It is commonly thought among humans that if one wants to be somebody, he or she must find something of some measure of significance to accomplish. Most people will do this by looking all around the world to see who and what others most admire, then set their hearts on becoming that, or accomplishing it. The plan becomes to set into motion a carefully laid out step-by-step plan to try and achieve their desired end. The hope is that once they have achieved their victory, they will be somebody, be happy, or even earn some kind of salvation.
Even those who do not have even the minimal self-discipline and drive to go after their dreams will spend all of their waking time wishing and dreaming and planning the steps even if it takes the form of condemnation for their failures.
This is the proposed, supposed way of the world. It will lead to either achieving the goals and being left with pride, or worse, emptiness upon finding that the goal was not worthy. Alternatively, it will lead to failure, self-condemnation, feeling low and full of self-pity. Breaking the cycle, to understand that the Lord establishes his, her steps will set a person free from this self-destructive cycle.
Right from the beginning of all created things, God has always said to us, seek first the long planned for, created things of the Kingdom of God, and the Lord, who, from the beginning establishes all your steps, will add all things to you.
Proverbs 16:9 The Message
9 We plan the way we want to live,
but only God makes us able to live it.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Throughout history, mankind has made their plans for what they will do each day. In the office, we start out our days with a detailed planning sheet we create for ourselves and organize our days and weeks and prioritize tasks to ensure the most important ones get done. We also make plans for holidays and vacations.
We budget our money; we set out our financial goals and make step-by-step plans with our financial planners for how we ourselves see fit to achieve them. We make, have daily planners, plans for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other events. Expectant parents plan and prepare for a new child. Teachers make lesson plans. The corporate owner plans for his, her business to grow and expand and become profitable. It is perpetual motion. We make plans.
There is nothing whatsoever wrong with planning. In fact, it is always a great idea to set goals and plan for their maximum success. If we did not, our lives would be a little here and a little there but mostly going nowhere fast– kind of like a balloon you completely blow up and then let go without tying a knot in it – and we’d really never accomplish much. Planning is definitely a good thing.
Our plans should always begin with prayer and seeking God’s will for our lives. If God has been included in our planning process right from the exact starting, we can be reasonably assured, those plans will have some measure of success. The only thing to remember here is that we are not the ones who get to define what that success is. Our personal vision of success will always be too limited.
We will probably let all the “bumps and the grinds, hills and valleys,” define whether or not we will even bother to continue that single-minded pursuit of what we ourselves define and measure out as the definition of our successes. We may end up quitting on ourselves, our hopes, our dreams way, way too quickly. We may not give ourselves the proper time to learn about perseverance in life. The glue in our “stick-to-itiveness ” will not be allowed to do its proper work.
It is here when we unceremoniously and regretfully, inconveniently, “forget” about God. When our planning is contrary to God’s will, we become guilty of sin.
In James 4:13-17, James wrote, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord will, we will live and do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So, it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”
God may still allow you and me to make our own plans without properly, prayerfully consulting with Him. He will even allow you and me to make our own plans, own our own plans when you and I do not particularly like His plans or His will and decide to do things our way anyway. But you and I can be assured regardless of what you and I plan, God will be ONLY the one finally directing each and every step you and I take. And if in our arrogance and pride we choose to do things our way, God will always bring about His divine will.
The Prophet Jonah is a very familiar example of someone who didn’t like what God was telling him to do and so he trusted in himself and made his own plans. God had wanted Jonah to go preach in Nineveh and Jonah didn’t want to go.
He got on a boat and went in the opposite direction from Nineveh. As a result, a great storm came up and everyone on the boat became afraid they would die at sea. They started throwing the cargo over to lighten the boat’s load and then Jonah told them they had to throw him overboard and the storm would stop.
The sailor’s thought Jonah was crazy, but after a while, they conceded and tossed Jonah into the storm-tossed waves. God was not only directing Jonah’s steps, but he also directed the swim path of a great fish who came along at that exact moment and swallowed Jonah up. After living three days in the belly of the fish, Jonah finally repents and finally, humbly prays to God. God then has the fish throw up Jonah and Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches repentance.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 16:9
#1 “In their hearts…”
In most places where the heart is mentioned in Scripture, it is not looked upon very kindly. Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Mark 7:21-22 says, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” The advice of others to “Just follow your heart” may work great in the movies, but it is foolish, terrible advice for the believer.
#2 “…humans plan their course,”
It is, and always will be a good and righteous thing to plan our day to a certain extent; for example, what is for dinner tonight? When will I finish my work? But the kind of planning that is not good is the arrogant kind that desires its own way and has self-promoting expectations for how things are going to go.
This is essentially mankind significantly over-extending his own abilities, taking on God’s job. James 4:13-17 calls it “boasting about tomorrow.”
#3 “but the Lord establishes their steps.”
What is going to happen is what God wants to happen. Seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:25-34), don’t worry for tomorrow, live in his presence right now, and watch him unfold his perfect plan before you.
This means consciously remembering God, to live according to his principles in his Word and lay down your life for him and for his Kingdom. You cannot even imagine what His control over your life has in store for those who trust in him.
In the New Testament, a group of shepherds made plans for tending their flock throughout the long cold night. But God suddenly interrupted their long night and sent angels to proclaim the birth of Jesus which brought the shepherds to worship the newborn King. Their plans were to simply care for their flock of sheep – God’s plans were “glorify the Lord,” to bring them to worship Jesus.
In Acts Chapter 3, A lame man who had been lame since birth had plans for going to the temple to beg for alms but as Peter and James saw him and listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit, Peter said to him, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.” In an instant, he was healed, and he rose up on his newly strengthened legs and went walking and leaping and praising God. The Lame Man’s plans were to get enough alms so he could eat – God’s plan was a miraculous healing.
Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has good plans for us – plans for our welfare and not destruction. If we truly believe this, then we should have no problems starting our planning time in prayer and seeking God’s will to be sure that the plans we make align with God’s will. If they do, then we can surrender our plans into His hands and trust that even if the path to get where we were planning looks different than how we planned it, that ultimately God will get us there, He will work all things out for our good (Romans. 8:28), and He will forever and ever be with us every single step of the way and keeping us from stumbling.
But if we try to go our own way like Jonah, we might find ourselves in some trouble just like Jonah did and then find ourselves right where God wanted us in the first place. Had Jonah simply cooperated with God’s plan in the first place, he could have saved himself three days in the belly of a fish – and if we will cooperate with God’s plans for our lives, we can save ourselves from all the unpleasant consequences that running from God brings. (Luke 15:11-32)
So go ahead and make your plans, but start every plan with prayer, seeking God’s will first. Then as you make your plans centered around His will, ask that your plans will bring Him honor and glory. If, like Joseph, the path getting to where God wants you looks different than you thought it would and includes a “pit” or “prison” along the way, remember that God is always with you and if the “palace” is God’s plan for you, you can trust Him to get you there at just the right moment so you are in position for what God wants to do in your whole life.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Dear Father in heaven, your Son promised that we would see him again if we wait patiently and listen to what the Holy Spirit says to us. Illuminate our hearts and send your Spirit in. All that is yours will be ours through your Spirit. I pray that I learn to quiet my mind so I can hear the Holy Spirit. I pray that I am filled with the understanding to know how to follow its guidance for me. Amen.