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Your Plans . . . and God’s (1 Cor. 16:5-7)

“Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law.” (Ps. 119:18)

“WONDERFUL THING” IN THIS PASSAGE– “Well…that didn’t exactly work out!” Do you find yourself saying that as often as I do? My plan seems so good in my mind, and then some unforeseen detail messes it up. Or worse: every step goes precisely as designed, but the end result isn’t what I wanted.

God, on the other hand, has never said, “Oops!” about anything. “The Lord of Armies has sworn: As I have purposed, so it will be; as I have planned it, so it will happen.”1 There are at least two reasons God’s plans work out better than ours: [1] We know so little, and God so much; and [2] We control so little, and God so much.

In closing his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminded them of his detailed plans to visit them again – but he also acknowledged that God is the one in ultimate control of the outcome of those plans:

“I will come to you after I pass through Macedonia – for I will be traveling through Macedonia – and perhaps I will remain with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I go. I don’t want to see you now just in passing, since I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows.” (1 Cor. 16:5-7)

This way of thinking of God’s sovereignty was so foundational in Paul’s mind, that it came out of his mouth over and over. He’d already told the Corinthians the same thing earlier: “I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.”2  As he left Ephesus, “he said farewell and added, “I’ll come back to you again, if God wills.”3 He assured the Romans that he was “always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you.”4

Such was the thinking of the authors and the main characters of the Bible. In the middle of writing Hebrews, the author explained what he intends to write next; then, even before he proceeded, he said, “And we will do this if God permits.”5 He had a plan for the next few paragraphs, but he was acutely aware that God could change that plan at any moment – and, by the way, that would be fine with him.

The Old Testament teaches the same wisdom: “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”6 “Many plans are in a person’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail.”7


“WONDERFUL THING” IN MY LIFE – When I first began making Christian friends from Ghana, it was striking to me how frequently they included the phrase, “if God wills” in any sentence about plans. They sounded like James, who gave specific instructions for discussing plans: “You should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”8

God is not opposed to planning. I’m a planner. Paul had extensive plans, and God blessed most of them. So, make your plans – BUT make room for God in all your designs and, even more importantly, leave the outcome to Him. Whenever you have a project that needs planning:

  • First, ask God for His plan.
  • Submit your plans to Him in well-justified humility and ask if He wants you to proceed.
  • Give Him complete freedom to interrupt, redirect, or cancel your plans.
  • When He does so, rejoice in faith that His plans are always better than yours.

1 Isa. 14:24.  2 1 Cor. 4:19.  3 Acts 18:21.  4 Rom. 1:10.  5 Heb. 6:3.  6 Prov. 16:9.  7 Prov. 19:21.  8 James 4:15.

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