As a boy child of the 1970’s all that I ever really wanted from about age six was an Action man.
These action figures were the foil to the girly Barbie dolls that most girls craved. They were pre-scarred and had knives, guns, tanks, jeeps and helicopters. While most men had slicked hair or lond unkempt locks these soldiers sported fuzzy headed crew cuts.
My friend had the tower with the zip wire and he was ‘very cool.’ The Christmas that I opened my own Action man with accompanying tank was a great momentin my life. I would later add a helicopter and other brothers in arms but that morning, I had arrived! He had many scrapes and completed countless missions of great importance over the following years.
Our message this morning reminded me of those years before God was really in the picture in any meaningful way. But it also reminded me of the years where God was real and challenging us about being ‘Action men, and women.’
As John Muirhead spoke about our plans and dreams he challenged us again about how we rightly make plans only to see them vanish in a smoke of inaction. The children’s talk reminded us about trying to hide from God as we skulk away to pursue our own plans, forgetting that God Himself has a better way.
The story of the prodigal son is one that we can all relate to in some measure. As the adolescent hormones drove him to escape the strictures of home life he was emboldened to get his share and make a life for himself far away from all that seemed to be holding him back.
So off he went with his great plan.
The man who was to write the greater chunk of our New Testament also had grand plans. He was going to rid the world of this menace of Christianity. This became a problem because unbeknownst to him it was God’s great plan for the world.
In our 21st century world, we like to think that we have total liberty to plan and dream as we please. People now talk of the ‘universe’ bringing them to things and like to imagine that we either make our own life or that some benign force is somehow ordering events. You can give it any name that you may you desire but ultimately if that is the road you go down, God is the unseen hand.
The picture that I have chosen is there because men and women planned and dreamt of a better future than they were currently living.
Land and buildings were sold, an architect was commissioned and they got to work accomplishing what was on the plan. I spoke yesterday with the groundskeeper of the building and he was busy removing the uprooted bushes that had been left for years to grow unchecked. He was slightly discouraged by the beaurocracy they had encountered but was gamely pushing on to see the project through to completion.
As Saul met with God on the Damascus road those many years ago he was dumbfounded to learn that he was fighting against the very God that he had thought he was serving. God was working to a very different blueprint to him. When once he learned This, his life went in a completely new direction and he never once changed path again.
Lying with the pigs with nothing to his name but broken dreams and an empty stomach the prodigal son had an epiphany. Even his dads servants had food. So instead of feeling sorry for himself any longer he formulated a new plan. As he trudged the long miles home he rehearsed over and over his speech of repentance to his father.
Willing to become a servant with those he once commanded he had learned the greatest lesson of all…humility.
We can take this lesson from Jesus, even as He spoke the words he was living as a servant in the plan that was drawn up before He drew that first breath in Bethlehem. The great plan that would see him die to bring every prodigal home to the loving Father who longed for His children to enjoy what He had planned for THEM.
There are many Action men (and women) busily pursuing their great plans, equally there are many who watch the years tick past as they live lives of quiet inaction.
It is good to plan, it is better to act, but it is even better to consult the architect of it all.
The great Solomon knew only to well what it was to build great things that he had devised, but he concluded
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”