Future Planning God’s Way
Have you made plans to do something or go somewhere between now and the end of the year? Likely you have, since most of us look ahead and prepare for upcoming events.
In the Book of James, chapter 4, the Apostle spoke of individuals who made presumptuous plans. They said, “To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain” (James 4:13). James did not condemn these individuals because they had planned but because they omitted any consideration of God’s will in doing so. He continued in verses 14-15, “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow . . . ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” [emphasis added].
The fact is that none of us knows what we will be doing tomorrow, a week, a month, or a year from now. Some people do not consider God at all when they look ahead. Others believe in God, but neglect to seek God’s will. It is good to preface any discussion of our plans for the future with the words, “Lord willing.” Even if we do not say the words aloud, we always want to take into account His will for us.
Plans are subject to change
Back in 2020, my wife and I made plans to take our daughter, Alicia, and son-in-law, Rob, to Israel from April 15 to April 29. We were excited! I told the two of them that this was going to be a trip of a lifetime. Rob and Alicia made arrangements for someone to stay with their three teenage boys. We blocked out the time on our calendars, reviewed our proposed itinerary, and bought our plane tickets.
In a sense, those were tentative plans, because whether we identify our plans as tentative or not, situations can change. That is what happened with our trip arrangements. Our plans did not work out—in fact, plans did not work out for many people around the world at that time! The Covid pandemic changed everything. So, some events we expect to occur do not come to pass.
At other times, events occur that we do not expect to take place. Just six weeks after the four of us would have returned from Israel if our trip had gone as scheduled, we held the funeral service for Rob’s dad. That service was not anticipated; his dad’s sudden passing was a surprise to all of us.
The fact is, in the months ahead if Jesus tarries, some things we plan will not happen and other things will happen that we never expected. We face an uncertain future! Still, whatever does occur will be what the Lord ordains. God is sovereign. He made all things, and by Him all things exist. He is in control, and He is a good God, so we want to align our wills with His.
An Old Testament example
In both the Old and New Testaments, we find examples of individuals who failed to consider God’s will when making plans and experienced the consequences.
In Genesis chapter 11, we read that the people of the earth were of one language and settled in one general area. Then, as a group, they made plans. They said, “Let us make brick,” and “Let us build us a city and a tower,” and “Let us make us a name” (Genesis 11:3-4). They were entirely self-focused! So without any consideration of God, they decided what they would do.
No doubt they met together to discuss their project, calculating how tall the structure would be, what materials it would take, and how long it would take to complete it. Some historians believe that their tower may have been up to fifteen stories high by today’s standards, possibly with a temple devoted to idol worship at the top.
God was not pleased, and He changed the tower builders’ plans. He hindered their construction efforts by confounding their language so they could not understand one another’s words. Then He “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8), and their tower was abandoned. They had not taken “If the Lord wills . . .” into account.
A New Testament example
In the New Testament, we read Jesus’ parable about the rich farmer. Jesus actually called him a “fool,” so many Bibles give this parable the heading, “The Rich Fool.” This farmer also had plans that were self-focused rather than God-focused. Ten times in Luke 12:17-19, he referred to “I” or “my.” When his ground brought forth so plentifully that he had an abundance, he began planning for the future. Again, the problem was not that he planned, but that he did so without considering God’s will.
We read, “And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:17-20). The farmer died before he could begin to use what was stored in his barns, let alone build greater ones. All his plans were futile!
Even the potential beneficiaries of the rich farmer’s goods would have eventually left those goods behind to someone else, who would have left them to someone else. As each successive heir stepped into eternity, the only thing that would matter is how that one had prepared for his or her eternal future.
Jesus warned, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). If our net worth is determined by what we have, then we might feel good about our assets today. However, when we get to the end of life, we will find that just as we brought nothing into this world, we will take nothing out. We end the same way we began: with no equity or assets. When that day comes, we want to have treasures laid up in Heaven.
A contemporary example
The account of the rich farmer reminds me of a client I had many years ago when I worked as an accountant in Dallas, Oregon. Like the man in Jesus’ parable, this man was a farmer. Large quantities of grain and grasses are grown in the Dallas area, and his company would fill containers with the straw and ship it to Japan. He made a lot of money doing so!
One year at tax time, he came in and told me that he was very satisfied with his financial holdings. He said that his barns were full and he was going to have to build bigger ones, though he said nothing about tearing down his existing barns. As he related this to me, I thought of the parable in Luke 12. I do not remember exactly how I responded, but I do remember thinking, Wow! You had better lay up treasure in Heaven! Interestingly, within two years that man was bankrupt, so his business plans were as futile as those of the farmer in Jesus’ parable.
True treasure cannot be measured monetarily. We want our lives to count, and what counts is living for the Lord. We do that by submitting our desires, goals, and interests to God’s plan. We pray, “Lord, I want your will to be done in all I do.”
Guidance for facing the future
It is far better to consult God for His plan than to ask Him to bless our plans. Before making decisions on our own, we appeal to the God of Heaven. He is our Guide and Counselor, so we ask Him what He wants us to do. God will reveal His will to us as we look to Him. Most likely, direction will not come as a voice from Heaven. However, it will be given to us as we prayerfully explore what might be God’s leading in our lives. As we pray, “Lord, open the doors to what You want for me, and shut the doors that are not Your will,” God will do that! He is faithful.
We do not need to know what is far out there in our future. We do not even need to know what next month or next week holds for us. We can rely upon God to direct our steps as each day comes and goes.
In James 4:14, the Apostle stated, “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow.” He continued by referencing the brevity of life, saying, “What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” A vapor is transitory and seen only for a moment. Similarly, our time in this world is brief.
Since our days are limited and we do not know what tomorrow holds, some people face the future with fear and trepidation. However, that is not necessary. Jesus said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on” (Luke 12:22). A few verses farther on in that same chapter, He admonished, “Fear not . . . for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). God will provide what He knows we need. Not only will He provide for our temporal needs, but He will give us grace to face any challenges presented to us tomorrow or any time in the future.
Ensuring we are in the will of God
As we anticipate God’s plan for us in coming days, the Apostle James gives three specific measures we can take to ensure we are in the will of God.
Submit to God. James’ first instruction was, “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:7). When we do this, we subordinate our wills to God’s will; we accept that whatever God brings or allows in our lives is aligned with His purpose for us. It is according to His sovereign will. Even if what we face is the result of our own previous poor decisions, God is sovereign. As we submit to God, we can depend upon Him to provide grace to take us through to the other side of the challenge.
Resist the devil. James went on to tell his readers, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Do not have a conversation with the enemy of your soul beyond telling him, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Hold a conversation with the Lord. Look Heaven’s way! Plead the Blood of Jesus, and the enemy will flee from you. The devil cannot overcome the Blood.
Draw nigh to God. James’ third instruction was, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). In order to get saved, it took the Lord reaching out to our hearts and convicting us of our sins. God initiated the action to bring us to Him. However, when it comes to drawing nigh to God, we can employ measures on our own to accomplish that. We can set ourselves to pray. We can set ourselves to study the Word of God in a systematic manner. We can determine to draw closer to the Lord in every way available to us. When we do so, we will find that He comes closer to us.
Maintaining our spiritual commitment
We want to maintain the same commitment we had when we first were saved. When God transformed our lives, we were willing to do anything, to go anywhere, and to accept whatever the Lord wanted in our lives. We were determined to separate ourselves from the world and from all those who would negatively influence us. And the Lord helped us! To have a successful walk with God, that mentality and spirit of total commitment must continue.
The enemy of our souls wants to prevent us from making Heaven our eternal home, and he will use any measure at his disposal to accomplish that purpose. However, God has a purpose too, and that is to help us overcome every attempt of the enemy. So we need not fear the challenges that will confront us in the future. God allows trials for a reason, and they will always be for our good.
As we think about the days and weeks to come, if Jesus tarries, let us accept God’s plan for our lives. Let us determine that “Lord willing” will continually be the attitude of our hearts. Then, whether our personal expectations carry through or trials come our way that we never expected, we can rest in the assurance that God is in control and that He does all things well.