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“The best-laid plans of mice and men, often go awry…”

The phrase is an adaptation of a line from a poem by Robert Burns entitled, To a Mouse. It is an age-old adage, and it is quite true. No matter how hard we try, no matter how careful we plan, things do not always turn out the way we expect them to.


Several months ago, some colleagues and I were traveling to a bordering country to join fellow laborers for a celebration of their ministry. On our way back through a particular town along the border, we decided to stop and pay a visit to an old friend of my colleagues. This friend was a long-time believer and had grown up in the town where we all reside, but she had moved to that country after marrying. Her husband was not a believer, but she had remained in the faith. (Remember marriage works very different in the culture here.)

Our desire was to pay a quick and quiet visit simply for the purpose of greeting and encouragement. However, having no clue where she lived, we began asking around in the town market for anyone who knew this lady. What started as a nice idea to drop in and pay a visit began to gather quite a crowd of on-lookers. You could imagine a carload full of white people pulling up in the middle of the market and trying to find someone caused considerable speculation. It was obvious that some were simply reluctant to let us know where this lady was because they did not know why we wanted to see her. Others were running around trying to find her. Our little plan began to boil over into a fiasco. Eventually, someone from the market had found our friend and we were able to pay our visit, but only after causing a tremendous scene. Needless to say, everyone in town now knew that our friend was in cahoots with the white Christians.

It was not until this past week that we learned the true outcome of all our commotion.

Last week, this friend stopped by our house for a visit. She was staying with family here in town. During her stay she informed us of all the happenings in her life since that last visit. True to speculation, we had called quite a bit of attention to ourselves and in the process our friend. It seems everyone in town wanted to know why the white folk wanted to see her.

So, she told them.

She explained how she knew these white people, and why the white people were here. She told of Jesus and the message of the gospel. She expressed her faith to many people through the process. God gave her a platform in our messed up plans. Further still, she told us of her husband’s recent interest in her faith due to our visit. He is know studying and fellowshipping with other believers in their town. He has been attending their church. Please pray for his salvation.

I am reminded of a story from God’s Word. It is one most of us learned in Sunday school. (And if you are as old as I am, you probably saw the story play out on flannelgraph.)

Joseph had a bunch of brothers, and he did a pretty good job of making them hate him. Now for certain, I do not know the spirit in which Joseph shared his dreams with his brothers. He may have intended no haughtiness whatsoever, but whatever the case, he managed to offend. His offense was so severe they sought to kill him, and they got pretty close. In a moment of pity, they chose to throw him down a well instead.

From that point forward, Joseph was sold into slavery, sent to Egypt, accused of attempted rape and adultery and thrown in jail for years. My assumption is that none of this was on his ten year plan. Joseph, who, according to his dreams, had plans of success, wound up in quite a few unforeseen circumstances. Yet, in the end God’s purpose was met, and Israel was saved under Joseph’s leadership. (It is a good story, you should read it sometime: Genesis 37-47)

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…”

As I write this, I write as one whose plans have gone awry. I was supposed to be traveling today. A team of volunteers from my home church was scheduled to arrive for work here. My plans were to once again cross the border into our neighboring country and pick them up for work, but their flights were cancelled. In speaking to members of the team about the mishap, it was blamed on “fog and incompetence.” Thank you Memphis International Airport.

Months of planning and preparation have gone into this work, and it seems as though it may all be for naught. More importantly, the work of discipleship and evangelism that was going to take place seems jeopardized.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…”

Thankfully, we serve neither mouse nor man.

We serve the one who brings order to the cosmos and the one who spoke it into existence. He is over all and in control of all, and his mighty acts will always go according to plan. Nothing can thwart the purposes of God. All of history has been written by his hand, and it has all gone according to plan. There have been no accidental slip-ups. There was never a surprise to catch him off guard. There is no plan B, because he needs no contingency. Furthermore, it will continue to move forward as God has planned since before the beginning of time, and it will end just as he has already told us, with a multitude from every tribe, tongue and nation surrounding the throne of glory singing praises to the Lamb of God.

Our plans often go awry, but rest in the fact that God’s plans do not. And, as always, Father knows best.



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