God’s Purposes Versus Our Plans
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
We often dream our dreams of what we want to do for God. We formulate plans based on our priorities. Then we pray and ask God to bless our efforts and to help us accomplish our goals.(After all we’re doing it for Him.) We mobilize fellow believers to make our schemes successful. What is relay important, however, is what God plans to do where we are and how He wants to accomplish His purposes through us.
Planning is a valuable exercise, but it can never become a substitute for hearing from God. Your plans have merit only when they are based on what God has told you He intends to do. Your relationship with God is far more important to Him than any scheming you can do. The biggest problem with planning is when we try to carry out in our own wisdom what only God has the right to determine. We cannot know the when or where or how of God’s will until He tells us.
God expects us to get our directives from Him, and He wants to equip us to do the assignment He gives. If we try to spell out all the details of His will in a planning session, we’ll have a tendency to forget the need for a daily, intimate relationship with God. We may accomplish our objectives but forego the relationship. It is possible to achieve all our goals and yet be outside God’s will. God created us for an eternal love-relationship. Life is our opportunity to experience Him at work in us and in our world.
Planning is not wrong. Just be careful not to plan more than God intends for you. Remain in close relationship with Him so you can always hear His voice when He speaks to you.
Henry and Richard Blackaby
One of the things that becomes obvious when you read the Bible is that often the plans of men and the plans of God are in conflict. Men have had great ideas and no doubt they would work but they have not always been in the will of God. The issue with trusting our planning ability instead of seeking to know the will of God is that we have limited knowledge and information. It has been said that perfect planning comes from perfect knowledge and we never have all the facts. I’m sure if we had access to all the facts and were able to know the outcome of every decision before it was made, we would do a better job of planning. In my experience, my planning has to add what I call the unforeseen and the can’t- help- its. These are those things that were not seen in my planning or things that occur during the process since not everything works out as I foresaw it.
After the flood, the planning of men was to build a tower so they could all be together and protected. I’m sure that Noah and the following generations had told the story of the flood and these people wanted to have a plan just in case there was another. Let’s look at their faulty logic. First, they forgot the promise of God to Noah that never again would there be a flood that covered the earth so there was really no need to build a tower for safety. Second, they ignored the expressed will of God to fill up the whole earth with inhabitants. They decided in their wisdom that it would be best to live together in the tower. The Bible says that they had the ability to carry out their plans so God intervened and confused their language and stopped the project because it was not in keeping with His will.
We read of Moses, as the Israelites were traveling through the desert needing water, upon God’s command striking the rock and water came out. Now who would have though of such a thing that a barren rock in the desert could become a spring and produce water? The answer to that question is only the Creator who could cause creation to yield to His will. The next time water was needed, God instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Say what? God wants me to start talking to rocks? That’s crazy thinking or was until pet rocks came along. However, instead of following God’s instructions, Moses struck the rock. No doubt his logic was the same as ours. If it worked before, it ought to work again. I think sometimes our planning is nothing more than a repetition of the past without any input from God. We plan our events patterned after all those we have experienced and I think sometimes we strike the rock when God desires us to speak to it.
Sometimes we wish to justify our decisions by the outcome. King Saul attempted to do just that very thing. Given instructions by God through Samuel that he was to utterly destroy the Amalekites, he chose instead to save the sheep and cattle and the king. Bringing them home as trophies of his success, he meets Samuel. He tells Samuel that he has been successful carrying out the plan. Then the cattle and sheep begins to make themselves known and Samuel sees a stranger in chains. He reminds Saul that following the instructions of God is more important than sacrifices for Saul justifies his disobedience by indicating that the people wished to keep the cows and sheep so they might offer them to the Lord as a sacrifice.
In both cases, the human purposes were accomplished. Water came from the rock and the Amalekites were defeated. And in both cases, God’s will was ignored. Both men who chose their way over God’s way suffered loss. Moses was denied the entering of the Promised Land and Saul lost his throne. We must begin to see that while our plans may come to pass and we may accomplish great things, finding and knowing the will of God in all our planning has to be our main focus. I firmly believe that if we spent the same amount of time seeking God as we spend in committee gatherings and discussions, our plans lining up with the will of God just might be more effective.
When we come to Christ and His success in carrying out His plans we discover the valuable lesson of hearing God.
Then Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
49 For I have never spoken on My own initiative or authority, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment regarding what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life. So the things I speak, I speak [in accordance with His exact instruction,] just as the Father has told Me.”
So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man [on the cross], you will know then [without any doubt] that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own authority, but I say these things just as My Father taught Me. 29 And He who sent Me is [always] with Me; He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.”
Here is the secret of Christ’s success. Though He was God and equal with God, He made no plans on His own. He only acted as He was so instructed by the Father. He even acted against His own desires when they were in conflict with the Father’s plans.
And after going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible [that is, consistent with Your will], let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words once more.
We find the same pattern in the Acts church where they waited before the Lord for instructions and direction. I love the phrase we read when they were making plans and decisions: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”
May we hear God’s voice clearly, follow His instructions carefully, pray over our plans until they fit into the will of God, and may we be willing to give up our objectives whenever they interfere with our relationship with God. May we never substitute our plans for His will and may we never assume because we have a great plan God will bless it. May the outcome never justify us operating outside the will and purposes of God.
Dr. John Thompson