Friday, March 29, 2013

Proverbs 16: How to Make Successful Plans

Prov 16:1 To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue. 
Prov 16:2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. 
Prov 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. 
Prov 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Prov 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
Prov 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Chapter 16 contains many proverbs on the importance of planning in order to succeed. Again, we do a cross-sectional study across the different chapters to pull out those proverbs that cover the same topic. From all these proverbs, we can glean some important lessons about wise planning:
  • The Last Word is from the Lord (Prov 16:1 To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.): We may have dreams in our heart about how we like our future to be, but we have to let the Lord have the last word. So, we should consult the Lord regarding our dreams and hopes, before we embark on that particular course of actions. I had an experience more than 25 years ago when I had a desire to pursue a post-graduate course in management study. I committed the matter to the Lord and one day I had a dream where I saw myself in the NUS Hon Sui Sen Library. I knew I had the Lord's approval and went ahead to make plans to enroll for the program at NUS and graduated in 1993.
  • Check our Motives (Prov 16:2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord): It is important not only to decide what we want to do, but also why we want to do it. God will weigh our motives and when our motives are found wanting, He might not allow our plans to be executed. I believe the purest motive for making decisions is found in the Lord's Prayer: "May Your name be hallowed". If our motive is to honour God's name through our plans, our motive will be not only be holy but our plans will have divine backing all the ways.
  • Commit our Plans to the Lord (Prov 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed): After we have the Lord's approval regarding the what and the why of our plans, we need to commit the execution of the plans to the Lord. As promised in Proverbs 3:5-6, if we "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him" then "he will make your paths straight."
  • Look to God in Every Decision (Prov 16:9,33 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps/The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord): As we execute our plans, we need to consult Him at every decision point, and not presume that our "market" knowledge or "expert" knowledge will see us through. There is much that we do not know that only God knows. So, it's wise to commit each decision to God in prayer before we make them. Let him direct and show us the steps we must take. 
  • Seek Advice (Prov 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed): Don't think we know it all. God make use other people who have more experience than us to guide us. So, do not reject the advice of people. By just talking over our plans and decisions with someone else, we will make better decisions and avoid making the mistakes of inexperience.
Above all, let our dreams and hopes be aligned with God's kingdom purpose. Ultimately, God's Kingdom purpose must be the over-riding goal in all that we are planning to do because believers are citizens of Christ's Kingdom, not their own kingdoms. So, it's wise to align our plans with God's Kingdom agenda, viz., seeking and saving the lost. The Lord's Prayer again emphasizes this Kingdom priority of our life: "May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:10).

Father, You have given us a sound mind to make plans. Help us make plans that fulfill Your Kingdom purpose. Amen.

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