Acts 19:21-22 (HCSB)
21 When these events were over, Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem. “After I’ve been there,” he said, “I must see Rome as well!”22 So after sending two of those who assisted him, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, he himself stayed in the province of Asia for a while.
It’s probably not that easy being God. I would imagine that being the most powerful Being in the universe, you get a lot laid at your feet. You rarely get credit for the good stuff, but you always get blamed for the bad. We even do it in the church. We joke: “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” Or, “Never tell God what you don’t want to do, because that’s exactly what he’ll make you do!”
Where do we get this junk?
Here, we see Paul making plans for his future ministry. The verb used here (titheme) means “to make a decision” or “make up one’s mind.” King David prayed: “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.Psalm 20:4, NIV).” God’s not offended by the use of our free will or decision-making faculties. On the contrary, he has given them to us to use for his glory. This is exactly what Paul was doing: planning his itinerary.
According to Jesus, the problem isn’t planning – the problem comes when we don’t factor in God (see the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12). This was James’ warning as well (James 4:13-15). But this certainly wasn’t the case with Paul. We read Paul resolved (free will) in the Spirit (submitted to God). And THAT’s the trick: submitting your free will to God. Our decision-making should be like the early church who said: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…Acts 15:28, NIV).”
How do you make decisions and plans? Do you just use logic and strategy? Do you simply do what you want? Or, like Paul, to you resolve in the Spirit…do you submit your desires and will to God first?
Caveat: Even when we do it the right way, this doesn’t mean that all of our prayed-through, Holy Spirit enabled plans always come to pass. Nope. Paul eventually did get to Rome, but not as he hoped (he arrived in chains). We live in a fallen world, after all. And so Solomon’s encouragement is ours at this point: 9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.(Proverbs 16:9, NIV).” No matter what, God will take care of you.