In the new year, TV news channels often review the past year. The annual ritual includes significant events and achievements in politics, science, medicine, and international relations. There is the inevitable sad remembrance of famous people who died during the previous year, with a listing of their accomplishments and contributions to life and society. At the start of the new year, we look back on the old year—recalling memories both pleasant and painful.
The start of the new year is also a time when we naturally look forward. There are the inevitable New Year’s resolutions. People look ahead to the coming days and months, determined to be better in one way or another. They make promises to themselves to lose weight, exercise more, give up a bad habit, and be kinder and more thoughtful to their spouse.
But we also look forward in more ways than our promises to self-improve. We look ahead and make plans. Homeowners plan to remodel the kitchen. People in the sunset of their lives plan to retire and move to a warmer climate. Families plan to celebrate weddings and anniversaries and birthdays as well as schedule summer vacations. High school seniors decide which college they will attend in the fall or which skilled trade they will learn after graduation.
Congregations also make plans. They plan to add on to a growing school or expand the church building. Leadership groups in congregations identify new opportunities for outreach and plan to put into place the means to seize them.
The synod looks ahead and makes plans. The Board for Home Missions plans to open more missions and decides how best to do that. The Board for World Missions sees new opportunities in foreign countries and determines how more souls around the world can be reached with the gospel.
No matter what kind of planning we do, it is good to plan. Planning establishes goals. It requires careful thought. It involves decisions regarding stewardship of God’s gifts.
But good planning also requires something else. It means remembering what God tells us about making plans and the attitude we have when we make them. The apostle James spoke about this attitude when he wrote, “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’ ” (James 4:13-15).
Planning for the future is good, but godly planning means always understanding that our times are in God’s hands. We recognize that no matter how noble the goal, how wise the plan, how hard we work to carry out the plan, it will succeed only if it is in keeping with God’s gracious will for our lives. To think that our plans will succeed because of our wisdom or efforts would be the height of arrogance and pride. Instead, we plan and work with the faith and confidence that God will bring about the results he desires. As we plan in humble faith in God’s wisdom and promises, we place our plans entirely in his hands.
So make those plans and do all things to the glory of God. Then entrust the results to a gracious God.
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 109, Number 01
Issue: January 2022