Sermon July 17, 2022: Planning For God Knows What (Pentecost 7)

Stefan Keller via Pixabay

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:




If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

HYMN How Great Thou Art
Alan Jackson – How Great Thou Art (Official Live)

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Amazing Grace
Gaither Vocal Band – Amazing Grace (Live)

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Planning For God Knows What
James 4:13-17, Romans 6:13, 8:26-28
Series: “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.”

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio


James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; 14 whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Romans 6:13 Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. 27 And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.   – Howard Thurman


HYMN It Is Well with My Soul
Guy Penrod, David Phelps – It Is Well With My Soul (Live) [Official Video]

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)


All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


As you heard me say a moment ago in the prayer, the saying is if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. And what that means is we’re honestly, planning for God knows what, we don’t know, but God knows what is coming. So if we plan to follow Jesus, we will be in harmony with what God is doing. But we don’t always know in advance what God is doing!

Let me tell you a story. This story comes from M. Scott Peck, one of my favorite authors, a Christian psychiatrist. He talked about how in Russia– and those of you who have seen Fiddler on the Roof, you know the culture. You have the Jewish people, but you also have the Cossacks, who are representatives of the Russian government. And they rule the town with an iron fist. And so one morning on the village square, the rabbi, an elderly rabbi makes his way, struggling with his cane across the village square from his house to the synagogue.

And the Cossack shouts from the porch at the village police station, “Rabbi, where are you going?” And of course, he did this just to irritate the old man. And the rabbi turned and respectfully looked at the Cossack, the chief of police, so to speak, and said, “I don’t know.”

The Cossack said, “Rabbi, every single morning you leave your house at this time and you go to the synagogue to pray. What do you mean you don’t know where you’re going?”

And the rabbi says, “Sir, I don’t know.” Well, the Cossack loses his temper, grabs the rabbi, drags him into the jail, throws him across the room into the jail cell. And as he’s flying through the air, the rabbi says, “You see? You just don’t know where you’re going.”

This past week, I didn’t know where I was going. But I did know one thing. Due to a long chain of events having to do with my Fitbit not working the way I thought it should, I became aware that my heart was beating very fast. I thought it was because the Fitbit was broken. But it finally caused me to download a 30-day report, and what I discovered was that my pulse rate was above 130, 12 to 16 hours a day for something like 30 days straight. This is not normal, brothers and sisters.

So I called my primary care doctor in Salem. He said, “Get thee to a cardiologist, now.”

Now, you know how that is. They tell you to see a specialist, you call the specialist and they say, “Dr. so-and-so is taking appointments on August 3rd. But I was able to work a deal. I was able to maneuver. I was able to get an appointment with a cardiologist in Effingham at Prairie Heart Institute for Monday morning at 10:30. So I come into the cardiologist’s office and the nurse gives me an EKG. The cardiologist looks at the EKG and he says, “Well, you have atrial flutter. That’s what it’s called. Heart’s beating too fast. Atrial flutter,” and he said, “we’re going to take you down to the emergency room and immediately begin to take steps to lower your heart rate.” So I get in the wheelchair. Kim follows along behind me.

Kim, I don’t know if I told you this, but what the EKG showed in the doctor’s office was, I was actually having a heart attack at that minute. We get to the emergency room. They’re very concerned. They’re very worried. And they do the test that they do to evaluate heart attacks, which is the heart enzyme test. If you’re having a heart attack, your heart will give off certain enzymes to help it repair itself. And the ER doctor says to me, “You know, it’s the strangest thing. The EKG showed you were having a heart attack, but the enzymes show that that’s completely wrong. You are not having a heart attack. But just to be sure, we’re going to repeat the test in 2 hours.” They repeated the test. I was not having a heart attack. Could be the hand of God, but I just don’t know. For all of this time that my heart rate was high, I had no symptoms of atrial flutter, which include chest pain and shortness of breath and heart palpitation, which is when your heart is shaking in your chest like an earthquake. No symptoms whatsoever. I felt fine. Could be the hand of God. I just don’t know. (Although, if there had been a chest pain, I would have gotten there sooner.) I just don’t know.

Sometimes, brothers and sisters, we have to live life and just not know. But there is one thing I knew I wanted. I want to go home. “Well, Mr. Kueker, you can’t go home while your heart rate is so high.”

“Why not? It’s been that way for 35 days.”

“Well, we don’t work that way.”

I just don’t know. When I found out I wasn’t going home, my heart rate went even higher. And so, on Tuesday, when I was still there, I was not a happy camper. And I’m afraid I made some of my wonderful nurses less than happy, too, because I was not a happy camper.

Nonetheless, every day, the nurse practitioner from the Prairie Heart Institute would come in and say, “We’re going to try this, and then we’re going to try that, and then we’re going to try this.” And on Wednesday morning, he comes in and he says, “Well, we’re still astonished that you’re not feeling worse than you do. We don’t understand why you are feeling so well.”

And I’m like, “Well, I believe in God, but I still want to go home.”

And nurse practitioner said, “Well, something not too unlike a miracle has happened. This condition of atrial flutter is cured by a surgery called cardiac ablation. Because atrial flutter is caused– now just imagine your heart as if it was a V8 engine with eight spark plugs all misfiring. The surgery that corrects this stops that misfiring, but it normally takes two to three months for it to be scheduled.

But guess what? In Springfield, there’s been a cancellation for that exact surgery later today. Mr. Kueker, would you like to go to Springfield?

And I said, “Yes, sir.” They put me in an ambulance, and I just don’t know where I’m going. But I can tell you there were lots of bumps on the road they took from Effingham to Springfield. That evening, they did the surgery. It’s one of those heart catheter type things. Instantly worked. And I would have to say, I do feel better once it’s been done, but I’m thankful that I did not feel worse. But the whole point of that is I had four days when I had to adjust to life that was not going with my plans.

And friends, the same will happen to every single one of us. It’s not so much that our faith is tested. It’s where we’re put in an environment where we learn. Here’s a quote from M. Scott Peck: “The quickest way to change your attitude toward pain …” And again, I need to remind you, I was not in any pain except the frustration of wanting to go home. “The quickest way to change your attitude toward pain is to accept the fact that everything that happens to us …” Let me say that again: “Everything that happens to us has been designed for our spiritual growth.

Now, please notice I did not say that God causes those things to happen to us. What I said is that working along with the things that happen to us, God is able to help us to spiritually grow in the middle of turmoil and trouble.

Even Jesus on the cross, in unimaginable pain, was able to spiritually grow in the midst of his difficulties. And in fact, the night before in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed: Lord, if there’s any other way, take this cup from me … but not my will, but thine be done.

And when we pray the lord’s prayer, we pray the same thing, “Thy will be done on earth.” That’s where the problems are. As it is in heaven. That’s where God’s will is done perfectly.

Sometimes we have to learn how to do God’s will. And you see, when we don’t know, one of the things we don’t know is what God is trying to do in the midst of the turmoil and the troubles that we’re dealing with.

Here’s the bible verse about God laughing at our plans. James 4:13, “Come now, you who say today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain.” And people who say things like that have a calendar like what you see on the screen, where every square, every hour has on it what’s going to happen during that hour. And guess what? It’s not going to be that easy.

James says, verse 14, “whereas you do not know about tomorrow” — you don’t know. “What is your life,” James says, “for you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” You are not in control of today or tomorrow or the coming year. “Instead,” James writes, “you ought to say ‘if the Lord wills, I shall live,’ and we shall do this or that. I will go home from the hospital, I will go back to work if the Lord wills.

“But without that statement,” James says, “as it is, you boast in your arrogance.” In a sense, we are saying, “My will be done.” And quite often we are not aware of God’s will. James says “all such boasting is evil. Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin.”

And so I want to suggest to you — there in the hospital, what would have helped me more would have been to learn to be asking myself the question, “Lord, what is your will right here and right now?” But I’ll be honest with you, and I’m sure you can understand I was a little distracted by everything that was happening to me to change my focus, to say, “God, what is it that you are doing?” So there came a time when I said to myself, “Lord, you can make this heartbeat the way it should in a moment. But perhaps I am missing something. Perhaps I’m here because I’m sick, but perhaps there’s something I could do while I’m here.” And I’ll be honest with you, I began to be a lot nicer to everybody around me. When you just don’t know, I find this verse to be a comfort.

Paul says in Romans 6:13, “Do not yield your members, your arms, your hands, your legs, your mouth to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as people who have been brought from death to life, and your members, your hands, your legs, your tongue, your mind to God as instruments of righteousness.” You and I in the moment may not be able to do much, but you and I can always yield.

And as the Rabbi is flying through the air across the cell, when he says, “You see, you just don’t know,” he is yielding to be aware of what is possible in the moment. And when we yield, it’s a wonderful thing if we become aware of this!

A few chapters later, in Romans 8:26, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought.” If you’d asked me what to pray for, I would have said I want the heart rate to go down. God was smarter than me: what I really needed was the surgery. But the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes praise for us with sighs too deep for words. And He, our Heavenly Father who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. When the Holy Spirit prays for us, the Holy Spirit, being God, prays according to the will of God. And then comes verse 28: We know that in everything— Let me say that again, in everything, God works for good. Now, please note, that does not say that everything is good. Everything is not good. But we know that in everything, God is working for good. In everything, God is working for good with those who love Him, with those who are called according to His purpose.

What does it mean to be called according to His purpose? It means that we are those people who say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” even if we don’t know what that is.

And so, brothers and sisters, here’s what I think we need to remember. We’ve been talking about this verse, Ephesians 2:10, all through the spring, all through the summer, all through Lent and Easter and Pentecost. And this is the idea that, what God is doing in our lives is that God is working on us, for we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. Or you could say created in Christ Jesus so that good will result. And then there are these four words that mean so much to me … Whatever’s happening in the coming week, whether I’m in the hospital or not, God has prepared beforehand because God is working! God has prepared beforehand to help me to walk in this life.

So here’s the reality, friends. I have a plan. I have a schedule. I have a list of things that must be done, I think, by noon. When I don’t get them done by noon, they must be done by 3 o’clock. And when I don’t get them done by 3 o’clock, they must be done by 5 o’clock. And then I give up and say these must be done tomorrow. I have a schedule.

But God also has a schedule. And what God has determined is going to happen is what is going to happen. Now, again, not that God causes the bad things, but God is working in the midst of everything that happens to prepare us to walk in them. And God does not work on my schedule. God works in God’s timing, so that as I’m interacting with people around me, God’s will could be done.

But that’s not quite the way we think in our churches, because what we try to do is schedule God. Out here on the church sign, basically it says, “If you want to see God, be here at 9:00, Sunday morning,” when the reality is God can work through us and in our lives as powerfully on Tuesday as God works at 9:00 AM on Sunday morning. And with this emphasis that we’re talking about in Pentecost following Easter, which is that the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us to work. God is powerful 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What this church sign really says at 9:00 is not that God’s going to be here, but that we’ll all be here. But we don’twant to limit God by assuming that God has to work on our timetable or wait for our timetable.

And I will tell you this also as an aside. Churches that plan events on a schedule so the people out there will come in here for our event are churches that are shrinking. But churches that encourage the people to be channels of God’s love and channels of God’s grace and channels of people who let the Holy Spirit work through them out there in your neighborhood where you live, in every conversation with you that people have, those are churches that are growing because God is ministering to people outside of the building.

Now, it’s not that Jesus has left the building. It’s that Jesus is not limited by the times that are on our schedule. However, I think it’s wonderful for us to come to worship. It’s wonderful for us to go to vacation Bible school. It’s wonderful for us to have a S.A.L.T. potluck. But I think it’s a total change of point of view for us to understand that God works through every one of us as powerfully as God we think is able to work when we’re inside the church building. Because you see, the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, and the Holy Spirit is there to do God’s will.

And all too often in our imagination, in the picture that we have in our mind, the Holy Spirit is this tiny little dove, maybe that’s sitting on our shoulder, whispering into our ear to do nice things. But the reality is the Holy Spirit that comes alongside of us is powerful to change people’s lives, to turn things around. And in this day, following the resurrection, in this day following the day of Pentecost, what God wants to do is to work through us powerfully through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

One of my regrets about my four days in the hospital is that it wasn’t almost till they were over that I found myself praying, “Lord, is there something I can do while I’m in this hospital bed that would help someone around me, something I could do that would bless you?” … because I can still serve God even if I’m in the hospital, because although I’m limited, and I certainly am. What God can do through the Holy Spirit who has come alongside of us and when the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, the Holy Spirit comes alongside of everyone who’s around us, what God can do is not limited. And it is possible for me to be just as good a pastor as I’m laying in the hospital bed as I am when I’m home and here at the church.

If I will ask and seek to allow God’s will to be done, because there is a purpose for everything — and if we are open to doing God’s will, we can become aware of that purpose.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus,you know what’s needed when I don’t. Lord, you know the troubles that people are going through, even when I don’t. Those days that I am only aware of my own problems as if I was the only person who was important in the world, Lord, you know every breaking heart of every person all around us. And when I’m in the hospital and when I’m not, Lord, I may only be able to do a few little things. But if every one of us is saying, “Lord, your will be done,” if every one of us is doing a few little things, Lord, thousands and thousands of little things pile up to do your will, to do good in this world, to turn people’s hearts toward you. And so, Lord, I pray that you’ll continue to work through us, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, and help us, Lord, to adjust with wisdom to all the surprises that come to us in this life. Help us, Lord, to be able to realize and to pray, “It is well with my soul.” Lord, we ask that in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis )

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