by Daniel Goepfrich
–Having been part of a research group for an eBook that is being written on the “theology of planning,” I am answering seven questions about planning that the author posed to us. Because of the length, I’m sharing my thoughts in three posts.
6. How does God use failed plans?
An even better question might be: When taking God’s sovereignty into consideration, is there such a thing as a failed plan? It is better to say, “How is God glorified when a plan works differently than I had anticipated?”
Romans 15:22-29 and Acts 16:6-10 are great examples of God causing Paul’s plans to change in order that he could do something greater. The simple reason is that God knows far beyond we do and does not want us limited to our own planning.
“The LORD frustrates the decisions of the nations; he nullifies the plans of the peoples. The LORD’s decisions stand forever; his plans abide throughout the ages.” Psalm 33:10-11
“A person plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“There are many plans in a person’s mind, but it is the counsel of the LORD which will stand.”Proverbs 19:21
“For even if I made you sad by my letter, I do not regret having written it (even though I did regret it, for I see that my letter made you sad, though only for a short time). Now I rejoice, not because you were made sad, but because you were made sad to the point of repentance. For you were made sad as God intended, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death. For see what this very thing, this sadness as God intended, has produced in you: what eagerness, what defense of yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what deep concern, what punishment! In everything you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So then, even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did wrong, or on account of the one who was wronged, but to reveal to you your eagerness on our behalf before God.” 2 Corinthians 7:8-12
7. Does planning involve faith? Or does planning hint at a lack of faith?
Planning, by its very definition, involves faith. This is true for both biblical and “non-biblical” planning. For instance, if I am planning a date for my wife and me, I have to have faith that the restaurant is good, that the car will start, and that it won’t rain. Planning is always about the future that is not seen.
Biblical planning absolutely involves and requires faith. Faith is “being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). When we make plans for our churches, for our families, for our small groups, for our businesses, etc., we are counting on the fact that certain things will happen in a certain way, with the result that our plans will work out the way we imagined.
However, we also have to remember that we are ultimately not in control. As we have already pointed out multiple times, we must keep our plans in an open hand, humbling our plans to God’s Plan. This is why James warns:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. You ought to say instead, “If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin. James 4:13-17
“Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, teaching about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this is what we intend to do, if God permits.” Hebrews 6:1-3
Even with reference to teaching a fellow believer the truth and helping them grow, it still must be done at God’s direction and will.
How has this brief study in biblical planning changed your perspective on planning? Let me know in the comments.
Adapted from Daniel Goepfrich.