B. The Final, And The Most Important, Consideration Of Every Good Plan Is A Consideration Which Involves Permission

7 For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.

1C. Notice, that intertwined in Paulís discussion of his future plans is a consideration of the Lordís will. So many people fail to consider the will of God in their plans.

2C. But, folks, every plan ought to consider Godís will. Every plan ought to be abandoned, ought to be chucked out the window, if that plan does not line up with the will of God as His will is revealed in the Bible.

3C. You see, if God isnít in it, the best of plans is doomed to failure, even if the plan seems to succeed. Any plan, however, that considers the will of God is a plan well on its way to realization.

3A. THE FINAL PART OF PAULíS SUCCESS ORIENTED PLAN IS THE PROBLEM

Donít be put off by that word "problem." A problem isnít a bad thing. A problem is something to be solved, thatís all. And between every one of you and the particular goals and objectives you want to achieve, between you and the desires of your heart, is at least one problem. And itís the solving of that problem or problems that enables you to carry out your plan.

Say you want to be a successful businessman and you have your success all planned out, but for one problem: How to get people to buy your product. Solve that problem, my friend, and you can fulfill your plan.

Say you want to become fruitful in bringing the lost to Christ. You have it all planned out how you will get folks to Church, how you will befriend them, how you will invite them over to your house, how you will get them back to Church, etc. Everythingís great except for one problem . . . youíre scared to death. Solve that problem, or at least learn to deal with that problem, and you will become a great Christian.

Every problem is different, but there are some common features to consider when attempting to solve your particular problem.

1B. First, Consider The Occasion

8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.

1C. With Paul, things were related to the occasion of a Jewish feast called Pentecost. With you it might be something else. But you must consider the occasion.

2C. How ridiculous it would be for you to carry out your plan to see your aunt come to Christ, and try to overcome the problem of getting her alone to invite her to Church by sneaking into her room at night. She would be startled with fright and in no mood to hear your invitation to Church if you did that.

3C. And is it not dangerous to plan on becoming a world class swimmer, and to overcome the problem of not knowing how to swim, by just jumping out into the water? You might drown.

4C. No, you must consider the occasion. Or to put it another way, when trying to solve a problem you must consider the circumstances. Make sure that the solution to your problem doesnít create an even bigger problem.

2B. Then, After Considering The Occasion, Consider The Opportunity

9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, . . .

1C. How big is the problem you must solve in proportion to the benefits? Will you find yourself expending great amounts of effort to achieve little noticeable results?

2C. Paul used the phrase "a great door and effectual" to describe the opportunity that lay before him. That means a tremendous opportunity to see conversions for a relatively small investment of time and labor.

3C. I once knew a guy who went to Mexico for only one reason. He thought he could win more people to Christ in Spanish than he could in English. It was a wise investment of his time because souls are precious.

4C. With any plan you must analyze the benefit versus the effort you will need to expend to solve the problem. Sometimes you will come to the proper conclusion that itís just better to abandon your effort and go on to something else that promises to be a better investment of your time.

5C. This is not sanctioning being a quitter, but it isnít glorifying stubbornness either. Thereís a middle ground between the proud and the pansy thatís occupied by the spiritual and the wise.

3B. Finally, Consider The Opposition

9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

1C. Whoís against you? Who opposes your efforts? There will always be opposition from unspiritual beings to any spiritual enterprise you undertake. Satan and his forces are never at rest.

2C. But there are also human opponents. There are people who are lost, and there are people who are saved, and there are both kinds of people who are jealous.

3C. Sometimes you never figure out what a personís problem is, but you have figured out that he or she is a major problem to you. Not the enemy, mind you, but a pawn used of Satan to oppose you.

4C. And remember this, if what you are doing is worthwhile there will always be opposition. Sometimes the opposition comes from foes. Sometimes the opposition comes from "friends." Remember, it was co-laborer John Mark who deserted Paul and Barnabas. Years later it was co-laborer Demas who forsook Paul near the end of his life.

5C. And we know that the closer the person is who opposes you and hinders the execution of your plan the more fretful it is. And sometimes the opposition discourages you and you become downhearted. But during the rough times remember what Paul said: "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

CONCLUSION:

1. If you are here this evening and you are a believer who is not a successful Christian, itís not at all Godís fault. Do you remember, at the very beginning of this same Corinthian letter, that Paul reminds his readers that Godís grace to live for Him is always and in every circumstance available?

2. If you are not successful in your Christian life itís sometimes because you have planned to be unsuccessful. And you have planned to be unsuccessful by failing to plan to succeed.

3. If you have failed to work to bring souls to Christ itís because you have not planned to work to bring people to Christ. If you have not studied your Bible itís because you have failed to plan to have a Bible reading and study time.

4. Have you been robbed of your joy? You have not planned out how you will control your thought life as God has instructed, to maintain joy and peace of heart and mind. Do you sulk and get moody? You have not planned to control and properly deal with your temper.

5. Iím sure that there are some of you who have not planned for success because, quite frankly, you donít know how. Iíd like to help you.

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