sovereignty-of-GodEarlier this week I got an email from one of the readers of Servants of Grace who wanted to see me answer this question, “How would you respond to the person who says that planning is a waste of time?” This post is my attempt at answering this question.

In Exodus 4, Moses is given his orders and given authority from God to carry out his ministry to the people of Israel. Moses was told to “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it” (Exodus 4:2-3). He was given three signs which were meant to authenticate the Lord’s message and ministry through Moses. Moses then doesn’t take God at His Word but instead doubts. When Moses doubts the Lord the Lord gets angry. Moses wants someone else to speak and he offers Aaron, so the Lord tells him Aaron will meet him (vs.14). After Moses was given authority from God, and the Lord had given Moses- Aaron to help him speak to the people of Israel- the Lord gives His plan to Moses in Exodus 4:21-23.

Throughout Exodus chapters 4-6 it becomes clear who is sovereign and who is not. The Lord is sovereign in spite of Moses doubt (Exodus 4:13), and sends Aaron to help Moses. The Lord is sovereign over the Pharaoh to harden his heart (Exodus 4:21-23). In Exodus 5 the Lord is sovereign in spite of the Pharaoh’s rejection of the power and authority of God. In Exodus 6:1, the sovereign Lord tells Moses that “with a strong hand” the Lord will bring Israel out of Egypt. The Lord assures Moses that He is with Him in Exodus 6:2-8 and tells Moses what is going to happen to the people of Egypt.

Joshua 1:1 opens the book of Joshua with the death of Moses and the Lord once again taking the initiative in sending forth His servant to His people. Joshua was “Moses’ assistant” and therefore was prepared by the Lord for the task assigned to him. Near the end of his life, when Moses requested that a successor be appointed, the Lord instructed him to commission Joshua the son of Nun, “a man in whom is the Spirit,” before “all the congregation” (Num. 27:18-19).

In Joshua 1:1-9 the Lord gives his orders to Joshua. In Joshua 1:10-18, Joshua assumes his position of leadership, and issues orders to the officers (vs.10), and for the officers to tell the people (vs.11).  In chapter 1, Joshua has received his charge. In chapter. 2, he begins to take charge. In chapter 2, Joshua sends two men to view the land and Jericho (Joshua 2:1). In Jericho they encountered a woman named Rahab who helped them hide from the king of Jericho. Rahab tells the two spies that the people in Jericho are fearful and are “melting away”. The two men returned to Joshua and told them in Joshua 2:24, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.” Joshua 3:1-4:24 tell the story of Israel crossing the Jordan.

In Exodus 4-6 the Lord is sovereign over all that Moses and Aaron do. The implication that Exodus 4-6 makes regarding a biblical approach/perspective to planning is that His plans will go forward in spite of our doubts, fears and failings. The strong hand of the Lord will accomplish that which He has set forth for His people.

Like Exodus 4-6, Joshua 1:3- makes it clear that the Lord takes the initiative in all of His work. Exodus 4-6 and Joshua 1-3 emphasize that a biblical approach to planning begins with understanding the sovereignty of God. A biblical approach to planning begins with trusting His plan to work all things in accordance with His will. A biblical approach to planning begins with trust in who God is and with knowledge of His Word.

How would you respond to the person who says that planning is a waste of time?

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 16:1, “The plans of the heart belongs to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:9, “the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

The above passages and many others throughout the Bible make it clear that human responsibility is always subject to God’s absolute sovereignty (Proverbs 3:6; 16:2, 9, 33; 19:21; 20:24; 21:1 30-31). Proverbs 16:2 tells us to “commit” literally to “roll upon” in the sense of both total trust (Proverbs 3:5-6) and submission to the will of God (Ps. 22:8; 37:5; 119:133); He will fulfill His righteous plans. Proverbs 16:9 teaches that the Sovereign god overrules the plans of men to fulfill His purposes (Genesis 50:20; 1 Kings 12:15; Ps. 119:133; Jer. 10:23; Dan. 5:23-30; 1 Cor. 3:19-20).

I begin by answering the question, “”How would you respond to the person who says that planning is a waste of time?” with the Scriptures because the Scriptures are the final authority for faith and practice for Christians.

There is a fine line between making plans and then committing them (total trust and submission to the will of God) and making plans and arrogantly insisting that those plans will come to fruition. For example, I could say that since I’ve finished my Masters of Divinity it’s my intention to go pursue Ph.D studies in a few years. I can say this but afterwards also qualify that statement with, “But I am willing to go wherever the Lord sends me and do whatever He requires.” The point is, I can make plans for the future but those plans must be submitted to the sovereign purpose and will of God. The person who says “making plans is a waste of time” fails to acknowledge that God places desires, dreams, and visions upon one’s heart and then uses those in the life of the believer to call them to intimacy and ministry for His glory.

If I were sitting across from this person, I would begin responding to the person who asked this question by explaining the sovereignty of God. I would continue by exhorting that person to understand that God has plans for them, and therefore they need to get in line with His Word and His mission to seek and save the lost. Furthermore, I would teach them that God has appointed the time and seasons of man’s life, and in order to be productive, and make the most of his/her life- he/she needs to make some plans, but trust in and submit them to His sovereign plan for one’s life.

In my experience most people and even many Christians are resistant to this teaching. Today’s culture instructs people that they are the ultimate sovereign, and God is “dead”- therefore make whatever plans you want. The American “dream” is self-centered because it essentially says that one is “sovereign”- make as much money as you can, and be as “successful” as you can at your job even if it costs you everything else- your children, your marriage, and even your family. This lie is often persuasive to many people but at the heart of it is– the pursuit of idolatry.

God in His Word has given His mission and has invited man to “come and follow Him” in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. God has made plans to use man for His glory but only if he/she will come to Himself and be His disciple. Only then will He send His disciple(s) out to fulfill His rescue mission in the world. Only as a result of “coming and following Christ” will one be able to submit to the plan of the Lord. Only as a result of following Christ will one be able not truly waste time by throwing one’s life down the drain in the pursuit of pleasure and happiness apart from God.

Make plans in accordance with the Word of God. Submit your plans to the sovereign care of the Lord. In the words of Dr. John Piper, “Don’t Waste Your Life.” Give your life to sovereignty of God. Leave a lasting godly legacy. Jonathan Edwards is well known for making resolutions. He made those resolutions at the age of 19. At the heart of those resolutions was a desire to know God and make Him know to the world. Resolve to make all of your plans in accordance with Word of God, for the sake of His mission of seeking and saving the lost through the work of His Son, for His glory.