There Is No Plan B
There is this old joke. Jesus has just risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. He is hanging out with some angels on the clouds. They are looking down upon the earth. One angel says, “Lord, that was amazing; we thought you were a “goner”. We thought it was over. But then, you rose from the dead. You trampled death under your feet. You’ve defeated Satan! What’s next?” Jesus answered, “I left a handful of people who really believe in me, and they are going to tell the world about me and make disciples.”
The angels were stunned. They simply stared at Jesus. The silence got to the point of being uncomfortable. Finally, one angel tentatively asked, “Lord, what is Plan B?”
Jesus answered, “There is No Plan B”.
Funny? Sort of. But if the eternal destiny of God’s children is at stake, then two things seem to happen inside of us.
- First, we immediately understand how terribly important this assignment from God is, and in our minds, nothing short of perfection will do.
- Second, because we fall woefully short of perfection, in addition to the frustration and criticism we succumb to (described earlier), we spend energy asking, “Why would God the Father build this sort of plan, a plan that depends on us?”
Let’s spend some time looking at the question, “Why would God build this sort of a plan?” To answer this question first requires caution. I am trying to explain God’s reasoning. He certainly owes us no such explanation. He is the Almighty. Further, to seek to explain God could be rightly viewed as arrogant.
I want, however, to press into this question because I believe it might yield insight and learning for us as we seek to “go and make”.
I asked above, “Why would God the Father….” I chose this parental language for a specific reason. Jesus describes our relationship to the Almighty as filial. We are his children: he, a perfect parent. Parents often take specific approaches with their children for their offspring’s long-term good.
I believe God has this plan because he loves us. The challenge for me to understand this as the answer is rooted in my concept of God as love. Do I, do we, have a right understanding of love?
C.S. Lewis writes about this in The Problem of Pain using the language of family.
We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe that was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that, God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.
I might, indeed, have learned, even from the poets, that Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness: that even the love between the sexes is, as in Dante, ‘a lord of terrible aspect’. There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness (in a sense given above) is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object – we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. (Hebrews 12:8) For people whom we care nothing about, we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense .
C.S. Lewis, as always, writes in a way where a small snippet is chockfull of ideas to consider. His point that love and kindness are not coterminous is the path into understanding our question as to why God’s Plan of having humans “go & make” is his Plan A.
Our visceral reaction that God should have a better plan is largely driven by our desire that everyone would turn to Jesus. As we think about evangelism, we immediately realize so many have not heard the Name of Jesus. We know just how much further we have to go to get better at sharing our faith.
We have the Father’s heart in us, for we, like he, desire none should perish (2 Peter 3:9).
Yet the Father also has a heart for us. He wants us to become sons and daughters. Returning to C.S. Lewis’ quote, God is interested in more than being kind to us. He is interested in us becoming good.
And so the race is on. We look for reasons and for help. We want our behavior to come into accord with God’s simple instructions. We then make a mistake. We believe that if we could simply understand all the reasons behind God’s decisions, laws, etc., we could more easily fulfil them.
I want to dissuade us from chasing that trail. Running down that rabbit hole simply confuses us. Point of fact: Understanding the simple principle behind a law does not make following that law easy.
Consider this example from the Bible. In the beginning, God creates the world. God creates Adam and Eve in His image. Everything is perfect. God walks with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. God tells and explains that they can have everything but one thing. There is one tree they cannot eat from. He did not have to tell them why, but he did. He tells them if they eat its fruit, they will die.
Pause and reflect for a moment. God gives them a straightforward and simple singular command. He does not stop there. God gives them a straightforward and simple explanation. If they eat from the tree, they will die. Furthermore, he has given them everything else save for one tree.
Yet, even the reason for the rule, they cannot comply. They are not alone in this scene. Satan enters the picture. We immediately see that there is a spiritual dimension to everything. Adam and Eve succumb to the temptation. They had one simple command. Don’t eat the fruit from one tree. They eat. Sin, and its fruit, death, enter the world.
I bring up the Creation and Fall story, not only to reinforce that simple is not easy. I bring it up to introduce one other point by asking, “Was Jesus Plan B to a failed attempt by God in the Garden of Eden to create a perfect world?”
You see, the plan to send God the Son, to die the most excruciating death of all time, was God’s Plan before the foundations of the world were laid (John 1:29 and Rev. 13:8). Jesus is Plan A. So too are we God’s Plan A to “go & make”. Sometimes God’s Plan A is hard for us to understand.
I took us through this long bit of C.S. Lewis and the creation story to answer One Question and make One Point. Remember the question?
“Why would God the Father build a plan for the redemption of the world that depends on us telling everyone about Jesus?”
The answer is God does not depend on us. He did not plan or depend on Adam and Eve obeying. He no more depends on us to perfectly perform in order for His Will to succeed.
We confuse the aim of our Creator’s calculus. We believe that “go & make” is singularly about all non-believers becoming believers through our labors. God’s plan to have you and me go & make, to tell the entire world about Jesus, is as much about you and me becoming his followers, his disciples as it is about going and making, about evangelism. It is a much about our growth as sons and daughters as anything else!
Our life of faith is always two-sided—Discipleship on one side and Evangelism on the other. Thanks be to God that He is literally inside of us, you might say in-between these two outwardly facing parts of our lives.
His Plan is, in fact, good. Since Jesus’ ascension, billions have gone and made disciples, and billions more have come to know Jesus as Lord.
God’s plan, of which he is completely sovereign, is nothing short of a brilliantly elegant equation that simultaneously turning babes of the faith into sons and daughters, all while new babes are born—who in turn go & make.
Be secure in God’s sovereignty. We must free our minds from this idea that God’s Plan depends on our perfection. We can go & make, replacing guilt, with freedom and hope and joy because our confidence is shifted from ourselves to Him, who is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
All of these thoughts bring me back to the reality that it is terribly important to go and make.
We Are Always Just One Generation Away
This is why, I believe, God has arranged the passing of faith as if it is always just one generation away from being lost. Because what is lost is not only people coming to faith, but those who have faith, losing theirs because it slowly evaporates from inaction.
Again, this does not mean that we can somehow thwart God’s plan of redemption for His World. We cannot. The Bible chronicles times when God’s people seemingly petered away, and He intervened. Consider just one.
During Noah’s time, in Genesis 6, we read how God regrets creating humans. We read, “Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil.” (v.5). Noah and his small family seemed to be the only ones following God.
Yet from Noah sprung Abraham! God is not thwarted. God was not thwarted even after Abraham’s great-grandson was thrown in a well and left for dead. Even after Israel sought a human king more than God, his plans were not thwarted. Even after that earthly kingdom over and over abandoned the Law, God was not thwarted. Even after Jesus was nailed to a Cross, God was not thwarted – in fact, God was in control the entire time.
God is in control on a cosmic, earthly, and personal level. Yes, as humans, we make it much harder than we need to when we turn away from him. We make it harder when we do turn away as individuals, as families, as churches, as villages and towns, as states, and as nations.
This is why “go & make” is so important, not just to those who have yet to hear the name of Jesus, but to those who have.
When you hear the command “go & make”, don’t get defensive. Don’t proclaim that you don’t have the gift. When you hear there is No Plan B, don’t freak out that God is laying some heavy guilt on you. When you hear we are always one generation away from losing the faith, don’t despair.
When you hear all those things and more, get in the game, the game of Evangelism.
When you think, “I can’t!”, remember what it says in Philippians 1:6. “…being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Who is this “He”, none other than Jesus.
Take one more step with me. Free of feeling that it singularly relies on you and me. Let’s next think through Evangelism. It might not be natural for you. Give it a chance. You have gotten through Chapter One. Chapter Two will be a little tough. Chapters Three and Four are full of great news and encouragement.
 C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. Harper One. New York. 2002. p. 567.