Soul Care: Whose Plans: Ours or God’s?
- Larry Magnuson
- 2011 14 Apr
Five-year strategic plans. Annual goals. Measurable objectives. Regular evaluations and reviews. These are all a part of an effective church, ministry or personal life. They help us know where we are going and if we are making progress, but they also can be dangerous!
I am a dreamer and a planner. Like Hannibal Smith of the old television show "The A-Team" used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together!" The question remains, however: Is it a good plan or a dangerous plan? Is it my plan, or is it God's plan?
Lessons on Planning from Israel
Consider the warning of Isaiah 30:1: "'Woe to the obstinate children,' declares the Lord, 'to those who carry out plans that are not Mine.'"
An enemy threatened the Israelites. A plan was developed, a plan that seemed to make good sense. Israel would seek help from the great nation of Egypt by asking for a treaty to offer them protection. It was a plan, but not the right plan because it was not God's plan.
We often quote Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.'" It is a great verse when we launch a new church or a building campaign. Do we really consider what it is saying? This verse does not say, "Make a plan, and the Lord will bless it." It says the Lord has plans for us! Our task is to find and execute God's plans, whether for ourselves personally or for the ministry in which we serve.
I was a young pastor of a church plant that had gone relatively well. We were seeking a chairman for our elder board and had decided to ask a man of deep faith and passion. Frank told me he would accept the role on one condition: that we as a board would spend as much time in prayer, seeking the Lord's direction, as we spent in planning and problem solving.
That condition revolutionized our church and my life personally. I wish I could say I have been faithful to Frank's condition. Unfortunately, far too often I get caught up in my own thoughts and plans. Yet through the years, I have continued to return to the question: Am I spending time seeking God's plans, or am I just developing my own?
Let's take another look at Isaiah 30:15: "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.'"
Repentance and rest are crucial. Quietness and trust are our strength. The truth in seeking God's plans for our lives or our ministry is often much more difficult that developing our own.
The last words of verse 15 are haunting! How much of what is done today in the name of the Lord is not His plan at all? Could we also be obstinate children executing a plan that is not God's plan?
In this column, we often focus on topics such as silence, solitude and prayer, which often are called internal disciplines; but our internal disciplines have a direct impact on our outward actions. The plans formed in our minds and hearts are acted out in our behavior.
I believe many of us involved in ministry need some rest, quiet, repentance and trust so we are in a better position to hear from God about His plans and not confuse our agenda with His.