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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - My Plans vs. God's Plans

Mike Novotny - My Plans vs. God's Plans

Mike Novotny - My Plans vs. God's Plans
TOPICS: What's the Point?, God's Plan

There's a question that has caused me more confusion, and frustration, and tension as a pastor than almost any other. And when I share this question with you, you might think it's a joke and it might seem a bit small but I'm being absolutely serious when I say it. The question is this, "Should a pastor like me hug people like you"? Amen. Alright. I guess we're done for today. You know, when I was growing up, pastors wore robes and they stood up in pulpits, and they were, you know, professional theologians. The answer to that question was really easy. You don't hug your pastor, you shake his hand before you go to the parking lot, and head out to brunch.

And when I was going through Bible college and seminary, that's kind of what I thought too. Yeah, I want to be a nice pastor and a warm pastor, but it's a calling, it's a position of authority and respect. Maybe like a police officer or a professor in college, you want to be warm and approachable, but it's not, like, your buddy, and so a handshake is the right thing to do. And so, I think for the first five, six, maybe even seven years of my ministry, that's exactly what I did. I stood at the door, I tried to love people, preach the word of God, and shake their hands before we said goodbye. But then, one gentleman came through the line, a retired pastor, and he and his wife, I actually remember where I was standing at my old church.

And he challenged my thinking and here's what he said, he said, "I waited way too long as a pastor to hug people," which got my attention. He said, "Honestly, Mike, you know what I do. This is not like giving a lecture. This is not like making a judgement in a courtroom, we are involved in the most emotional moments of people's lives". Right? A baby is born, you tell the pastor. A baptism happens, you call the pastor. A marriage is falling apart and it's a crisis counseling, you reach out to the pastor. Literally, pastors stand between a man and a woman when they take the vow of one of the biggest decisions of their life. It's like the three of us up there. We're there at people's gravesides and hospital beds. We ride the ups and the downs. This isn't like closing a business deal with a firm handshake. This is much more personal, much more relatable than that.

So, the pastor said, "Handshakes if you have to, but the ministry, the relationship between a pastor and the people of His church is so much better, is so much closer than that". And so, I changed. Back in 2014, a handful of you were here. I came to this church, I thought it was a fresh start, so I said, "I'm just going to hug people". So, we actually made a funny video about it. I said, "Hey. If it makes you uncomfortable, I'll stick with the handshake but otherwise, like the normal greeting is going to be a hug around here". And for years, that's exactly what I did until two things happened. Neither of them are scandalous or you know, nothing went really wrong.

I was counseling this couple whose marriage was just a mess and they would be divorced before the end of the year, and you know, I did my best, and we prayed, and we talked. At the end of the conversation, we said goodbye like we normally did. I hugged him and then I hugged her, but as I did this thought popped into my mind, "I wonder how long it's been since this guy has hugged his own wife". Right? They were so distant. The marriage had grown so cold. And here I am literally in front of this guy hugging the woman he probably doesn't hug anymore, and something about that, you know, just didn't sit right with me.

Not long after that the "Me too" movement happened, and as I heard stories from actresses and people in businesses, I learned something that actually I've never thought about before. I learned that sometimes it's hard to speak up and say you're uncomfortable when you're with a person who has a position of authority. Like, I'd always just operated like, "Hey, if you're uncomfortable, let me know. That's fine". Right? But for some people, it's not so easy to say, "I'm uncomfortable". Sometimes, when the pastor is approaching you. And I thought, "Man, I would never ever, ever, ever want someone to come to this church and feel pressured, like, into physical contact with the pastor". That's just foul to me.

And because... Some of you know this about me. I'm really bad at kind of like nuanced gray area situations. I reverted. I think I actually confused a whole bunch of you. Like, I backed off from the hugs. I went back to the handshakes. And now, here years later, I have no clue what I'm doing. Because, like, I feel the pull of both of those things, right? I don't just want to be a professional who preaches sermons, and gets paid, and goes home. Like, I want to be there for the ups and the downs with you. And also, I want everyone in this place to not feel threatened, to not feel pressured, to feel totally safe when they step into the space. So, why am I telling you all of this? I was trying to think of a way to have the most awkward interaction at the doors before we leave church today, alright? It's just going to be weird.

Let's prepare ourselves for that, alright? No, I wanted to share that story with you because here's something I've learned about life. It's a difficult part of about life. It's the messy and complicated part, but it's an absolutely true part about life. And I want you to write this down. If you're watching at home, I want you to write this down too. I want you to know that truth is a tension. Like, the right thing to do, the best thing to do, the God thing to do is often not just one point, it's two valid points that you hold in tension. Should a pastor hug people? Yeah or no. If you're going to get it right, you have to remember both those things at the same time. And I'm telling you that because you don't have to be a pastor to feel that.

There's so many times in life where the decision that you have to make, the way you relate with people or with God, you can't just stop at one thing that's true. You have to remember all the things that are true, alright? This happens to a lot of us when we see a homeless person outside of church. Do you reach into your pocket, your purse and give them money? Well, on the one hand, yeah, Christians want to be the most generous, giving people because God's the most generous, giving Father. On the other hand, we don't want to enable bad behaviors and isn't it better just to donate to organizations that help with homelessness? That's a real tension. Or your best friend, or your roommate, or your kid, is like really deep into a drug addiction and now they need help, and they need a place to stay, and they're asking you for money, what do you do?

Well, you want to be the most patient, and kind, and giving person as a follower of Jesus. And you've heard of the word "enabling" before. And sometimes, people have to bottom before they change, and they have to reap what they've sown and feel the consequences of their own actions. How are you going to love someone in that situation? It's not just pick one or the other. It's holding those two things in tension. Should you forgive someone who's hurt you? Yes, more than once. Jesus said seventy times seven times you should forgive them. But if someone is manipulative, and abusive, and dangerous, should you cut ties and keep your distance? Is that the Christian thing to do? Sometimes, yes it is.

Proverbs say, "Run away from fools and violent, dangerous people". So, if you're going to get God right, if you're going to get the Christian life right, you can't just listen to one thing, say "Amen," and go on your merry way. You have to be willing to get into the midst of these tense, difficult, nuanced moments. Now, I was thinking, we should probably have a whole sermon series about that. "The tension of truth". But today, as long as I have your attention, I want to take that concept and I want to apply it to something very, very specifically, okay? Don't want to talk about you and God for a second. Don't want to talk about you and your neighbor. Here's what I want to talk about. The tension between how much you plan and how much you trust in God's plans, right? How much do you schedule, set goals, put on paper, pursue, let's talk about your plans, and then let's talk about God's plans.

Alright. Real quick survey. If there was a line between people who plan things, you know, have a calendar, boxes to check, New Years resolutions, and people who are totally not that, like go with the flow, whatever, you know, God has a plan anyway. If you had to pick one or the other, I'm really curious, where are my planners at? Where are my box checking, goal setters? If you're sitting next to one, you can point at them right now. Yes. They probably ask you to check the calendar this morning before you came to church. Alright. That's how I am. And those of us who are like that, what we would say is, "Well, of course you should. God's given you this life, these resources. Don't just wing it. Don't waste it. If He's given you, like, first world money and an American paycheck, He did not give that to you to just see what happens. Make a plan for your heart, your soul, your family, your finances. There's something you're going to fail if you don't like plan from the start.

So, you really should". But where are my not planners at? Have you ever had to say to a very planny person in your house, "Take a deep breath. Alright? He's the God of peace, and of rest, and of joy, and you don't have it right now because this box did not get checked. Like, you just made up your own list of things to do when there's a God who has a different list of things to do. He has good works planned for you to do that aren't on your list. So, why are you worrying about your goals when you don't know the future? You don't know today. You don't know tomorrow. Why not just, like, sit back, take a deep breath, and let Jesus take the wheel"? Which makes sense. So, the big question for today is, "Well, what kind of person should you be"?

Should you be a person who is like ruthless, and radical, and driven about planning your schedule, your life? Or should you be a person who's just so trusting, so faithful, that you just wait to see where God takes you? Let's find the answer today as we open up Bibles to Esther 7. Verse one says this, "So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther's banquet. And as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, 'Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.' And Queen Esther answered, 'If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if pleases you, grant me my life, this is my petition. And spare my people, this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed, and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.' King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, 'Who is he? Where is he, the man who has dared to do such a thing?' Esther said, 'An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!'" Ohh.

Can you picture his face? "Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life". "Did you catch that someone's trying to kill your wife, husband. Someone is trying to rid me of my life. Someone is trying to destroy and annihilate my people". And Xerxes is so furious, he says, "Who? Let me at him. Where is this man"? And then, Esther plans the perfect punchline, doesn't she? "Oh yes, honey, he is an enemy. He's an adversary. He is boom"! Esther's like a coach who's called a time out, drawn up the play, and then ran it to perfection. She planned the time. She planned the place. She planned the script. She planned her attitude. She planned the conclusion. And guess what happens? Even Haman, the vile enemy, knows that the plan's going to work. Right?

And all the type A planning people in church join their voices and they said, "Amen. You see, we were right. We were right". Turn to a hippie next to you and say, "I was right". Right? "That's why we keep a planner. It's in the Book of Esther, honey. Let's sit down with our calendars after breakfast is over," right? Alright. But wait, before we get excited. That's absolutely true is that Esther wasn't winging it. She didn't go in cold. Just wait for the Holy Spirit to guide her word. She had a very specific plan and the chapter isn't over. Jump back in at verse eight. It says, "Just as the King returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining," to beg for his life.

"The king exclaimed, 'Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?' As soon as the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. Then, Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, 'A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits," 75 feet. "'Stands by Haman's house. Haman set it up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.' The king said, 'Impale him on it!' So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king's fury subsided". I got to ask, was any of that in Esther's plan? Was she thinking, "When I say 'It's Haman' Xerxes' going to go outside, and then Haman's going beg for his life. He's going to fall on the couch. It's going to look like he's attacking me, assaulting me. And at that very moment, my husband's coming back in the room"? No, she had no clue how people would react. She could not have planned or predicted the timing of that moment. That was no Esther. That was God.

And what are the odds that Harbona, one of the servants of King Xerxes, would just so have happened to have seen this giant 75 foot skewering, impaling pole outside of his house? And he would just so happen to say to the king, "Oh yeah, the man that you just found out saved your life, Mordecai, that was actually meant for him"? He fuels the rage and the vengeance of King Xerxes. That wasn't in Esther's plan. So, how'd that happen? It's grotesque to think about but as they took literally Haman's flesh and blood body and they held it above this massive sharpened pole and let go, that's what impaling was, how did Esther and Mordecai get saved? How did the villain end up dead and God's people end up alive? Well, the answer is Esther and God. Esther did not take a nap while Jesus took the wheel. She didn't sit in the backseat and wait for God to do His thing. She planned and then God showed up with His plan. She took a first step, and then God directed the steps.

That's what I want you to remember today. Write this down please. That two truths, not one truth, but two truths aren't a lie. If you're going to get your relationship with God correct, if you're not going to end up in one ditch, then you have to remember not one thing but two things. And if you can keep two truths together, you'll end up with the whole truth. My friend, Ben, once described it like this. It's a piece of ribbon up here. Let's imagine that there's a cliff here and a cliff, and you're standing right here, and there's this massive like "Take one wrong step and it'll kill you" kind of chasm, and here's the bridge. And if I attach that bridge on one side and said, "Go for it". You'd say, "No, thank you". I say, "Well, why not"? You say, "Well, it has to be attached on the other side". And so, I would say, "Okay".

You say, "Also, no thank you". But if you're going to get across, if you're going to survive, obviously a bridge has to be attached here and here. One, two, put them both together and you have the way that they bridge works. And that's the way that your plans for life work too. You're either going to end up with missed opportunities for blessing or you're going to miss the blessing of peace and joy unless you can remember these two things. Write them down. We actually learn them from the story of Esther. Truth number one is that God has a purpose. Alright? God has a plan. God has things prepared for you. You might not see them. You might not know them. You might not have anticipated them, but God has a grand purpose for your life. We call that providence, right?

So, real quickly again, where are all my type A planner people at like me? Alright. Some of us, we are way too stressed and we don't need to be. Alright? So, if you come home at the end of the day and you're super frazzled and you're super mad because you wanted to do a, b, and c, and then God interrupted you and he gave you d, e, and f. You don't have to feel that way. Alright? You've fallen into the error of remembering just one truth, your plans and God says, "Hey, I interrupt people. Sometimes, I detour people. Sometimes, there are people who I know need love and you didn't even know about them, and so they weren't on your agenda. They weren't on your calendar". Sometimes, you've done really, really great work that really helped people and you're stressed and you're frazzled because you didn't get your To-Do list done. God says, "You don't have to see life that way".

Good days are productive days. Bad days are unproductive days. No. God has a purpose. "In all things God is working for the good," and all things include the things that weren't on your list of things. Alright? So, do your best impression of a local hippie. So, just take a deep breath. Alright, no calendar. I'm going to burn my To-Do list because God can work through all of that. Right? And I want to say that especially to some of you who've been through some really hard things. Alright. I know that having a broken heart wasn't part of your plan.

If you're a widow, I know him dying as early as he did wasn't part of your plan. I know maybe being single for this long or being single again wasn't part of your plan. I know being one of the many people who battles chronic anxiety wasn't part of your plan. I know struggling with fertility wasn't part of your plan. Going through the death of your father wasn't your plan. But you don't have to panic like your life is wasted because there are more than just your plans. There are the purposes of God. And I want to encourage some of you today to become the kind of person who remembers that in all things God works for the good. In that thing you're going through, he works for the good.

In the most backwards, I never would have chosen this day, week, season of life, God works for the good. The situation you're in is not the exception. If you can remember this truth, it will give you so much comfort and so much joy. When you can say, "God, you love me. You know better than me. Like, I didn't plan this but you brought it right in front of me, so I'm going to embrace it and I'm going to say again, 'In all things God works for the good. That this too is a day that God has made I will rejoice and be glad in it.'"

And here's truth number two. The Bible also talks about your plans. Now, there's a great passage from Proverbs 21. Maybe some of you need to hear this today. It says, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty". I love that. The plans of the diligent lead to profit. You want a profitable life, you want a blessed life, a prosperous life, what do you do? Well, this passage says you plan. You buy yourself a calendar. You make a budget. You think about before the end of the year, "What do I want to accomplish"? Don't just go to work, go to school, "Oh, let's see what happens with my life". No, think about who you are and where you are, what God has given you, how can you maximize your impact on people, and on the kingdom of God.

Alright. Be intentional about your life. Some of you know, like, life goes way faster than you think. When you're doing your homework, the second ticks by. And then, one day you wake up and you're 41 and you said, "What happened"? And you have a little kid, and you're just changing diapers trying not to fall asleep in church, and then you blink and she's 14 and going to high school. Like, life goes fast. We don't get to go back. And so, God says, "I want you to profit". "And the plans of the diligent lead to profit". So, for some of you, your homework is to just sit down with a blank sheet of paper after church today and say, "What are my plans? Where am I going? What am I trying to accomplish? I'm going to make 'em". As if it all depends on me and I'm going to hold these plans in open hands, and say, "But God, in the end, your will be done". Plan like it all depends on you, rest like it all depends on God. If you hold those two truths in tension, that truth will set you free. Let's pray:

God, thank you so much for the cross. Thank you do much that you just save us from arrogance and comparison, and thinking those people are the real problem. That's not true. It's a tough and humbling word for us but we need to hear it. God, when people are proud and think they're better, relationships blow up and cultures blow up, schools blow up, so thank you for being real about our sin, and it's seriousness. And we thank you a million times more for your grace. Maybe we want to minimize our sin because we don't think there's forgiveness if it's too bad, but the cross comes and just delivers this beautiful declaration that we're holding on to for dear life today. That Jesus Christ died for the very worst of sinners. He died for me. He died for us. And now, I'm asking God for the help to hold this tension. In the days to come, help us to fight sin like everything depends on it, and if we do sin, God, help us to remember that it didn't depend on us, it was all about Jesus. Help us hold this tension as we go through life planning as best we can to leverage this moment, to make the most of this opportunity to love you, and love people. And God, if nothing goes according to plan, help us to remember that you have a purpose. That you're a God of providence. That in all things, you work for the good of those who love you. God, it's touch to remember one truth. It's even tougher to remember two, so give us all the help that we need to do this well. God, your truth is a tension, a beautiful tension that we want to hold on to today. I pray that you bless us as we seek this, as we seek you, and as we seek to love one another. In Jesus' name. It's in his name that we pray and all God's people said, "Amen".

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