I wrote this Bible study in 2012-2013. It was a fun, practical, and necessary topic to teach on. I then taught it again during a Sunday service about a year later in 2014.
As a new year approaches, with new commitments, plans, goals, and so on, I figured what better time to post this. I hope this blesses you like it did others in prior years. (This has been slightly modified for a blog-article setting).
"A man that fails to plan is a man that plans to fail."
I don't think many of us realize how much we actually plan. Maybe not always wisely, and possibly not even knowingly, but we're planning nonetheless.
The definition of "plan" is (noun) a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something; an intention or decision about what one is going to do; (verb) to decide on and arrange in advance.
"Our plans" imply our decisions, objectives, goals, ideas, strategies, projects, etc. Hence, we’re always making plans, and we’re always carrying out our plans or attempting to carry out our plans. Since we’re always planning and deciding, it is most wise to discover how we should be going about planning and deciding and how God is involved.
What does the Word say about "Our Plans"
“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (Prov. 16:1-3, NLT)
“We humans make plans, but the Lord has the final word. We may think we know what is right, but the Lord is the judge of our motives. Share your plans with the Lord, and you will succeed.” (Prov. 16:1-3, CEV)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6, NIV)
“With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow.” (Prov. 3:5-6, CEV)
“A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in His way.” (Ps. 37:23, NLT)
“If you do what the Lord wants, He will make certain each step you take is sure.” (Ps. 37:23, CEV)
“Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16, NLT, cf. Ps. 146:4)
“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” (Prov. 19:21, NLT, cf. Ps. 33:10-11)
“We may make a lot of plans, but the Lord will do what He has decided.” (Prov. 19:21, CEV)
“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Prov. 16:9, NASB, cf. Jer. 10:23)
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Prov. 16:9, NLT)
“We make our own decisions, but the Lord alone determines what happens.” (Prov. 16:33, CEV, cf. Acts 1:21-26)
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Prov. 15:22, NIV, cf. 20:18)
“Without good advice everything goes wrong—it takes careful planning for things to go right.” (Prov. 15:22, CEV)
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Prov. 21:5, NLT)
“And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:38-39, NKJV, cf. Prov. 21:30)
How we should go about planning?
In summary, we see the Word is telling us in 3 specific ways how we should go about planning and deciding:
1. Plan wisely. (Prov. 15:22 [cf. 20:18], Prov. 21:5)
Get plenty godly and wise counsel, because no counsel equals an unsuccessful result. ("godly and wise" is implying that these two are not always mutually exclusive)
Put careful thought and plenty of effort into it, or expect an unsuccessful result.
2. Plan humbly. (Prov. 16:1-3, Prov. 3:5-6, James 4:13-16 [cf. Ps. 146:4], Ps. 37:23)
Since God examines our motives, ask Him to reveal them to us.
Plan in a way God will be pleased. (To see what’s pleasing/not pleasing to God read Gal. 5:19-23, Jam. 3:13-18)
Don’t rely on our understanding alone, asks God where He’s leading.
-To clear up any vagueness with this last sub-point, here's how to know where God is leading:
Think it through thoroughly (e.g. what are the pros, cons, risks, rewards, costs, benefits, etc).
Listen to wise godly counsel. (Remember, not all godly counsel is wise for everything, and not all wise counsel is godly. This is saying seek out and listen to wise godly counsel, not one or the other)
Check motives (i.e. brutal honesty with myself and God; ask why? (e.g. why this?, why now?, etc); ask what? (e.g. what is in this for me, for God, for my family, for others, etc); is this self-centered or God-centered?).
Is it God-pleasing? (i.e. is it in accordance with what’s pleasing unto God as revealed in Scripture?).
Agreement in oneself (& w/spouse) (i.e. am I truly at peace with this decision/direction or am I hesitant in anyway, is my spouse truly at peace with this decision/direction or hesitant in anyway? if so why?).
-Going through these 5 will help more clearly identify where God is leading, because we can trust He’ll speak through these mediums. And we can repeat this process at anytime for further assurance. God’s direction will always be consistent.
-A follow-up question is, how to discern God's answers to what I'm asking? Here are God’s 4 Answers:
Yes (or an answer favorable towards what was asked or requested).
No (or an answer not favorable towards what was asked or requested).
Wait (i.e. not a yes or a no but simply not right now, wait for God’s cue/timing).
Your choice (i.e. the choices/options before you are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, but simply best or better or both are equally best/better and God will use either of these choices/options to bring about His purposes either way).
Don’t arrogantly assume our plan is final.
3. Keep our plan open to God’s modifications. (Prov. 19:21 [cf. Ps. 33:10-11], Prov. 16:9 [cf. Jer. 10:23], Prov. 16:33 [cf. Acts 1:21-26])
Share our plans with God (i.e. tell Him what you're thinking and ask Him to edit it as He sees fit).
Remember, God has the last word.
Remember, we make plans but God’s purpose will always prevail.
The Word also says, when we go about planning this way…
…God clears the road for us to follow
…God directs and establishes our steps
…our plans will have a successful result
…no one can overthrow it, because it will be of God
Our God is sovereign and faithful. This is great news for us! God uses our plans and decisions (even our foolish ones) to bring about His good purposes and His good plan in our lives!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11, NLT)
“The Lord will work out His plans for my life—for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made me.” (Ps. 138:8, NLT)
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Rom. 8:28, NLT)
If our plans and decisions are made with biblical wisdom, biblical humility, and open to God’s modifications, we can be confident of them being in accordance with His will and we can be confident the steps we take are being directed and established by God. Furthermore, regardless to the end result—whether we deem it a success or a failure, a waste of time or a great investment—if our planning and deciding was done in this manner, we can rest easy with the end result because it was God’s purpose that ultimately prevailed.