God’s Sovereign Plans Behind Your Most Unproductive Days

2018-04-13 20:22

I was having porridge for lunch at home the other day.  My wife took the (cooked) cold chicken pieces out from the fridge and said, “Just put the chicken into hot porridge and it’ll be hot enough to eat after a while.  No need to microwave them.”  Boom!  Spiritual truth and lesson right there!  A cold heart, when totally covered and submerged into a ‘hot’ loving environment has no choice but be warmed up by the love around him/her.  (Told you before - my wife is wise!)


It is heart-warming to hear of the testimonies of visitors and new members of how PSPC is a warm and caring community of God during their first few encounters here. Some visitors were tourists and they wrote back to share of their good experiences during their visits, and others have stayed on and eventually made PSPC their home church.  It was not too long ago that PSPC had the reputation of being a cold and unwelcoming church and I thank the Lord for how He has been transforming us and teaching us His ways.


In my (very rare) visits to other churches and from the experiences of others who have done so, there may be a few people in every church who will notice and reach out to new comers.  While it is ‘better than nothing’, it is far from being a ‘hot bowl of porridge’ that will warm a cold heart.  In fact, if the ushers and designated befrienders are the only ones welcoming the visitors, the hospitality will seem manufactured and insincere.  If PSPC is to be a ‘hot bowl of porridge’, every member has to share the vision and take on the joyful responsibility of greeting and reaching out to any new comer.


Pastor Darryl has regularly reminded us about the 3 ‘R’s of hospitality:

  1. Receive:           To receive visitors by welcoming and befriending them.
  2. Reconnect:       To reconnect with the newcomers over the following weeks.
  3. Repeat:            To repeat step 1 and 2 consistently.


Allow me to share some thoughts to encourage us to carry out the 3 ‘R’s of hospitality more consistently and perhaps, in a more prepared and intentional way.

  1. God honours your desire and effort.  Recognise that God uses every friendly ‘hello’, every ‘welcome’ and every attempt to help the new person feel at home.  It’ll make an impact for Him.  God uses the smallest of gestures to let him experience the warmth of a loving Christian community and bring him a step closer to knowing Him.  Nothing done for the Lord is in vain.
  1. Teamwork.  If doing it alone is a bit scary for you, get a buddy so you can support each other.  Rope others in by introducing the new comer to them.  This also means that the rest of us must be in ‘ready mode’ when being introduced, i.e. don’t be stunned!  “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
  2. Be in the moment.  Making conversations with a stranger is not easy.  For some of us it is quite a difficult thing and does not come naturally.  Some tips that I find useful are:
    1. Giving full attention to the person.  Be genuine.
    2. Stay engaged by asking questions to develop the topic of conversation.
    3. Use his name as often as possible to help you remember it.
    4. The mind needs to be actively thinking how to make the person feel at ease.
    5. Use humour whenever possible.
    6. “Look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)


The 3 ‘R’s of hospitality is not meant just for visitors or new comers.  There are some who are regular attenders but have yet to establish roots in the PSPC family and we need to extend the 3 ‘R’s to them too.  They need the rest of us to look out for and reach out to them, to cover them in ‘hot porridge’.  Let us ask the Lord to open our eyes and lead to us to them and may the Lord enable us to help them find love and acceptance.


Let us continue to pray that the Lord will break down any barriers that exist among us.  The age barrier – that the young and the elderly will not be strangers to one another. And now that we have the Mandarin service, the language barrier.  May the Lord help us to overcome the race and cultural barriers as we host the Mizo and Filipino services as well as the HELLO class (i.e. English class for migrant workers).  And the socio-economic barriers as we reach out to people from all walks of life with very different backgrounds and upbringing.


The only way to show that we are truly a God-fearing, God-honouring church is to be obedient to what He has commanded us. “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

Author Name:

By John Piper

How is God at work in our most unproductive days, when it feels as though we’ve accomplished nothing and fallen far short of our own plans and expectations? Those days are frustrating to us, but they are not outside of God’s sovereign power. It leads to today’s question on what efficiency looks like in the first place, a very good question from a listener named Melinda.

“Hello, Pastor John, thank you for this podcast! Back in episode 1115, about caring for those with dementia, you closed your remarks with this phrase: ‘God’s priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours.’ Can you please elaborate on this? I struggle mightily with time management skills. I’m a homeschooling mom trying to balance kids’ needs and activities, ministry, household duties…. and sleep. I feel overwhelmed with the need to be efficient every minute even though this does not come naturally to me. What should efficiency look like in the busy Christian life?”

I will explain what I mean by “God’s priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours.” But let me say first, right off the bat, that the reason I want anybody to know that is not so that they can get more done, but so that they do what they do in the right spirit. That’s preface over everything I have to say.

Your Priorities

Now what do I mean by saying, “God’s priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours”? I mean that our priority may be that between 10:00 and 11:00 this morning I planned to run to the bank and get some cash so that I can be back in time to pay the teenager who is cutting my grass while a neighbor watches my two- and four-year-old for me. That’s the plan.

You feel good — I’m making this up — that you very efficiently worked. You feel good that you worked it out. You worked it out so that the neighbor was available, the teenager could come, and you could get to the bank and get back before both of them had other engagements.  Those are your priorities, and you have an efficient plan: cut grass, kids watched, bank trip made, boy paid, everyone off to their next engagement. Victory. Efficiency. That’s what I mean by “our efficiency.”

God’s Priorities

However, God in this case has a totally different set of priorities.  Your neighbor was scheduled to be at a real estate office at 11:30 a.m. so she could join her husband to close on a new house — a house which, unbeknownst to them, has a flawed foundation. The teenager was planning to take his money from cutting the grass and pool it with some of the guys and buy some drugs that they shouldn’t be using. You hit a traffic jam caused by a rollover of a semi (which has another story behind it). You’re locked up on the freeway for an hour. You never even get to the bank. You rush home as fast as you can, but you get there an hour late. You have no money to pay the boy, and your neighbor has missed her appointment. You are frustrated almost to tears.


Your efficiency proved utterly useless to accomplish your priorities. You failed, but God’s priorities totally succeeded. He wanted to hinder that boy from buying drugs, he wanted to spare the neighbor from purchasing a house that’s a lemon, and he wanted to grow your faith in his sovereign wisdom and sovereignty.  Now, that’s what I mean by “God’s priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours.”

Joseph’s Slow Journey

In my view, this isn’t happening just now and then; it’s happening all the time. When you read the Bible, you see in virtually every book the story of God doing things that are not the way humans would do them or want them done. God almost never takes the shortest route between point A and point B.  The reason is that such efficiency — the efficiency of speed and directness — is not what he’s about. His purpose is to sanctify the traveler, not speed him between A and B. Frustrating human efficiency is one of God’s primary — I say primary, not secondary — means of sanctifying grace.

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37–50 is one of the clearest examples, right? Joseph is hated by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, sold to Potiphar, accused of sexual harassment, thrown into prison, forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler, then finally — seventeen years in? — made vice president of Egypt so that he could save his family from starvation.  The moral of the story comes in Genesis 50:20. Joseph says to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God had an agenda. God had a plan. God meant it for good.

It’s as if he said, “You guys, you rascals, were the ‘traffic jam’ that kept me from getting to the bank for seventeen years. But God was positioning me to be the savior of my people, and he was in no hurry. I was being tested at every single point. Would I trust him with his seemingly meaningless inefficiency? It wasn’t meaningless.”

Paul’s Change of Plans

When Paul was trying to get to Spain, he did so with a good plan. He had a plan — he had a really good plan. He basically said, “I’m going to go to Jerusalem and deliver the money. Then I’m going to get on a boat, go to Rome, gather some support, and end my life in Spain.” What a great plan. But then he found himself in prison in Rome. What did he say?  He says it in Philippians 1:12–13: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”  His priorities for efficiently getting to Spain were shattered, but God’s purposes to evangelize the imperial guard in Rome stayed right on track.

A Daily Plan

Here’s the implication for Melinda.  By all means, make your list of to-dos for the day. By all means, get as good at that as you can get. Prioritize the list. Get first things first. Make your plan. Do the very best you can. Go ahead and read a book about it.  Then walk in the peace and freedom that, when it shatters on the rocks of reality, which it will most days, remember, you’re not being measured by God by how much you get done. You’re being measured by whether you trust the goodness and the wisdom and the sovereignty of God to work this new mess of inefficiency for his glory and the good of everyone involved, even when you can’t see how.