Planning for Success
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” -- Proverbs 16:9
The book of Proverbs makes a strong case for planning. When we begin to understand that planning is necessary for a productive, fulfilling life, we see it as a spiritual process and then we can become intentional about planning God’s way.
God and the planning process
The all-wise Partner. Wise people know better than to plan without including God in the process. So, the first step is to commit our plans to him. Solomon tells us this important step comes with a promise, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3).
We should not expect that God would come along and simply put his stamp of approval on our plans. More than our success, he wants relationship with us. If we belong to God and want to please him, isn’t it logical that we would ask him what he wants of us? Ask him if he has a will about a decision we are making? Ask him if he has plans he wishes to reveal so we can work in partnership with him?
God’s plan is bigger than you or me. We need to recognize that God will never bless any plans outside the realm of his greater plan for mankind. As we seek him, there will be a check in our spirit when we are considering plans that go against his will. In the world of wisdom, the end does not justify the means! “Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness” (Proverbs 14:22).
Acknowledge who is in charge. Finally, in our planning, we must submit to and recognize the sovereignty of God in everything that we do. Proverbs says,“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). It is our responsibility to do all we can to achieve success in the areas in which we are in partnership with God (e.g. get the horse ready, or put on our spiritual armor, or be well prepared for the meeting), but we must never forget the final outcome is always in his hands.
The role of others in the planning process
God did not design us to do life alone. He purposely created us to have to depend on him and on other human beings. That’s why Proverbs tells us to seek advice from other people. Here are a couple of examples: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Proverbs 11:14) and “Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance” (Proverbs 20:18).
There are many advisors we can learn from who have walked ahead of us in areas including business, marriage, family, friendship, finances, and spiritual growth. The wise person will seek out the advice of those who can specifically relate to us where we are. Advice can be found in individuals, books, seminars, and, most importantly, from God’s word and wise Christian counsel.
Reaching our goals
So, we have a plan. What do we do now?
Keep promises. We deliver – to spouse, children, employees, employer, and everyone else to whom we make promises. When we keep our promises, we help other people realize their dreams, too.
Find others of like mind. We ask others to work with us. Often God gives us goals and dreams bigger than we can achieve on our own. Our struggles will be shared and our joys will be multiplied as we work together to reach God-inspired goals.
Make new goals. Once a goal is achieved, we reach for the next one. As a writer, I like to think of the apostle John becoming a best-selling author in his old age. After all, it was very late in his life that he wrote the Gospel of John, three epistles, and then the book of Revelation. Relaxing on a Greek island was not one of his goals!
Accomplishing our goals revitalizes us and gives us energy to keep going to new and higher levels of achievement, relationship, service, and spirituality. Solomon acknowledges this when he says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
I think we all would like to say with Paul at the end of our lives, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7). That, I think, is success in God’s eyes!
"Many Christians estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt. All God's giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence with them."
– Hudson Taylor