Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails and will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
Our Plans and God’s
The Lord expects us to make plans for work, education, family and finances. But often we are frustrated by detours. In traveling, construction and traffic can block our planned route. On a long-distance trip this is annoying and confusing. If we try to make the best of it, we can discover places we’ve never visited before, but often we’re just mad that we didn’t get where we wanted to be on time.
Tony Evan says that detours are distractions from the originally intended route that we had planned to take in life. It takes us longer to get to our destination or maybe we never get to the place we expected. We want life to be a simple straight-line journey. We don’t like delays, interruptions, stops, and starts. But Bible history is full of detours. Remember that Noah warned of God’s coming judgment and worked on the ark for 120 long years. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for their promised child from whom Messiah Jesus would come. The Hebrews dwelt in Egypt for 400 years, and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and were sent into exile for 70 years. So why are we surprised that things often don’t go as we have planned?
The Lord’s Mysterious Providence
William Cowper’s famous hymn begins:
God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but the Lord’s purpose prevails and will stand. When things are out of our control, we can rest in the fact that God is in control and not freak out. Lord, help me to remember this! The Bible teaches that God’s providence is His completely holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing every creature and every action, ordering them all to His own glory and our eternal good. He knows exactly how He planned human history to unfold and He plans all of our individual lives.1 That’s comforting when we stop to think about it.
Every Christian can say by faith that the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus, created Heaven and Earth and everything in them out of nothing and He still upholds and rules everything by His eternal purpose and providence. This God is now our God and Father because of Christ’s doing, dying, and rising. We can trust our God so much that we need not doubt that He will provide whatever we need for body and soul in this life and in the life to come. And the Lord will turn to our good whatever hardship He allows in this sad world. God is able to do this because He is all powerful and He wants to care for us because He is our loving and faithful Father.2 Elisabeth Elliot said: “You either believe God knows what He’s doing, or you don’t. You either believe He’s worth trusting, or you don’t.” Which way will we choose?
Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails and will stand.
God Worked It For Good
There are many Bible examples of these principles. Here are just a few. Pharaoh tried to kill all the Hebrew baby boys, but God caused Pharaoh’s daughter to adopt Moses unknowingly. So Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.3 Then the Lord made him Israel’s leader for the Exodus and the human author of Genesis through Deuteronomy. God overruled the bad for good.
Saul (Paul) the Pharisee planned to persecute Christians, but the Lord made him Jesus’ apostle to the Gentiles. The Jews formed a conspiracy and tried to kill Paul, but God rescued him and promised: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”4 Some scholars estimate that Paul traveled about 10,000 miles on foot to spread Christ’s message in the Roman Empire. He also wrote thirteen letters that we have in the New Testament. God overruled the bad for good.
Then the worst thing in history happened. Gentile and Jewish leaders conspired against God’s holy Son Jesus, the Lord’s anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to God’s agenda for the salvation of the world. God knew what would happen, and His prearranged plan was unfolded when Christ was betrayed, crucified, and raised from the dead. God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. The Lord was saving a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.5 God overruled the bad for good.
The Lord is Still Working
Before Christ’s ascension, His own disciples got it wrong and wanted Him to take over as a political king. But God’s better plan was to have Jesus rule over all things in Heaven while His Holy Spirit fills believers with wisdom and power to bring God’s good news of salvation everywhere on Earth until all Christ’s people, Jews and non-Jews are gathered in.6 As of the year 2020, 2.5 billion people claim to be Christians out of a worldwide population of about 7.8 billion. God is still working it for good, so let’s not doubt Him.
Prayer: Lord, you move in mysterious ways. As we don’t know the path of the wind, or how a human body is formed in a mother’s womb, so we cannot fully understand your work. You are the Maker and Master of all things.7 Give us faith, hope, courage, and strength to trust you and travel with you, no matter what paths you wisely choose for us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Notes (various translations): 1 Psalm 139. 2 Adapted from The Heidelberg Catechism #26. 3 Exodus chapters 1-2; Acts 7:17f. 4 Acts chapters 9,22,26; 23:11-22. 5 Acts 2:23, 4:26-28; 2 Cor 5:19; Rev 7:9. 6 Acts chapters 1-2. 7 Ecc 11:5.