Having been part of a research group for an eBook that is being written on the “theology of planning,” I am answering seven questions about planning that the author posed to us. Because of the length, I’m sharing my thoughts in three posts.
3. Is planning the work of one person or many people?
Depending on what is being planned, it could be either. Some plans are very simple and don’t require anyone else, while others certainly do. A good principle to follow is: the wider the influence of the thing being planned, the more necessary the planning (and probably people).
“Plans are established by counsel, so make war with guidance.” Proverbs 20:18
“With regard to our brother Apollos: I strongly encouraged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was simply not his intention to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity.” 1 Corinthians 16:12
4. Do plans change?
Yes, absolutely. Plans can change for many reasons. Even when we seek wisdom from God, since we are finite, and God does not give direct revelation outside the Scriptures, we are bound to make plans that do not happen the way we thought they should. It could be as simple as the ticket booth running out of tickets for our show, or a major event having to be cancelled at the last minute.
The important thing in light of changed plans is to evaluate if there was something we could have done differently that would have either warned us to the potential for change or made the change not happen at all.
The life of the apostle Paul is full of plans that changed for one reason or another.
“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I often intended to come to you (and was prevented until now), so that I may have some fruit even among you, just as I already have among the rest of the Gentiles.” Romans 1:13
“This is the reason I was often hindered from coming to you. But now there is nothing more to keep me in these regions, and I have for many years desired to come to you when I go to Spain. For I hope to visit you when I pass through and that you will help me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. But now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia are pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do this, and indeed they are indebted to the Jerusalem saints. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are obligated also to minister to them in material things. Therefore after I have completed this and have safely delivered this bounty to them, I will set out for Spain by way of you, and I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of Christ’s blessing.” Romans 15:22-29
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this, so they passed through Mysia and went down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” After Paul saw the vision, we attempted immediately to go over to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. Acts 16:6-10
5. How do we distinguish a plan from God from a plan developed outside of God’s wisdom and inspiration?
This can be difficult, but not impossible. A plan that is not from God would naturally go against what we have already pointed out as a description of a healthy plan in question #2. There are at least a couple of keys to watch for:
Does it contradict Scripture? Obviously, if our plan or the intention of our plan goes against God’s clearly revealed will in Scripture, then it doesn’t matter how good it looks, it’s not from God. He cannot contradict himself.
Is it changed by God? Sometimes God will change our plans or details in our plans before and during the planning and the event itself. Watching these changes with prayer is a must to stay in line with his will. I have seen this happen many times, where things ended up “working out” in ways that we never could have foreseen, planned, or forced. Had we stayed on track with our plan, we would have missed God’s.
“Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.” Isaiah 55:9
In Part 3, I will answer the last two questions:
How does God use failed plans?
Does planning involve faith? Or does planning hint at a lack of faith?