Planning and God's Will
Considering God's Will
The Gospel Herald Magazine told of a man who captured two baby eagles and raised them with great care. They grew to be magnificent and beautiful birds who were healthy and strong.
Sadly, one day the birdcage was accidentally left open and the Eagles both escaped. One flew to a tree where it roosted in a low-hanging branch for its wings weren't strong enough to fly very high. This was because it hadn't exercised them except in the confines of the cage in which it had been reared. It wasn't long until it met an untimely death by the gun of a hunter. The other bird fell or was knocked into a swiftly flowing river and was drowned.
Both of these eagles missed God's plan for their lives simply because they were captured by a man and made to live differently. They were both created to live in high places and to soar high in the sky. However, both ended up living on the ground and meeting an untimely death on earth.
We, like the eagles, were created by God to live on high planes and to carry out great plans for our lives. However, most Christians never live up to their full potential. They are weighed down by sin and spend their lives making their own plans and forgetting that God's will is so much better than we can ever dream.
As I write this article, it is the end of the year. The New Year is almost upon us. During this time, millions of people will make New Year's resolutions in order to attempt to change their lives for the better. However, it is estimated that 92% of these resolutions will fail. If we are so bad with things like getting slimmer, exercising more and saving more money, what makes us think that we will be any better at the major decisions of our lives without God.
Yet most of us make our plans, set our goals and then, maybe we will ask God to bless the plans that we've made. Might I suggest that we start with asking God what He wants before making our plans? Then, if they are truly His plans, they will succeed. If they aren't His plans, then He will lead us to far greater and more satisfying ones than we can ever make for ourselves.
In order for us to put God first in our lives and give Him access to the creation of our plans, there are certain biblical admonitions that we have to acknowledge. They begin with heeding the warnings of Scripture regarding leaving God out of what we want to do.
I. Heed Warnings About Leaving God Out
Scripture tells us that planning apart from God is a mistake and quite foolish. In James 4 we have this warning:
"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 make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4:13-17).
James is telling us that it is foolish to make plans without God because we don't even know if we will be alive tomorrow. The Lord is in control of the universe, and not us. If He doesn't want us to do something, nothing or no one in the universe will make us succeed. If He does, nothing or no one will cause us to fail.
Jesus says something similar about the making of plans in a parable in Luke 12. It is a parable that denounces greed which is a form of idolatry because it puts wealth ahead of the Lord. In this case, a certain rich man was making plans for himself and his riches apart from God. Here is the text:
"Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (13-21).
This parable is interesting in that the rich man's earlier plans to produce wealth seem to have succeeded. He got everything that he ever wanted in life, except for the time to enjoy it. So wealth and prosperity in this world are not necessarily a sign of God's favor. Neither are they a sign that you even consulted Him in seeking that wealth. In this case, the man's riches were a curse since they caused him to be greedy and to leave God out of his planning for the future. He was rich in this life but poverty-stricken in eternal things, which are the true riches.
II. Acknowledge God's Sovereignty
What the rich man didn't acknowledge is that God is sovereign. This is the second admonition from Scripture that we all need to heed. He is in control of all the universe. It is He who gives a man the ability to create wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18) and everything else for that matter. God will either have His way through our obedience or in spite of our disobedience.
In the Old Testament, we see examples of both of these things. We read of the patriarch Abraham having faith and leaving Ur of the Chaldees in order to receive the promise that God had made to him and to his descendants (Genesis 12). Then there is the disobedience of the pagan Pharaoh of Egypt and the 10 plagues that God placed upon him and his people, which lead to the Exodus of the Children of Israel from their bondage, (Exodus 3-15) But there was also the People of Israel themselves, who were exiled from the promised land because they didn't obey the Lord (II Kings 17:7-23). These are just a few examples to prove that God will have His way eventually.
And, as His followers, we will ultimately have to go through discipline for our disobedience, (Hebrews 12:7-11), or we will receive rewards for our obedience.
There is absolutely nothing out of his control, including us. The Scripture, in speaking of our Lord Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity says this:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:15–19).
This is the God whom we refuse to acknowledge when we either actively, or by default, leave Him out of our plans for the future. Not only is He the one who holds all of creation together, but creation was also made by Him and for His purpose. In order to make the best plans for our lives that will succeed, we must understand that the God who controls everything has the final say in our future as well.
III. Know that God Wants the Best
However, that is not a bad thing. He who has control ultimately knows and wants the best for us. This is the third admonition which we need to know and heed from Scripture in order to make God the center of all our plans. He not only knows and wants what is best, but the Almighty God is also the only person capable of bringing about the best as well.
In the Old Testament, even when God's people Judah had gone into Babylonian captivity because of their disobedience, God promised that he wouldn't forget them. He had promised that after 70 years he'd deliver them and they'd return from exile. The Lord told them this:
"For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11).
Today the Lord loves us just as much and has a future and a hope for each of His children. He tells us:
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:28-32).
This is a God to whom we can trust all of our plans and know that He will never steer us wrong.
IV. Be Open to God Changing Your Plans
And if we can truly trust the God of the Universe with our plans, we also need to be open to having Him change them when necessary. Sometimes sudden changes are thrust upon us which are out of our control. For example, the loss of a job, or a sudden change in our health. It is under these circumstances that we need to see God as our loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for us that we may not be able to see at the moment.
An article in the Sunday School Times gave an illustration of a baby who wants to play with brightly burning fire. A loving parent will change the plans of that baby as quickly as possible. The child will think that the parent is being mean and doesn't want him to have any fun. However, the parent knows what is best for the child, even if he isn't capable of communicating it to the immature mind of the child. And so it is with God our Father.
We have a vivid example of God changing plans in midstream when we read of the Macedonian Call in the Book of Acts. Before the call, the Gospel was being taken farther into Asia. We who live in the United States and Europe may not know why God gave to Paul the Macedonian call in Acts 16:9,10 but we can be grateful that our lives have been forever changed because of it. Because that is how the Gospel ultimately got to us in our land.
For the average believer, God's change in our plans may not be as dramatic. However, we need to be as open and aware of His leading of us as Paul and his companions were to their call.
A Word from John Piper
There was a lady who had only one child and came up to a minister and said: ''I dare not pray to God: 'Thy will be done', regarding my little boy, for I am afraid the Lord will take him away and send me some heavy trial." The minister replied: ''Suppose your child came up to you and said that 'I want to be and do whatever you want me to be and do today.' Would you think to yourself: 'Now is the time that I can make this child do all of the disagreeable things that I want him to do. I will take advantage of him by having him do everything that pleases me and by cutting off all of his pleasure and keeping him laboring hard on my behalf.' The mother replied: ''No, I would give him the best that I could possibly plan." And the minister responded: ''And you think that God is less just and loving than you?"
I think the reason that most people don't let God guide their future is that they have a strange idea that the Lord is somehow a cosmic killjoy who doesn't want them to have fun in life. Just the opposite is true. God is a loving Heavenly Father who wants nothing but the best for you and is waiting patiently for you to allow Him to give all that He has to offer.
The Lord indeed has a plan for each one of us that, if taken, will be the absolute best for us now and for eternity. May we stop trusting ourselves and start putting our faith in God in all areas of our lives. The sooner we do this, the faster we can become all that He intended for us to be. And in the long run, we will be more content and happy with our lives than if we would have had our own way all along. For our Father, indeed knows what is best for us all.
© 2018 Jeff Shirley