Plans for a New Year

What are your plans for 2022? Perhaps you plan to get married, or continue your studies, or look for a different job, or buy a house, or travel abroad.

Whatever your plans may be, I hope you will consider what God teaches in Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (ESV). One version puts it this way: “People may plan all kinds of things, but the LORD’s will is going to be done.” There is one important lesson on planning that we can glean from this verse: Unless our plans are part of God’s eternal plan, they will not succeed.

To be clear, Proverbs 19:21 does not discourage or forbid us to plan. In fact, elsewhere in the Bible God calls us to plan for our future, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance” (Prov. 21:5). We are to plan carefully, and yet as we make plans, let us realize that our plans are subordinate to God’s sovereign will. God’s eternal plan is supreme over all our plans. Not all that we plan will come to pass. 

The word “plans” in Proverbs 19:21 comes from the Hebrew verb khawshab, which means to think of something that you want to do: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man.” Plans are your thoughts—things that are going on in your mind—things that you intend to accomplish or acquire. In fact, in the original the word “mind” in Proverbs 19:21 can also be translated as “heart.” That’s why in the King James Version we read, “There are many devices [or plans] in a man’s heart.”

The heart is regarded as the center of your life. Your plans are what occupy the center of your life. These are the things that you care about, or motivate you to live. For instance, in the Parable of the Rich Fool, a parable which illustrates the sin of covetousness, we see the rich fool making plans that occupy his entire life:

“And he [the rich fool] said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry”’ (Luke 12:18–19).

The rich fool made selfish and greedy plans, “but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” The word “purpose” here comes from the Hebrew verb that means “to determine.” Before the foundation of the world, God had already determined that which must happen. This is his eternal decree or counsel. God’s plan is perfect, and it must take place. Therefore, unless our plans are part of God’s eternal plan, they will not succeed.

So do you have plans for this year? What plans occupy your mind and heart? Remember that before you were even born, God had already made a plan for you, and unless your plans are compatible with his eternal plan, your plans will not prosper.

You may have grand (and even good!) aspirations for your days ahead. But how many days do you have? What if God says to you, “This night your soul is required of you”? The grass withers, the flower fades—and so may your life before the next year ends.

Please, don’t think I’m trying to scare you. I’m simply telling you the truth so that, when you plan, you will commit your plans to the Lord. Because unless the Lord blesses your plans, they will fail. The rich fool did not commit his plans to God. He did not even involve God in his thoughts. He thought he was a wise planner. He indeed became wise in his own eyes. Well, the Bible says, “do not lean on your own understanding… In all your ways acknowledge [God]… Be not wise in your own eyes” (Prov. 3:5–7). Are you a wise planner, or a foolish planner like the rich fool?  

Learn to qualify your plans by saying, “If the Lord wills, I will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). Learn to pray like Jesus, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Luke 22:42). This ought to be our prayer as we plan, “Father, I desire your will to be done, not mine, because I know your will is always for my good and for the glory of your name.” 

Whatever plans we have this year, let’s commit them to the Lord, humbly acknowledging both that his plan will stand and that his plan is good. We praise God for the work of men like David Livingstone, Alexander Mackay, and William Carey—and yet forget that each of their original plans gave way to the grander plan of God. The same can be said for thousands of others; will it be said of you?

God knows what is best for us. So let’s learn to submit to his eternal, wise, perfect sovereign will. Remember, the best place to be is in the will of God. If you are doing the Lord’s will, wherever you are, you are in the best place. And remember, too, as someone has said, “the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

Happy New Year!

Brian Najapfour has been a minister of the gospel since 2001. Born and reared in the Philippines, he has served both in the Philippines and in the U.S. He recently accepted a call to Heritage Reformed Congregation in Jordan, Ontario, Canada. He has authored and co-edited numerous books and has contributed several articles to journals, periodicals, and encyclopedias.

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