1 Corinthians 16
7 For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.
I’ve often pictured the Bible heroes as people who were fully tuned into God in such a way that every step was laid out in perfect clarity for them. Paul surely must have had clear directives as he moved from city to city, province to province, as he spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.
The scripture above, in context (1 Cor 16: vs 5-9), paints a somewhat different picture though. In this portion of his letter to the church in Corinth, he tells them he will visit them after going through Macedonia, but then he uses the word “perhaps”. “Perhaps I will stay with you for a while and even spend the winter…” Is it that Paul was an indecisive guy? As we read on we come to our key verse above and we see the answer – “if the Lord permits”.
Paul recognized that he could make plans, but he best makes them in pencil and not in pen. He had a strong urge to spend the winter in Corinth, but he also made it clear that God could change that in a heartbeat, as he introduces the idea of God opening doors. In the following verse 8, Paul says: “but I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me…” Paul recognized that he must keep his eyes open to new doors that God opens and be prepared to walk through those doors.
Such a huge part of being an athlete is scheduling, and goal-setting. All of these things require saying: “I will do this, or I will achieve that”. “In the following week I will do 600 minutes of training, 100 minutes being high intensity. This will increase by 10 percent per week before it tapers and reduces so I can peak for my race where I will win and take the next step towards my ultimate goal of making the Olympics.” These are the plans, this is the type of confidence elite champions need to be the best.
In James 4:13-17 Paul speaks to those who say “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money”. Paul says that “you do not even know what will happen to you tomorrow”. He says that we are but a mist and we should not boast in knowing what we will do. Instead, Paul says we ought to say “If it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that.”
As an athlete you don’t need to add “if it is the Lord’s will” to everything you say. You will start sounding pretty ridiculous to your coach, fellow athletes, the world, if that is the preamble or postlude every time you speak, and you may harm rather than enhance your witness; “If it is the Lord’s will I will be at practise this afternoon. Yes I will compete next week, if it is the Lord’s will”. What is crucially important, however, is that you take on a Godly attitude and accept the truth that the plans you put in place are in pencil and you must give God permission to change them at any time and there may be times where you will let the world know why. If you feel a passion to pursue sports to the highest level, then do so with all excellence making the necessary plans and taking the necessary steps, but in your prayer life constantly acknowledge God’s sovereignty and hold your plans with an open hand up to Him. When you see God closing doors and opening others, be prepared to walk through them rather than clinging on to plans that you made. In doing so, you will be a true disciple of Christ and a world-changer like Paul.