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Does Planning Show A Lack of Faith?

Written By Jasmine Ong, New Zealand

Three months ago, I began considering a move from a regional Australian town so I could live closer to my sister, Michele, who lives in a bigger capital city. Michele and I enjoy a very close relationship, and I was starting to feel lonely living apart from family in my small town.

Friends cautioned that the busy pace of city life and the high cost of living would result in my social isolation and financial ruin. Besides, many other siblings live separately from each other and thrive. However, if I absolutely must go, then I should begin job hunting immediately, as it could take six months or longer to find a new job in my particular industry.

I got started on job hunting right away. I frequently refreshed my job-hunting apps for newly advertised jobs. I manipulated my search criteria to yield more matches, scoured career blogs for tips on application writing and interviews . . . anything that would increase my chances of landing a new job in my new city. I also adhered to a strict budget to save up for three months’ living expenses in case I found myself unemployed. All of these activities involved serious planning and enormous effort.

This made me wonder whether my planning was an attempt to make things run according to my timeline, in my own strength . . . maybe even to wrestle control away from God. I wavered between two thoughts during this period. First, I wanted to be with my sister as soon as possible, and expected God to bless my unrelenting effort. Yet, I wondered if all this effort was necessary?

After all, if God wanted me to live closer to family, He would surely work things out, wouldn’t He? I’ve heard so many testimonies of how things simply fall into place because of the person’s strong faith—in those stories, it seemed like God did everything for the person short of boarding the airplane.

Should I have simply trusted that God would provide for me, and moved cities without working to plan ahead? Did my planning reveal an immature faith that doubted God’s provision? I was not sure how to strike a balance between trusting God while doing my part.

So I looked to the Bible to see how plans can be a part of our faith journey, and I found four helpful insights.

 

1. Planning uses our God-given abilities

God makes plans. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah writes to the Israelites in exile, “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11). Even though the Israelites were going through difficult times, God showed them that He had a bigger plan in mind for their futures.

God knows the future and is able to incorporate all our actions and choices into His grand plans. As beings created in His image, we can also think ahead and anticipate challenges. When we make plans for the future, we act like our heavenly Father.

 

2. Planning is wise

The book of Proverbs reminds us often to plan for the future. In one instance, the author exhorts the reader, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).

The Bible clearly shows us that we will be better equipped to weather life’s storms if we plan and prepare for the future.

 

3. Planning can be an antidote to worry

Instead of worrying about the future in vain (Luke 12:25-31), we can prepare for it by planning and committing those plans to God.

As Proverbs 16:3 admonishes us, “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and He will establish your plans”. The noble wife described in Proverbs laughs without fear of the future, but only after waking at the crack of dawn to plan her day, which includes inspecting fields, planting vineyards, bringing food from afar, and sewing enough clothes for her household (Proverbs 31:10-31).

 

4. Planning can be an act of obedience to God

And then there’s the biblical account of Noah (Genesis 1:6-8), which describes Noah’s incredible faith and steadfast obedience to God’s command to build an ark. Noah, however, did an inordinate amount of planning—from building a seaworthy ark, to storing up enough supplies for all the animals and his family.

Scripture clearly shows us then, that planning our actions in order to obey God can demonstrate a reverent fear of God, rather than a lack of faith. In 2014, for example, I volunteered at a children’s home in rural China—this involved saving for the trip, arranging leave from work, learning Mandarin, and familiarizing myself with Chinese culture. Planning all of this enabled me to minister safely and effectively in the mission field.

 

The act of planning happens all throughout the Bible and is even encouraged. I was not wrong to plan, but there was something that I was missing.

Despite all the planning I did to ensure a smooth relocation, there were still many challenges that I faced. It was painful when my job applications were rejected, and it was difficult to say goodbye to friends I had made. It was frustrating when I could not find a suitable place to live. I spent too many nights replaying the scenes of a botched interview in my mind and wondering what it would be like to sleep rough on the streets for lack of suitable housing.

During these times, I needed the reminder of Proverbs 19:21, that though the plans in a person’s heart are many, it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. God’s purpose may not be giving me a specific job in a specific city, but I can trust that whatever happens, He works all things out in order that we may become more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). So while I might find myself unemployed, lonely, and utterly disappointed, I can be comforted knowing that God’s purpose will prevail. That is a great promise worth persevering for.

This perspective on God’s purpose allowed me to let go of some of the stress over unfulfilled plans, and even find enjoyment despite the challenges. I did eventually find a job in my industry, as well as housing that enabled me to share a home with my sister, but there were other day-to-day challenges that I did not anticipate, such as adjusting to the new climate, transport systems, and accessing public services. However, navigating them helped me grow as a person, particularly in the areas of compassion and patience.

This entire experience taught me that while it’s good and wise to make plans, let’s also be ready to listen to God and accept His ways, even if they are different or contrary to the plans we’ve made. I pray that God will guide you and give you wisdom, courage, and peace as you make plans for your future!

When Reality Doesn’t Match Up With Your Dreams

Written By Sean Tong, England

“MORE!!!”

Through the tiny slit of the curtain, the baying fans coalesced into one voice commanding that we come back on stage. It was a frenzy. The floor began to thump with the incessant pounding of feet declaring their need for more. I held back a few moments to bask in my success. Then I calmly walked on stage, grabbed my Fender Mustang guitar, and enjoyed the overflowing joy of the crowd as I struck the first staccato chords of the encore.

I wish.

Since I first caught the primal energy of the band Nirvana, I had wanted, nay, longed to be on a stage with a guitar whipping a crowd into a stage-diving, beer-flinging, arm-waving sea of joy.

Instead, I find myself in a normal nine-to-five job. In a normal town. In a normal life. Is there any purpose to this? What is life for if I can’t spend my days rocking it out at the world’s greatest rock festivals? This wasn’t the life I had hoped for. But the need for a stable job, lack of a drummer (why are drummers so hard to find?), and a growing desire to stay in my local church precluded that from ever happening.

Perhaps you feel a sense of unfulfillment too. Life may not be all that you were expecting. That dream career with a big fat salary and excellent pension fund never materialized. That exceptionally beautiful/handsome spouse never showed up. You are just waiting for life to. . . happen.

So, what is the point? What are we to do?

One of the Pharisees once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus’ reply?

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. And also we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is our purpose. That is what we are to do. These two things do not sound particularly appealing or exciting, but they are better, more beautiful, and longer lasting than any life as a rock star, award-winning actor, or sports personality. Indeed, James Bond author Ian Fleming was once asked what it was like to be successful. “Ashes, dear boy, ashes,” came his despondent reply.

It’s been a journey in learning to lay down my dreams and obey God’s commands, but God has worked wonderfully in my life so that I am currently content. He has given me a wonderful (though at times frustrating and annoying) church family to love and enjoy. I am fulfilled despite the lack of loving adoration from a rock concert crowd. Spending time with others in my church is where I get my contentment—from serving them as I serve Him. Getting to share the joys and disappointments of everyday life with my church family is what I enjoy and long for now.

Loving our neighbor doesn’t have to show itself in extraordinary ways. This purpose in our lives doesn’t have to (though it definitely might) involve something dramatic and outlandish. We don’t have to be a famous preacher with book sales through the roof. We don’t have to start organizations that will feed half the world’s poor. We don’t have to be the best at everything at church.

So, what does this love look like?

It looks like a humble life that seeks to serve God and others. This will likely be in a variety of ways, but it can be as simple as helping others at church. Offering lifts to the elderly, sharing your home with others, reading the Bible and praying with others, cooking meals for those who are ill, or just sitting down with someone over a cup of tea.

We don’t have to despair with our lot—we do have a purpose. And even work hours (that nine-to-five spent not performing rock songs) provides opportunities for me to obey this command. The joy in helping others in their work and sharing life with them is truly more meaningful than any response from a killer distorted power chord.

 

It’s Time to Submit to God

Photo taken by Blake Wisz

Day 23 | Today’s passage: James 4:7-10 | Historical context of James

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

I remember scribbling on my Bible as a kid. I would highlight verses and commandments that I liked, those that I thought were softer on the ears and easier to obey. My Bible ended up pretty clean, since there were many hard truths that I struggled to accept and live out and hence, chose to ignore.

After all, why should I love my neighbour like how I love myself (Mark 12:31) when I could just focus on loving myself? Why should I be the first to keep showing forgiveness (Matthew 18:22) to those around me when they were the ones who were mean to me? Why should I live peaceably (Romans 12:18) when I could stand up for myself and pick a fight with whomever got in my way?

It was a tough struggle.

Let’s face it, submission to God—be it to His Word or His Person—is easier said than done. It takes a great deal out of us to put aside our pride and the rights we think we deserve, and to humble ourselves in obedience before God. Recognizing His sovereignty and trusting in the never-failing character of God can be scary, especially when it dawns on you that doing so means giving up control over the situation you’re in. The world and our flesh constantly tempt us with lies, telling us that there is more joy and pleasure when we retain control and make decisions that pander to our own selfish desires and pride.

However, James exhorts us to submit to God in humility (v. 7). I’m thankful that James doesn’t just leave us with a command without much explanation on how to obey it. Instead, he provides us with a step-by-step process, and sums it up with the same theme of humble submission in verse 10.

Earlier on, James highlighted the consequences of our friendship with the world (4:4) Now, he reminds us that submission, which is shown through obedience to God, is intentional. It requires a complete change in heart—a resolution to love God instead of the world. It challenges us to put aside what we want, and to consider and act on what God wants instead.

We are told to take a two-pronged approach in submission—to “resist the devil” (v. 7b), and to “come near to God” (v. 8a). Resisting suggests a deliberate, persistent and active rejection. It’s almost like engaging in military combat against the devil, enduring his taunts and lies, and ultimately rising above the temptation.

Turning away from the devil, we run in the opposite direction towards God. This could be done through prayer and reading His word. Coming close to God requires us to wash our hands and purify our hearts (v. 8b). And we are to do so with a clear focus and a firm resolve—that we are no longer allowing our hearts to waver and return to our prior state of sinfulness.

These actions symbolize both an inward and outward effort we make to be right with God. It is an instruction to clean up our inner being (thoughts) as well as our external being (deeds). In fact, our sinful selves are so dirty and detestable before God that we are told to “grieve, mourn and wail” (v. 9). Hence, choosing to turn to God in confession and repentance is precious, because that’s when sanctification occurs.

Doing all the above might sound difficult and tiring, but James goes on to assure us of the reward we will receive. When we approach God with clean hands and a cleansed heart, we don’t just receive praises or compliments. Instead, we receive the greatest gift of all—God Himself—when He draws near to us (v. 8).

Personally, keeping my eyes on this magnificent reward motivates me to come to God daily in obedience and repentance as I make the choice to submit to Him in my life.

May it do the same for you as well.

—Constance Goh, Singapore

Questions for reflection

1. Is there a particular sin/habit that you struggle to abandon in submission to God?

2. What practical steps can you take to draw near to God?

Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu


Constance is an avid reader and a Milo addict. If she is not found with a book, she is probably watching Korean dramas or jamming on her guitar to some Coldplay tunes. She enjoys the company of children and hopes to work among them in the future. As someone who believes that hardship on this earth is nothing compared to the future glory in heaven, she takes pride in being able to work hard for God.

Read 30-day James Devotional

A Quick Summary Of James 1:16-27

How has your reading of James been this week? What have you learned? Here’s a quick reminder of this week’s key truths.

(Once again, do note that no devotions will be sent over the weekend.)