January is the time of year when most people tend to set goals and make plans for the new year ahead. Everything from health habits, home renovations, saving money, learning a new skill, and business aspirations, to spiritual growth, traveling, new hobbies, and family vacations. People everywhere are planning.
Whether you like to make New Year’s resolutions, create vision boards, write goal lists in your journal, or live spontaneously with very little planning, my question for you is: do you include God in your planning?
If your answer is a flat out ‘no’, or if this is something you’ve never even considered before as a Christian, don’t worry because you’re not alone. I promise that this post will be extremely helpful as we deal with some of the most prominent questions that people ask on this topic:
- What does the bible say about planning ahead?
- How do I know what God wants me to do?
- How do you plan with God?
Let’s dive in to take a look at several bible verses about planning, and learn exactly why it’s important to include God in our planning, and more importantly how to do so.
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What is Planning?
The word plan is defined as follows:
- an intention or decision about what one is going to do
- to decide on and arrange in advance
- a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something
When you pull it all together, planning is deciding in advance what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who should do it.
At surface level, planning may seem like something we should be able to do on our own. In fact, you may be asking yourself why in the world do I need to include God in my planning, when the plans are for me.
After all, the secular culture in which we live, constantly teaches us to live with a ‘do whatever makes you happy’ attitude that doesn’t include God in anything.
. . . but, what does the Word of God have to say on the matter? Where is planning in the bible?
What Does the Bible Say About Planning?
Regardless of what version of the bible you read, you will find at least 50 passages or bible verses about planning in general.
Here, I will cover five key points that Scripture teaches, that you will find all lead to including God in our plans.
God Has Ultimate Control
The term sovereignty of God means that God is the supreme authority over all things. This means He has ultimate control over everything.
When it comes specifically to planning, the key thing to always remember about God’s sovereignty is that because He has ultimate power and control, His plans cannot be thwarted – by anyone or anything. However, He can thwart the plans of anyone if He so chooses.
The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:10-11 NIV)
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2 NIV)
God Always Knows What's Best
Part of being a Christian and accepting the sovereignty of God is also realizing that God knows what is best for us – despite the fact, that we often think and live as if we know better than Him.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
We must always remember that in His sovereignty, God sees our lives in its entirety, whereas we only see the current moment.
In the Old Testament, when the Israelites (God’s chosen people) were taken into captivity to Babylon, I’m sure individually they all had their own “survival plan”. However, God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah during that time, and had him write a letter to the exiles with specific instructions, including His plan for them while they were in captivity.
What I love about the letter is how encouraging it was at a time where they needed it most. Not only did it include specific instructions on what to do while they were in exile, but God even revealed how long the captivity would last, gave them warnings about false prophets they would encounter, a promise about the destruction of their enemies, and assured them that He had an amazing plan in store for their future as a nation.
In fact, one of the most quoted verses in Christianity (although often utilized out of context) was included in that letter:
“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 hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
How encouraging and full of hope would these words have been if you were one of the exiles at that time, under harsh rule and possibly fearing for your life?
In fact, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the entire letter to give you even more context – Jeremiah 29:1-23. If you read thoroughly, you will see that everything, from the captivity itself, the prosperity they would enjoy while in captivity, the prosperity they would enjoy post-captivity, to the destruction of the false prophets, was all a part of God’s plan for the Israelites.
Although you and I don’t get detailed letters in the mail from God to guide us about our specific situations, we have the entire Bible to glean guidance from. And, the entirety of Scripture reveals that God in His sovereignty ALWAYS knows what is best for us.
So, with hope we can declare as the psalmist did:
“Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. (Psalm 40:5 NIV)
Seek God and His Will First and Foremost
As Christians, there are many things we want and desire out of life. But, how many of us want or desire to seek God and His will in our lives?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34 NIV)
There is no way, that if we begin to seek God first, that He won’t take care of all our other needs, and bless other areas of our lives in the process.
The problem is, we hear and say the phrase “God first” so much, and don’t really understand what that means or entails. To put God first means to make Him your number one priority; to take delight in Him.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV)
To take delight in something means to take great pleasure in. To take delight in the Lord, means to take great pleasure in spending time with God in His Word and in prayer, seeking His will, and doing things that please Him. This verse plainly tells us that when we do this, God will give us the desires of our heart.
Does this mean we will get every little thing we desire no matter what it is? Not quite.
Think about it. If we truly begin take great pleasure in God and what pleases him, our heart’s desires will begin to align with God’s will and what He wants for us anyway. So yes, when one truly delights in the Lord, God will indeed give you the desires of your heart, because your desires will be aligned with His will for your life.
The point here is, that when it comes to planning, cultivating our relationship with God MUST always be a part of our plans.
Not only should we always include God in our planning, but spending time with God should always be a part of our plans.
Trust and Acknowledge God in Everything
One of my favorite and well-known scriptures is:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)
This is a great bible verse for making plans, as it hits the nail on the head in driving the main point home to us. Let's dissect it phrase by phrase:
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart – as we’ve learned, God is sovereign and always knows what is best for us. Therefore, we should trust Him and His plans with all our heart.
- Lean not on your own understanding – we were never meant to figure life out all on our own, because we don’t know everything, nor do we see the big picture of our lives in its entirety.
- In all your ways acknowledge Him – in EVERYTHING we do and plan, we should acknowledge (recognize the importance and quality of) God by including Him in the process.
- And He will direct your paths – another promise contingent on our obedience: when we trust God with all our heart, stop doing things our own way without Him, and bring Him into the process, He will direct us!
Failing to Include God is a Big Mistake
We can’t look at verses that talk about including God in our planning without also, taking a look at what can happen when we fail to include God in our planning.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:1-2 NIV)
I love this verse, especially in our modern day “hustle culture” that teaches we should go all out to hit our goals and make things happen for ourselves. Even if that means working non-stop, getting little to no sleep, neglecting your health, and even your family life.
The thing is, we all have goals in life. And its not wrong to have goals. What is wrong, is getting so caught up in pursuing our goals that it becomes detrimental to all other aspects of our life. And its even worse, if the goal is something that was never a part of God’s plan or will for your life in the first place.
At the end of the day, if God isn’t in it, it’s a waste of time. Even if it takes you a while to realize it, you are laboring in vain.
In another scenario, there may be times when God makes it clear to us what His plans are and what direction we should take. But, then somewhere down the line in the process we decide God’s plan isn’t working fast enough for us, so we lean to our own understanding and stop trusting God, take the reigns and decide to do our own thing.
The Israelites did this often. In this first example, they forgot all the wonderful things God had done for them in the past. They got impatient in regards to His plan to provide for them on their journey to the Promised Land. And guess what, God let them have what they wanted instead, and punished them with disease at the same time.
The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them. (Psalm 106:11-15 NIV)
In this second example, they decided to rebel against God’s commands and even despised the plans He laid out for them. And….. God dealt with them here too:
Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. (Psalm 107:10-12 NIV)
The moral of the story here is save yourself some unnecessary work, time and trouble by including God in your plans up front. And, if and when He does reveal His plan to you, don’t go off on your own, stick to the plan!
How to Include God in Your Plans
Now, that we have looked at several bible verses about planning, how do we put all this into practice? How do we include God in our plans? What does planning with God actually look like?
Willingly Submit to God's Plans Above Your Own
We’ve looked at the fact that God has ultimate control and knows what’s best according to Scripture. However, reading those verses and applying to them are two completely different things.
As Christians, we must willingly submit to God’s plans above our own plans. Does this mean we shouldn’t make any plans at all, and just leave it all up to God? No.
This means we should plan, while keeping in mind that God can shift, change, or thwart our plans altogether. It's a mindset change that requires us to be willing to let God in and surrender to His will for us. This can be challenging, especially when we have good intentions with our plans. But, we cannot out plan God!
The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. (Psalm 94:11 NIV)
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NIV)
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)
The thing is, whether we initially include Him or not, one way or the other God’s plans will ALWAYS prevail. We will save ourselves a lot of unnecessary obstacles, if we willingly submit to Him up front.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16 NIV)
Consult God Via His Word and Prayer
One of the easiest ways to include God in your planning is to simply consult Him!
Have you ever made a decision and moved forward with plans that you were unsure about, where you know you should have consulted an expert first? However, because you were in such a rush to get it done, you went ahead and did it on your own. Then that ended up costing you more time, money, effort, and sanity.
Think about consulting God in the same way. The only difference is, God is the true expert, so we can’t go wrong by consulting Him.
We have 24/7 access to both hear from God (through the Bible) and talk to Him (through prayer) and yet, both modes of communication go highly un-utilized by many Christians.
Here are three simple tips to show you what consulting God looks like in practice:
- Ask yourself if what you are planning is something that will please God. Sometimes what we are planning is something that is sinful and won’t glorify God at all. And, oftentimes, if we are being honest, we are very much aware if what we are planning to do is sinful or not.
- Ask yourself what your motive is behind your plan. Sometimes what we are planning isn’t something that is wrong or sinful, but if done with wrong motives, it could lead to unnecessary problems for us down the road. Although we can sometimes hide our motives from others, God sees them clearly.
- Ask God for confirmation. God is always there for us to talk to about anything. We don’t have to make decisions or plans alone. But, we do have to wait patiently on an answer or confirmation from God.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2 NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5 NIV)
One of the best ways to pray, is to ask God to make it clear to you if something you are planning is NOT what He wants you to do. This can be hard to do, especially when we are dead set on whatever it is that we are planning. But, I can tell you from personal experience that this prayer has saved me A LOT of headache in various areas of my life!
Move Forward in Your Planning "With" God
Once you have established that what you’re planning is not something that displeases God, that you have proper motives, and have sought God’s guidance and confirmation of your plan, you are ready to move forward in your planning with God.
Step one here is to commit the plan completely to God.
Whether it’s just a written goal of buying a house, or if you have the entire blueprint all mapped out, start by acknowledging to God that you are moving forward with the plan, and praying that He will now give you all the guidance and resources you will need to make it happen.
One of the bible verses about planning ahead that I live by is:
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3 NIV)
Step two is to continue talking to God in prayer as your plan unfolds.
If you know anything about planning, you know that creating the plan is the easy part. The road to fruition, however, can be a challenge. Planning with God doesn't eliminate challenges, but it better equips us to get through the challenges.
We should talk to God every step along the way. Ask for His strength when the process gets tough. Ask for His help when you hit a brick wall and don’t know where to turn. Ask for His provision when funds start to run out. Ask for strength and boldness when its time to make a change or if He tells you to stop doing something. You can even ask Him to provide resources, support and strategies.
As long as you move forward with God, He will direct your steps.
My Testimony About Planning With God
What I love personally about planning with God, is that the more I do it, the more I want to do it!
From 2018 – 2020 I put a ton of effort into really getting this blog off the ground. The initial plan itself was something that I had prayed and consulted God about, and gotten confirmation for. But for the most part, my inclusion of God stopped there.
I was seeking help and resources for my blog in all the wrong places. At one point, I even had a “website expert” do a consultation for me, in which I was told point blank that blogs like this don’t perform well, as far as, generating traffic and growth. Needless to say, I got very discouraged, and for about 90 days I quit!
In August of 2020, I took a long weekend alone to spend some time consulting God about my future. During that time, I went back to God in prayer specifically in regards to this website. And the very first thing I remember God saying back to me, was ‘I was waiting for you to include me in this process again’.
Since then, I have been extremely diligent about including God in all my website planning every step of the way. There have been many temptations to stray off course, do things differently, switch gears completely to be more like ‘other bloggers’, and even to quit again.
But, not only have I stayed the course with including God in my planning, I have been honest with God about my struggles and temptations to do things my way.
I literally had to do a complete site overhaul at the beginning of 2021 to re-align things, and get everything back on track to how God originally intended. It was very humbling to admit I was wrong, and in essence start over from scratch. But, it was also well worth it!
I relaunched the blog in May of 2021, and the growth has been far above and beyond anything I saw in the years where I did things according to my own plans! And, I am excited to see what God is going to do in the days to come, as I continue to seek His guidance and direction in every aspect of this online ministry.
Start Including God in Your Planning!
I don’t know what you are in the midst of planning in your life currently. But, wherever you are in the journey, I advise you to pause, and take some time to evaluate if God is in it. Even if you haven’t included Him from the beginning, it’s never too late to bring Him into the process.
First, and most importantly, incorporate spending more time with God as a part of your plan. Sometimes, this is the only (and most vital) tweak we need.
As for all the other aspects of life - whether you want to lose weight, save money for a new car, get your master’s degree, buy a home, learn a foreign language, travel overseas, get married, or start your own business – aligning yourself, your goals, your life, your everything, with God and His plan for you, is the best way to ensure success!
Don’t ever stop having goals and making plans. Just keep these bible verses about planning in mind, and surrender your plans over to God committing them to Him for approval, change or denial based on His will for your life. Remember that God’s plan is always the best plan, so always make room for Him.
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