This article is about making plans and staying dependent on God. How do we see the providence of God while planning for the future?

Source: Clarion, 2001. 3 pages.

The Gospel of God's Providence - Lord Willing

We believe that this good God, after He had created all things, did not abandon them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that according to His holy will He so rules and governs them that in this world nothing happens without His direction.

Belgic Confession Article 13

The Lord gives to all life, breath, and all things. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:25, 28). The LORD provides our food (Psalm 145:15, 16), directs our ways (Proverbs 20:24) and supplies us with all our material and spiritual needs (Philippians 4:19).

Christ and Providence🔗

The Lord God carries out his providence through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God, through whom the world was made, upholds all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth... All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16, 17). Christ is the One through whom all creation is preserved and governed. The laws of nature and the forces of nature are under his control. He is the power that holds and binds the entire universe together. You could say He is the glue keeping it all together. Without the binding power of Jesus Christ, the earth would burst at the seams and the heavens would split wide open.

Christ’s redemption is of cosmic and universal significance. The cross at Golgotha, which cancels the bond which stood against us sinners (Colossians 2:14), was not only erected for the inner peace of sinners’ souls. Through Christ’s death, the Lord is pleased to take hold of this world and settle everything into its rightful place. Christ did not find the creation repulsive or out of his realm. Sin brought chaos into the world. Through the blood of the Lamb this world is on its way from estrangement to restoration. The beginning of this renewal is seen within the church, among people who submit themselves to Christ’s rule and government.

No Self-Designed Plans🔗

The Lord rules, governs and maintains everything by his providential hand. Acknowledging God’s providential care we believe and confess that future events will only take place if the Lord wills. Thus the execution of God’s plan must determine the manner in which we realize our own plans.

In the fourth chapter of his letter, James exhorts us to see the proper relationship between God’s providence and our planning. He combats the attitude, whether done boastfully or in silence, which suggests we chart our own direction and make our own decisions. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit’.”

Those to whom James wrote, made their plans, presuming everything would go their way. These people chose their own time (today or tomorrow), their own location (we will go into such and such a town), their own timetable (and spend a year) and finally they chose their own operation (we will trade and make profit). Yet something is seriously amiss. They assume that they will be living tomorrow or be in good health the next week or that the economy will cooperate with their plans. One thing is left out of the plan: the will and providence of the Lord. At very best it is planning that tags God on to add some validation. It is the sort of planning that thanks the Lord for blessing us as long as everything goes our way.

Not All Planning is Bad🔗

Confessing God’s providence, however, does not rule out human planning. The book of Proverbs, as well as other Bible books, set forth the wisdom of good planning. There is nothing wrong with having a strategy for the future. The question is: how do we make our plans? Are we controlled by God’s sovereign will and his providence?

The Lord warns against the secular dreaming and manner of working that puts ourselves and our accomplishments at the centre of the universe. We get so preoccupied and absorbed with our own goals that we can’t quit thinking about it while we are in church or stop talking about it once we get out of church. During the week we have no time to “stop and smell the roses” which the Lord, in his providence, placed in his creation for our enjoyment. We will never become aware of how the heavens declare the glory of God and his firmament shows his handiwork if we remain engrossed in our own world. God’s blueprint for living should not be replaced by our own design.

Showing Our Dependence Upon God🔗

We must live and act as those who are completely dependent on the Lord and live out of his hand, also in times of prosperity. If we ignore the providence of God in our plans we build them on quicksand. The Lord says, “You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. You do not know whether you will be around long enough to see your business flourish or to enjoy years of retirement.” God says to those who make self-designed plans,

Don’t you know that I, in my providence, may demand your soul before this day is out?Luke 12:20

The small print of life is in God’s sovereign hand too. We may be full of energy with places to go and people to meet but the Lord can take us away suddenly – even in our teens. Every birthday celebration, every funeral you attend, every serious illness, and every time you sit down to plan, is a reminder from God that our life is governed and upheld by his providence and not by our foresight or good vision. Each year that is added to our earthly journey is a gift from God.

Following the Lord’s Design🔗

A proper response to the gospel of God’s providence is to repeat what James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). As a child of God, I must realize that I am dependent on the will and providence of God every second of my life. It is the LORD who willed it that I woke up this morning. He upholds and governs my life and therefore I may begin each new day in his strength.

The book of Proverbs contains two relevant sayings in this regard:

There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel – that will stand.Proverbs 19:21

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.Proverbs 21:1

The king’s heart – his entire being – his mind, his thoughts, his attitudes, his policies, his ability to write laws and edicts may make it seem like he is in charge, but the entire matter from start to finish rests in the Lord’s hands. God is in charge, not world rulers or world economists. The Lord is able to turn the heart of the king wherever He wills. In other words, once all has been said and done, after our plans have been hammered out – thought through, reworked, decided on, and distributed – it is ultimately his plan which will be carried out and established.

The Lord Willing🔗

We need to start each day with the LORD and follow his design as laid out for us in Scripture. What we have in mind for the day will only be completed if God wills. As Reformed believers we have become accustomed to expressing this in a very visible way by appending the phrase “the Lord willing” or the Latin “Deo volente” to all our official notices. To express our complete dependence on the Lord by adding “the Lord willing” to our plans is a good practice. Yet it should never develop into a superstition or a commonplace expression that is void of meaning. It shouldn’t serve as some sort of good-luck charm or gage by which we measure the faith and trust of others.

Confidence for the Future🔗

Since the Lord is in charge and will not let this world fall to ruin, we can be confident that He will fulfil his purpose with the world, in our own life and in that of our children. For this reason it is futile to worry about the future. Confessing God’s providence, the future should be the least of our worries. The Lord, who takes care of the plant and animal world in such a wonderful way (Matthew 6:28, 29), will take care of his church, of our physical and financial needs, of our young people when they are out at night, of persecuted believers. Instead of worrying, seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness and thank Him for his blessings and care. Believing God’s providence, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Let your heart be filled with praise as you say,

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.Psalm 103:2

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