The Best-Laid Plans
To suggest that wisdom is always balanced seems to me to be a bit, well, unbalanced. Whoever first uttered the words of wisdom, “moderation in all things,” should, I believe, have healed himself. All things? Isn’t that a bit extreme? In like manner, wisdom is almost always balanced. We need to measure the wisdom of looking before we leap with the equally potent conviction that he who hesitates is lost. We need to remember, as we loudly affirm that we ought not answer a fool according to his folly lest we be like him, that we ought to answer a fool according to his folly lest he become wise in his own eyes (Prov. 26: 4–5).
Jesus, who is wisdom incarnate, wisely tells us that we must consider the cost. Only a fool would set about the business of building a tower without first determining if he had the money to complete the job. Planning, according to Jesus, is good and proper. Out of this wisdom we have with all due wisdom extrapolated our calling to set goals before us, to look beyond today, to discern the times. This same Jesus, however, speaking through James His brother, says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13–16).
It is a great thing to plan, to lay down your hopes and aspirations. It is a great thing, in fact, not just to hope for a particular destination but to map out the steps that will get you there. It is, however, incumbent upon us to do this as creatures, as vapor. We must remember our frame. We must remember that we simply propose while God disposes. If the Lord wills, we will do this or that. If, however, the Lord wills differently, His plans will supersede our own. Not only ought we to pray, “nevertheless not my will but Thine be done,” but we ought also to pray knowing that His sovereign will, in fact, will be done.
If we would plan in accordance with God’s plan, we must first know what God’s plan is. He has not told us that we will go into such and such a city, buy and sell and make a profit. He has not told us that our five-year-old daughter will marry her eight-year-old neighbor, and the two of them will build their home on the back side of our property. He has not told us that our ten-year-old son will thrive in a particular line of work, and will, along with his own as yet unborn children, seize that whole industry for the kingdom of God. He has not told us that once we have seized this industry we will cooperate with the plan set in motion by Brother Jones fifty years ago so that we can together seize that other cultural doodad for Jesus. It is a shameful thing to be shortsighted. It is likewise an arrogant thing to boast that you can see far into the future.
God’s secret plan is just that — secret. We don’t know His strategy, how He will move in this coming year, decade, or century. God’s revealed plan is, well, that which has been revealed. He has told us what is required of us — that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (Mic. 6:8). He has told us the sum of the matter — that we should fear Him and obey all that He commands (Eccl. 12:13). He has called us to go into all the nations, baptizing them, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:19–20). He has told us that we ought not worry about what we will eat or about what our great grandchildren will eat. The Gentiles worry about such things. No, our calling is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). My prayer and my plan is that every day I would grow more faithful in this calling, that I would in turn encourage my dear wife in the same direction. My prayer and my plan is that the two of us, as long as life should last, will encourage our children along this same path. He may call our children to the mission field. He may call us to the mission field. He may call us to suffer this illness or that. He may call all or some of us home. But as long as we live, we are all called to grow in grace and wisdom.
This, we highly resolve — that we would seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. We resolve to teach our children to do the same, and to teach their children to do the same. If we would but keep this one resolution, we would witness worldwide revolution. Better yet, we would enjoy a new reformation. May God give us the grace to be extremists where we ought to be, that we would always seek out wisdom and rest in His finished work.