Plans. There are all kinds of plans…business plans, architectural plans, marketing plans, battle plans, health plans. You can plan from the top down or the bottom up. You can have many plans. One big plan. Or no plan at all. When it comes to life most people either make decisions only in so far as they are in accordance with their personal plan or they just make them on a whim out of their no plan theory. The Bible has a lot to say about plans and decision making as Christians.
There are two primary things Scripture has to say about our plans. First, we should make them. Second, how the plan turns out is up to God.
1. We Ought to Make Plans
Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
2 Corinthians 1:17-20 Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
The Bible does not condemn us making plans. Indeed we ought to, if we don’t poverty and/or failure will surely abound. The Christian plans by seeking God for the plan. Often for those who make plans or for those who don’t make any plans at all…God is not at the forefront of their speculation and hopes for what is ahead. Scripture calls us to commit our plans to God. If God is not the one who we are getting our plan from then how can we expect our plans to go well? Or say it does go well by human secular standards (more money, more power etc.) that it will not ruin us spiritually, emotionally, relationally and/or physically? If you do not have a plan for your life as a Christian this year and all that it entails you need to pause and make a plan with God.
2. Things May Not Turn Out As We Planned
Proverbs 16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Simply because we make a plan does not guarantee that things will go the way we want them to or think they should, or even the way we think God has intended. What we can be sure of is that what happens is exactly what God wanted to happen. Often times God has us make plans which accomplish a greater and/or deeper goal in us than the small temporary goal we had in mind. So for example, say you have a really tough year (does anyone ever make a plan for a tough year?), often God orders those kind of years to really teach us some things and to draw close to us in our time(s) of need.
One of the most challenging, frustrating, and difficult things I face as a Pastor is how most Christians make decisions these days. From what I have seen it appears the majority of Christians make decisions this way: fast, careless, prayerless, uncounseled, Scriptureless, and unconfirmed. That may sound harsh but it is the hard reality. I’ll try and paint a quick picture for you. Whether it moving to a new place, getting a new boyfriend or girlfriend, making a big purchase, deciding what church to be a part of, considering who your friends will be or who you will invest in…the list goes on and on. Usually what happens is a person has a feeling or affection toward one particular decision or route and that ultimately becomes the principle guiding factor in the outcome. Instead I believe the Christian is to make slow, careful, prayerful, counseled, Biblical, and confirmed decisions.
Psalm 37:34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land.
Acts 1:4 He (Jesus) ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.
I have always like the example in Acts 1 when Jesus told the disciples not to start his church yet but to wait and pray and prepare. And that is what they did, they went into the upper room to pray and to wait. Evidence suggests this could have been for months. The old King James Version/Translation of the Bible used an old word to describe this, the word “tarry.” To tarry means to wait, remain, or stay temporarily. The idea of it is to withhold a certain decision for awhile, to put it off longer than you originally intended. The tendency and temptation of most people is to make decisions capriciously fast. Christians ought to be slow and careful in their decision making processes leaving time to wait on God concerning them.
Deuteronomy 12:28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you.
Ephesians 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.
The word for careful here in Ephesians 5:15 comes from the Greek word, “akribos” which means to exact, accurate, or precise. This is interesting considering that most of the things of life and the decisions involved with it are the things most notoriously difficult to precise about. One of the most precise instruments of accuracy both in ancient and current times is a scale. You can put measured weights on one side of scale and exactly determine the precise mass of a given item. I think this capture the Biblical idea well of being careful. In decision making we should weight both sides and consider the decision from multiple angles trying to take as much as possible into account. In this way as Christians we can be careful about our decisions.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
1 Peter 5:7 Cast(ing) all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Notice both these verses contain an “all-ness” word. All-ness words are all-encompassing…all, every, everything, always, everyone…these are all-ness words. There is nothing we are not to pray to God about, everything concerns him, everything is relevant. How much more then our decisions and especially the big decisions of our lives. We must talk to God about them. If we are Christians, then Jesus is THE MOST IMPORTANT person in our life. Therefore, wouldn’t it be rather odd and extremely wrong for us not to include him in our decision making?
This means giving up any preference for a certain outcome and really attempting to sense what God wants.
Too often there is a tendency for Christians to treat prayer like a payment. You know what you want to do and so you just ask God to bless it. Or you pray about it but misconstrue your excitement/emotion for a particular outcome and then end up putting a God stamp on it saying, “God told me” or something like that just because you prayed. As Christians we need to spend much time in prayer about the decisions we make, which means really submitting to and trusting God with them.
Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 20:18 Plans are established by counsel.
This is perhaps the most neglected aspect of decision making. Some Christians may take into account the first three factors I have already mentioned but they fall short asking other godly people for input. Sometimes this is because a person already knows they are making a bad decision and they don’t want to hear anyone tell them not to because it makes them feel even worse. Sometimes this is because people are very shy and insecure and afraid to open up to others about their life. Other times, it is because they have not sought out godly people and mentors who are an available input for them. The sad thing is this is sometimes the most helpful and beneficial principle for good Godly decisions.
Talking to another person that loves Jesus and truly cares for you and your spiritual health and progress is one of the best things we can do. I personally have a team of about five men (three of who are further along as a Christian than I am) who I regularly bounce things off of. And if there is ever a big decision I always make sure I seek not only all of their advice but the input of my immediate family who also loves and cares for me. Christians need to get into the habit of allowing their church family to speak into their lives and have a voice in their decision making process, it is one of the chief means God has provided to help guide you on your way in life.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
The Bible is our guide and has something to say about everything. In every decision we should seek God’s word to see what it has to say about what we are trying to decide. Does it prohibit us from making that kind of decision, does it encourage it, does it add something else for us to consider? One can do this so easily these days with the technology we have. Simply go to a website like the ESV Bible and type in a word and it will search the entire Bible for you on where it talks about that subject.
Psalm 119:38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
Acts 15:25-28 It has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…
Lastly, Christians ought to look for confirmations to support the decision they are leaning toward. God tends not to make himself ambiguous when he wants something but rather seems to be more than willing to confirm his will to us. For example, when you look at the above passage in Acts 15 from the Jerusalem counsel what seemed good to them was determined by the circumstance that these men had risked their lives once before and are now willing to do it again. Thus they concluded that it also seemed good to the Holy Spirit which confirmed the decision. When you are making a decision be sensitive to the circumstances around you, the opening and closing of doors, where the evidence of life may be leading. Christians ought to look for community confirmations to their decisions.
To simplify it all, the main point is to allow God, his people, and his Word have a lot to do with your plans and your decision making processes. May God help us all to make plans and trust him with the outcomes. May God help us all to make slow, careful, prayerful, counseled, Biblical, confirmed decisions.