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How to Plan Your Life

Proverbs 16:1–3

Our plans

We do not always get it right (certainly I do not). But it is not wrong to make plans. Indeed, it is good to plan ahead. As has been pointed out, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark! The writer of Proverbs says, ‘To human beings belong the plans of the heart… Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed’ (16:1,3).

Here, we see the key to success. Your plans should never be made independently of the Lord. You are called into relationship with him. Your plans need to be aligned with his plans. Your vision and your plans need to be led by the Spirit. As you sense God’s leading, commit your plans to the Lord. Bring them to him. Lay them before him. Then God promises ‘your plans will succeed’ (v.3). What does it mean to commit to the Lord whatever you do?

1. Cooperate

One translation of the Hebrew word for commit is to ‘roll towards’. There are two ways to go through life. One is to decide that we are perfectly capable of running our own lives – without God. We make plans independently of God to please ourselves. This is the way of pride (v.5) and independence. The proud cannot be told anything because they think they already know.

The other is to be willing to lay aside your own desires. This is the way of faith and humility: ‘Humility comes before honour’ (15:33).

God has good plans for your life (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 2:10). Co-operate humbly with him, being willing to give up everything that clashes with his purpose for you.

2. Confide

To commit your plans to the Lord means to speak to him about his plans – to make plans together with him. At the start of each day you can commit your plans to him. I find that holidays are a good time to plan ahead and commit the months, or even the year ahead, to God.

I remember hearing the actor David Suchet, when he had recently become a Christian, being asked on the radio whether there were certain roles he would turn down. He replied, ‘That is a very difficult question. All I can say is now when I am offered a part I go away and pray about it and if I feel it is wrong I turn it down, whereas before it would have been, “How much?”’

3. Consult

The Lord says, ‘Woe… to those who carry out plans that are not mine… Who go down to Egypt without consulting me’ (Isaiah 30:1–2a). To commit to the Lord means to consult him and discuss your plans with him and seek his wisdom and advice (Proverbs 15:33a). With major decisions, a wise person will consult others to check that they have accurately heard from the Lord (vv.31–32).

Having committed your plans to the Lord you can trust his promise of success. God is sovereign over your plans. ‘Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word’ (16:1, MSG). ‘In your heart you may plan your course, but the Lord determines your steps’ (v.9).

God gives you the freedom and responsibility to make plans. It is positively right for you to do this. And yet, God relates your decisions to your destination. This is not a reason to be passive or fatalistic, but rather it is an encouragement that you can rest assured that God is in ultimate control of your life. You need not be frozen in a state of indecision.

You can trust that God will work out everything for good for those who love him (vv.6b,7; Romans 8:28).

Lord, I praise and thank you for the amazing way in which you bless the plans I commit to you. This year I want to commit to you all my plans for the future.

Acts 19:21,23–27,29a,32,35–41

Paul’s plans

Paul was a strategic thinker. He made careful plans. ‘After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer’ (vv.21–22).

Paul’s vision, mission and plans revolved around the evangelisation of the whole known world. His strategy focused on cities: Jerusalem, Rome, Corinth and Ephesus.

He spent a great deal of time in these cities preaching the gospel to as many people as possible, whether in the synagogues or in the lecture halls.

He was not unopposed. Interestingly, in Ephesus the opposition was not doctrinal or ethical but economic. Demetrius thought he might lose money as a result of Paul’s preaching. So, he stirred up opposition (vv.24–29).

But God also had a plan. Another proverb for today tells us that, ‘The Lord works out everything for his own ends’ (Proverbs 16:4). In this instance, God worked through the city clerk (Acts 19:35). Even though he didn’t seem to believe in God (vv.35–36), his actions still stopped the riots. God often works through those who are not believers to achieve his plans.

Lord, thank you for the example of Paul’s planning, strategy and courage in the face of great opposition. Thank you that you work out everything for your own ends. Please guide me in all my plans. Help me to be strategic and courageous.

1 Kings 22:1–5,9,13–14

God’s plans

It is not a good idea to try and outwit God! This was Ahab’s problem. He tried to manipulate people and events in order to defeat God’s plans.

Jehoshaphat wisely told him that before going to war with Aram he should seek the Lord’s counsel: ‘Before you do anything, ask God for guidance’ (v.5, MSG). This is another example of the vital principle. If you want your plans to succeed you need to ask God for his guidance in making your plans.

The 400 ‘puppet’ prophets may have been state-employed parrots who simply did what they were paid to do – that is, say whatever the king wanted them to say.

However, Jehoshaphat knows that this is not genuine prophecy and asks, ‘Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can enquire of?’ (v.7). The king replies, ‘There is still one through whom we can enquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah’ (v.8).

Micaiah, who is a genuine prophet, speaks the word of the Lord to them. Whereas the 400 prophets put forward the popular view, Micaiah was the only one who in fact knew the mind of the Lord. We must not be swayed by popular opinion if it does not come from the Lord. The fact that we may be outnumbered is not conclusive.

Micaiah is courageous enough to speak truth to power: ‘As surely as God lives, what God says, I’ll say’ (v.14, MSG). He warns them of the danger of going against God’s plans. For his troubles, he is put in prison on nothing but bread and water (v.27).

Ahab is determined not to listen to the voice of God. He continues his manipulation. He thinks he can outwit God by disguising himself (v.30). But, as we have read, ‘The Lord works out everything for his own ends’ (Proverbs 16:4).

We see this principle at work as ‘someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armour… The king died… and dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared’ (1 Kings 22:34,37–38).

Lord, thank you that you are the sovereign Lord and that you control the events of history. Forgive me, Lord, for the times when I have perhaps known I am on the wrong path but have tried to manipulate events. Help me always to stay in line with your plans. May my plans be your plans, and may these plans succeed.

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