Last week Jesus proposed to us. This week Jesus lays out His plan for us leading up to our wedding day. The two most important days in our life are today and tomorrow. While we live in today, we are always preparing for tomorrow. Jesus’ proposal provided us with a glimpse into what tomorrow will look like after our wedding day. Jesus’ plan provides us with concrete steps we can take to improve the quality of our living today while we wait on our tomorrow. Just like a dream without a vision can become a nightmare, a proposal without a plan is a recipe for disaster.
The truth is that everyone needs a plan. No matter what stage or station in life we are at, we are not exempt from the need to have some basic idea of where we are going and/or how we are going to get there. Essentially, that is what a plan is, it is blueprint laying out the steps we are going to take to get to or reach our eventual destination. People who are successful in business do not one day wake up and walk into a bank and say give me some money because I want to start a business. The bank would look at them and say OK show me your business plan. The idea that because we are a child of God and have God’s divine favor that good things will just happen to us is erroneous. God blesses us with skill, talent and the ability to learn how to do and accomplish, but we must have a plan.
In our text, Jesus provides us with six principles for family planning. Within the context of marriage, family planning is planning for the expansion and growth of the family. For our purposes, these principles provide the foundation and building blocks for growth, both church growth and personal growth. We will notice that the principles are interchangeably applied much like the terms church and believer are also interchangeable.
In verse 17 Jesus says, “Come, for everything is now ready.” The idea that things are now ready suggests that there was some planning and some preparation that took place in order to get things to the point of being ready. Thus, the first principle for growth is we need to prepare for God’s expansion. Preparation is the root and foundation upon which dreams and visions materialize and become reality. Preparation for expansion means that we are getting ready for God to add. It comes on the heels of seeing the dream and believing in the vision that God has more for us. The most basic thing that we can do to get ready for expansion is to strengthen our foundation through learning. I have discovered that much of what I have learned and how I thought and processed information was not conducive to growth and expansion in my current context. In other words, I was trying to build a new building using old blueprint. As we move from context to context and environment to environment we face different challenges, issues, obstacles and hurdles. We must prepare ourselves for the nuances that each new challenge offers. Each new challenge we face will require something different from us perhaps a different approach or a different perspective. Therefore, we need to develop a new blueprint for a new challenge. There is so much information available to us today. Information gives us the power of know how and when we know how to do something we are better prepared to walk through the next open door or seize the next opportunity. Conversely, a failure to prepare signals a desire to settle. Settling suggests to God that we believe God is finished with us and that whatever we have is all that we will get. May be the reason we do not have more is because we have not made room for more.
The second principle for growth is we need to invite new people into our lives. In the parable that Jesus told, the master instructed his servants to go out into the streets and invite people, people they did not know and probably had never met. In most cases growth needs to be encouraged or it will not happen by itself. All people like the familiar because it is familiar. We know what to expect and it is predictable. There is usually very little challenge we receive from people that we are familiar with. This is in part because we have grown accustomed to each other and really do not want to disturb the delicate balance that makes our relationship work. So, we recycle old ideas and the scope of our conversation tends to be very narrow. How are you? I am fine. How is your family? They are OK and yours. We are doing well. Then may be you will talk about work or whatever it is that you usually talk about, but nothing too radical because then the other person might think you have begun taking medication. New people bring new ideas. They do not look at things the same way we look at them and they do not think about things in the same ways that we think about them. It is this freshness that God uses to breathe new vision and stir up new dreams that will challenge us in new ways. We should not be afraid of inviting new people into our lives, because it is one of God’s mechanisms for breathing fresh air into lives that have become stale and stagnant. One of the best ways to re-energize yourself or your life is to try something you have never done before or go somewhere you have never gone before. After you recover from the shock you will discover that new is not all bad.
The third principle for growth is we must expect to be rejected. Part of the reason the master sent the servants out to look for new people is because the people he knew and were familiar with made excuses. The truth is that all people will do things that they want to do and when they do not want to do something and not hurt our feelings, they make excuses. When it comes to dealing with other people, we must go in with the expectation that people are going to at some point make excuses. We must not take it personally, but we must understand that not everyone will attach the same value or see the value of things that are meaningful and important to us. It has nothing to do with whether or not a person likes us it has to do with assigning value. What is important to us may not and will not be as important to others. Therefore, rejection is part of the package. We should treat it like water rolling off the back of a duck. Let the water roll off and forget it. On the other hand, to minimize rejection in our own lives it is a good idea not to reject others. There is a Biblical principle that says, “You reap what you sow.” The things that we do and put out into the atmosphere have a way of coming full circle back to us. I am not saying that we should attend every event we are invited to, no. I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is, if we do not want to attend simply be honest and say I cannot make it. No need to let people know that you have to go for an operation or Johnny has a school play on that night or create reasons why you cannot go. When we make excuses with regard to things that are important to others, we can bet that people we count on will at some point makes excuses when it comes to things that are important to us. Likewise, if we want support or to be supported, then we have to be a source of support for others and this is especially true in times when we do not feel like it or may not want to. We cannot expect people to drop everything for us when we are not prepared to do the same.
The fourth principle for growth is use rejection as motivation and fuel for expansion. It is interesting that the master who went to great lengths to get things ready did not allow excuses to stop what he had prepared for. Instead he used rejection as motivation to fuel his momentum. One of the worst things we can do when we are moving toward a goal is to stop. Do not get me wrong, we must rest, but we must never stop. When we stop we lose momentum and once it is lost there is no guarantee that we will ever get it back. Think about it like this. As long as a plane is at the gate it cannot get to the runway. If a plane never gets to the runway it cannot take off. We have all been on planes or seen planes that are prepared for takeoff, they leave the gate start taxing toward the runway only to encounter some problem that keeps them grounded. As long as that plane is grounded it will never reach the heights it needs to reach in order for it to soar through the skies. We must not allow what other people say, do, or not do to kill our momentum. If we do we will remain grounded and never reach the heights that God has set for us to soar to our destination.
The fifth principle for growth is keep expanding. The master told his servants to go into the streets. His servant informed him that what he had ordered had already been done but there was still room. The master told his servant – GO FURTHER! Growth demands that we be willing to go where we have never gone before. By definition and the nature of growth is reaching heights that you have not previously reached or seen. The master could have said well, the fact that some people came that is good enough. But good enough was not the goal. The goal was not to get to a certain point (wherever that point may be) retire and then wait to die, no. The goal was to go are far as we can go and to reach as high as we can reach and nothing will get in the way of that. The master here demonstrates to us that we are the only ones who can limit how far we go. One of the things that exercise trainers do is they push you to go further. Their job is to push their trainee to the point where the trainee goes beyond what they think they are personally capable of achieving. That is growth, going beyond what we think we are personally able to achieve. The growth process teaches us that the further we are willing to go and then actually go, the greater our reach will be and the higher the heights we will achieve.
The sixth and final principle for growth be resolved. The master concludes by saying not one of those who was invited will taste the banquet that has been prepared. These are hard words that perhaps taste bitter in the mouth, but if we can digest them we will see they are sweet in the belly. The truth is that though we invite people to join us and encourage them to share in what God is doing in our midst, some folks will make excuses and others will flat out reject what we are offering. It is important for us to keep in mind that we are responsible for the work and God is responsible for the results. Therefore, we have to make up our mind that we want what God has for us and short of death we are going to exhaust every ounce of strength and breath in our bodies to get it. Ultimately, anyone who does not or is not willing to come along for the ride will be left behind. It is their decision and their loss. But as for (insert your name here), I have made up my mind and have resolved that I am going to go as far as the Spirit of God in Christ will take me.
Jesus has laid out for us six principles, six steps for growth. In life things are either living or they are dying, progressing or regressing, but nothing stays the same. The question for us is will we accept Jesus’ plan and if so, will we use it?
In the Reformed Church liturgy following the sermon the minister says, this is the Word of God and the people respond, thanks be to God. The people’s response is a heartfelt echoing of the gratitude they have for God speaking to them and revealing to them God’s divine prescription for their condition. Inherent in the people’s response is willingness and a resolve to go and apply what they have just received from God. God has given and now it is up to us to go and apply what we have just received from God.