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Proverbs 16:9. Our Plans vs. God-Established Steps

Man’s Plans

Throughout history, mankind has made plans for what we will do each day. In the office, I start out my day with a planning sheet I created for myself. I organize my day and prioritize tasks to ensure the most important ones get done. We also make plans for holidays and vacations. We set financial goals and makes plans for how to achieve them. Weddings, birthdays, and other events all require plans. Expectant parents plan and prepare for a new child. Sometimes our plans work out and sometimes they don’t. With COVID now a part of our world, there have been many delayed plans and some cancelled plans.

When I travel for work, I need to plan for what time I need to leave. I use my GPS to plan my route for me. A pilot must make his flight plan or your trip to Paris might end up in Australia. A ship’s captain has to chart his course to reach his destination. The Army general must make his battle plans. Teachers make lesson plans. The corporate owner plans for her business to grow and expand. We all make plans.

There is nothing wrong with planning. In fact, it is good to set goals and plan. If we didn’t, our lives would be a little here and a little there. Our lives would be all over the place, like a balloon you blow up and then let go without tying a knot in it. As a result, we really never accomplish much. Planning is definitely a good thing.

Begin your plans with prayer

However, as Christians our plans should always begin with prayer and seeking God’s will for our lives. If God has been included in the planning process, we can be assured our plans will succeed, even if we experience some bumps and detours along the way. (Click to tweet) When our planning is contrary to God’s will, we become guilty of sin.

In James 4:13-17, James wrote, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord will, we will live and do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”

God may allow you to make your own plans without consulting Him. He will even allow you to make your own plans when you don’t particularly like His will. He will allow you to decide to do things your way. But you can be assured that regardless of what you plan, God will be the one directing each step your take. (Click to tweet) And if, out of your arrogance and pride, you choose to do things your way, God will still bring about His divine will. But the path to get there probably won’t be one you enjoy.

Jonah’s disastrous plans

Jonah is an example of someone who didn’t like what God was telling him to do and so he made his own plans. God wanted Jonah to go preach in Nineveh and Jonah didn’t want to go. He got on a boat and went in the opposite direction from Nineveh. As a result, a great storm came up and everyone on the boat became afraid they would die at sea. They started throwing the cargo over to lighten the boat’s load and then Jonah told them they had to throw him overboard and the storm would stop. The sailors thought Jonah was crazy, but after a while, they conceded and tossed Jonah into the storm-tossed waves.

God was not only directing Jonah’s steps, but he also directed the swim path of a great fish who came along at that exact moment and swallowed Jonah up. After living three days in the belly of the fish, Jonah finally repents. God then has the fish throw up Jonah and Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches.

Joseph’s brothers’ plans were used by God

Joseph’s life is another example of how plans were made for Joseph but God used those plans to have Joseph in the exact spot he needed to be at just the right moment in time. His brothers were all jealous of him so they made plans to put him in a pit and then sale him off as a slave when a traveling caravan comes by. Sold as a slave, Joseph lands in Egypt. But in Egypt is right where God wants Joseph to be because God will use him years later during a great famine to save his entire family.

Joseph in Egypt:

Throughout Joseph’s time in Egypt, God directed the steps of his life that led him to become the 2nd in command of all of Egypt answering only to Pharaoh. However, it wasn’t just Joseph’s brothers that had plans for him. Others had plans for him too. Potipher’s wife had plans to sleep with Joseph and when Joseph ran from her presence, she grabbed his outer cloak and waited for her husband to get home, then claimed that Joseph had attacked her. As a result Joseph landed in jail for the next few years of his life. But if Joseph had not been in jail where he could interpret the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants, he may not have then been called before Pharaoh to interpret his dream about the upcoming famine and provide Pharaoh with a plan to see the nation through the famine.

Joseph in Charge:

Pharaoh liked Joseph’s plan so well that he put Joseph in charge of enacting the plan, which set Joseph in the exact place that God wanted him to be so that when his brothers came to buy grain during the famine, Joseph did in fact save his family from perishing in the famine. When Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, he tells them, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

I’m sure that Joseph’s life plan did not include a pit or a prison – but it was the pit and the prison that got him to the palace. Through the story of Joseph, we find over and over again that the Bible says God was with Joseph. God was with him in the pit, in the prison, and in the palace.

A Shepherd Boy not informed about the plans

What can we learn about God’s plans for a shepherd boy named David? David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons. In fact, David was son number 8! At the time we learn about this shepherd boy, God had disowned Saul as king of Israel and God instructed the prophet Samuel to go to Jesse’s home and anoint a new king over Israel. Well, first of all, God had rejected Saul – but Saul was still king so what God has instructed Samuel to do was, in fact, treason. As Samuel points this out to God, God tells him to take a bull with him and hold a sacrifice, so with bull in tow and a flask of oil, Samuel sets out for the home of Jesse.

Samuel visits Jesse’s family

Upon his arrival he sees the oldest son of Jesse and thinks to himself, “surely this is the one the Lord will anoint.” As Samuel looked at this son, he was tall and handsome. When we find Samuel anointing Saul the same description was used to describe Saul. Samuel was looking for another Saul – just a younger version. We might say he was looking for Saul point two. But God did not choose this son. So Jesse sent the 2nd son, and then the 3rd, and then the 4th and so on through the first seven of Jesse’s sons. Then Samuel says to Jesse, “Are these all your sons?” and Jesse tells him there is one more but that the was out tending the sheep. Samuel instructs Jesse to get him and bring him for no one would sit down to the sacrifice meal until this youngest son was brought.

God’s chosen annointed

When David arrived, God told Samuel, “This is the one I have chosen. Anoint him.” Essentially, this sacrifice meal was David’s coronation dinner and he hadn’t even been invited to it. He had been left out of the plan – but God still brought His plan to be. God chose David, the youngest, least likely, shepherd boy to be king. However, there was 20 years and 20 chapters in the Bible between the moment Samuel anointed David and the time that David sat on the throne. In those 20 years, David would have to hide, fight for his life, and be hunted by an angry king with mental health issues. And in those 20 years, God would stretch and grow David so that David would be prepared for God’s plan for David’s life. David may not have been invited to his own party – but God still brought His plan to be.

A group of shepherds with interrupted plans

In the New Testament, a group of shepherds made plans for tending their flock through the night. But God interrupted the night and sent angels to proclaim the birth of Jesus which brought the shepherds to worship the new born King. Their plans were to simply care for their flock of sheep – God’s plans were to bring them to worship Jesus.

Mary & Joseph’s altered plans

Mary and Joseph were engaged but God sent an angel to tell Mary that she, a virgin, would have a child – the Son of God. But that was the only time Mary and Joseph’s plans were changed by God. An angel came to Joseph in a dream and warned him about a king who planned to kill every male child and told him to get up and take Mary and the child to Egypt – so he did. They made plans for going to temple when Jesus was 12 years old. Their plans had to include both getting there and returning home. But along the way back home, they realized Jesus wasn’t with them and they returned to find Jesus teaching the religious leaders. Their plans were to fulfill their religious obligations at the temple and return home – God’s plans were for Jesus to be teaching the religious leaders.

A lame man’s plans for begging for alms

A lame man who had been lame since birth had plans for going to the temple to beg for alms but as Peter and James saw him and listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit, Peter said to him, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.” In an instant, he was healed and he went walking and leaping and praising God. The Lame Man’s plans were to get enough alms so he could eat – God’s plan was a miraculous healing.

Judas plans to conspire against Jesus

Judas made plans to betray Jesus into the hands of the Pharisees and Saducees. The Pharisees and Saducees made plans to kill Jesus by getting the Romans to crucify Him. While they thought they were in control, God used their plans to bring about His own plans for providing redemption for all mankind. (Click to tweet) Their plans were to kill Jesus and silence His teaching – God’s plan was for Jesus to pay the wages of our sin so that we could have eternal life and fellowship with God. 

God directs our steps

Ultimately, none of us controls our own plans. God directs each step we take to bring about His perfect plans. For some, the idea that God controls everything in our lives can be disturbing. But when you realize that the omnipotent and omnipresence God who created each one of us and the entire universe knows infinitely more about the plans we make than we do, we can realize that knowing God is in control is actually for our benefit. (click to tweet) 

God has good plans

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has good plans for us – plans for our welfare and not destruction. If we truly believe this, then we should have no problems starting our planning time in prayer and seeking God’s will to be sure that the plans we make align with God’s will. If we do, then we can surrender our plans into His hands and trust that even if the path to get where we were planning looks different than how we planned it, that ultimately God will get us there, that He will work all things our for our good (Rom. 8:28), and he will be with us every step of the way, just like Joseph.

The danger of rejecting God’s plans

But if we try to go our own way like Jonah, we might find ourselves in some trouble just like Jonah did and then find ourselves right where God wanted us in the first place. Had Jonah simply cooperated with God’s plan in the first place, he could have saved himself three days in the belly of a fish – and if we will cooperate with God’s plans for our lives, we can save ourselves from the unpleasant consequences that running from God brings.

So go ahead and make your plans, but start every plan with prayer, seeking God’s will first. Then as you make your plans centered around His will, ask that your plans will bring Him honor and glory. If, like Joseph, the path getting to where God wants you looks different than you thought it would and includes a “pit” or “prison” along the way, remember that God is always with you and if the “palace” is God’s plan for you, you can trust Him to get you there at just the right moment so you are in position for what God wants to do in your life.

#plans #startwithprayer #ministry #burnout

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