Someone said, “If you want to hear God laugh. Tell Him your plans!” So, what are your “plans” for this new year God has permitted us to enter? Is it wrong to make plans? No, but we must at the same time acknowledge the sovereignty of God over our lives and say, “Lord willing, we plan to …..” Solomon, for a good portion of his adult life, left God out of his plans and ended up writing the book of Ecclesiastes where he emphasized the emptiness of life when we think we are in control and leave God out of the equation. Ecclesiastes 2:17 summarizes his experience: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.” He concludes his book with this exhortation: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them'” (Eccl. 12:1).
In His “Book of Wisdom” (Proverbs), Solomon makes this observation: “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps…. Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD, it will stand” (Pr. 16:9; 19:21). James, the half-brother of Jesus, makes a similar statement, recorded for us in the New Testament: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that'” (Jas. 4:13-15).
Just think of how many of our plans changed in 2020 and 2021 because of the Pandemic and all the restrictions and closures that resulted. Our normal patterns of living were turned upside down and have yet to completely return to what we used to call “normal.” We saw other changes take place after the terrorist attack on our country on 9-11-2001. Some of the disruptions to our way of living became permanent. I say all this to emphasize that we don’t know what 2022 holds–only the sovereign God who is carrying out His purposes knows. That’s why we need to include Him in our planning, saying, “Lord willing, we will do this or that.” And, don’t be surprised if He steps in to change your plans.
There are many factors which may thwart our plans: sudden illness, loss of a job or financial resources, the need to change locations, death of a loved one, a broken relationship, and on and on. So many things beyond our control can affect what we plan to do. That’s why, as I wrote in last week’s “Wisdom of the Week,” we need to live a day at a time and trust God for wisdom and strength to live that day for Him. We can’t change the past and we don’t know or control the future. We just have today–live it for Him, and in your plans for the future–starting with tomorrow–be sure to commit them to Him and acknowledge that He can step in to change them if He has a better plan. And, His plans, by the way, are always the very best ones: “As for God, His ways are blameless…”(Psa. 18:30).
At one point in his missionary travels, Paul had Silas join him to revisit some of the churches that Paul and Barnabas had established in Asia minor to encourage the new believers. After visiting The Phrygian and Galatian region, they “planned” to continue on in Asia, but were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). Instead the missionary team ended up at Troas on the tip of Asia Minor where a vision appeared to Paul in the night of “a certain man of Macedonia standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us'” (Acts 16:9). This wasn’t part of Paul’s original plan, but Luke goes on to write: “And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia (Greece), concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (NOTE that Luke says “we” and “us” indicating that he must have been in Troas and at this point joined the team as they crossed over to Macedonia.)
They journeyed to Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of Macedonia (Acts 16:12). It was there that Lydia, a seller of purple fabric, became the first Christian convert in Europe (v. 14). Paul and Silas ended up being beaten and thrown in jail for healing a demon-possessed slave girl and ruining her masters’ fortunetelling business (vv. 16, 17). Put yourself in Paul and Silas’ sandals. God had interrupted their plans of continuing to travel in Asia and sent them to Europe instead where, because of their obedience, they end up beaten and imprisoned. Yet at midnight they were in jail “praying and singing hymns of praise to God” (v. 25). As a result, the jailer asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved!” (v. 30). And the jailer and his household believed.
Most of us have our roots in Europe. Aren’t you glad God interrupted Paul’s plans and that Paul obeyed! I am very grateful.
So, as we enter this new year with all its unknowns, as you make your plans, be sure and say, “Lord willing, this is what we will do.” And know that if God changes them, He has something much better in store.