I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (1 Corinthians 16:5-8).
In order that you make the most of your ministry, ensure you have the Lord’s permission. Paul’s plans were scheduled by God’s will. He was not bound by or obligated to certain people to do certain things at certain times at their will and every whim. He is saying, “My schedule is planned by the will of God, and if the will of God allows me to come with you, I will come with you. However, I’m not making any guarantees.” There was an uncertainty about his going to Corinth. The only condition that Paul gives as to whether or not he will be with the Corinthians is in verse 7, “if the Lord permits.”
What about that? Oh, this plays havoc with a lot of the ways we do things today in our age, even in our churches. Paul was not planning too far ahead in many senses, but nevertheless his planning that he did make was according to the will of God. He was not making any promises to anybody because he did not know. He might have to break a promise if he made it, because God could say: “No, you’re not going, you have to go over here, this is where I need you.”
I hope you can see this. Jesus’ half-brother, James, wrote on this matter, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15). Now I wonder, “Are our plans made by the will of the Lord?” Please don’t think that I’m “weirding out” here to some kind of subjective spiritual realm, where we have to be in some way hearing God’s voice to us all the time in what we do, and we can never plan ahead. Please see this: Paul scheduled his plans by God’s will. He did schedule them, and although he might have to change a plan now and again, he had a plan to change. That’s the way you have to live and plan life. Make plans, realizing that those plans will only go ahead if God permits.
Let me show you Paul’s plan specifically. We will go backwards from verse 8. Paul said, “I’m just going to stay where I am until Pentecost (religious feast celebrated by Jews).” In verse 6, he said that he would stay until springtime with these people in Ephesus from where he wrote, and then he would move and pass through Macedonia, hoping to be all summer with them, and eventually reach Corinth in winter. Verse 5 said that after passing through Macedonia that he will come in winter time to Corinth and spend the winter with them.
Men of God have to plan, because men of God have a vision! People with a vision plan according to God’s will, not apart from God will, and not making their plans and then asking God bless them. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Because of Jesus,