In Ephesians 16:5-8 Paul speaks of some plans he has to travel. He is writing from Ephesus, on the west coast of what is now Turkey, and he’s writing in the period that is leading up to Pentecost. Paul’s plan is to stay in Ephesus for the moment before heading north up the coast, crossing the Aegean Sea into Europe and then taking the Egnatian Way to the west and visiting the churches in Macedonia that he established in Philippi, Thessalonika, Berea and so on. After that, he plans to swing around south in Achaia and visit the Corinthians, possibly even staying for the winter. Partly this is because he wants them to help him on his journey but also, he wants to genuinely spend some time with them. He doesn’t want to simply make a ‘passing visit’, he wants to invest in genuine relationship with them.
Now this sounds like a good plan, but one thing I want us to notice here is just how provisional Paul is in his plans in this section. The “Perhaps” in v.6. the “I hope to…and …if the Lord permits” in v.7. Paul is not non-committal and ‘flakey’ like might be the case with plenty of (especially younger!) people today! Paul has just travelled enough and followed the leading of the Holy Spirit enough, to know that things do not always work out the way that we think they will or the way we might even plan them too.
So let me ask you, how are you when that happens? How are you when plans change? I’m married to someone who likes to have a plan and know what is happening when. What about you? what is your temperament?? Now I’m not talking about being lazy, or even being able to ‘just go with the flow’ here. No, Paul clearly had a plan. He spent time and effort into planning where he was headed and why. But he knows that the reality of following God is that sometimes His plans are better than ours and they are different than ours. And this means not that we aren’t to plan. Absolutely we are! But in honestly following God, we need to be open to following His plan and His leading in our lives even when His plan might differ to ours! Because after all, just like as the Jewish people wanted to be freed from the Roman Empire and instead God chose to set all of humanity free from sin and death, we can be confident that His plans are always far greater than ours and are worth ‘detouring’ for.