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Bible Study: Our plans, God’s sovereignty

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies For Life curriculum.

Bible Passages: James 4:13-17, 5:7-11

Discussion Question: When has an unexpected change turned out better than the original plan?

Food for Thought by Jim Wilson*:

Olaf, the snowman in Frozen, dreamed about leaving the dreary days of winter and experiencing the warmth of summer. The audience entered his daydream as he sang the song titled, “In Summer,” about all the wonderful things he had heard about the season of summer.

He sang about blowing fuzz off dandelions from the lawn, lying on the beach under an umbrella, riding in a canoe on a lake, going for a swim, relaxing in a jacuzzi, dancing under a gazebo, going on a picnic, and experiencing the warmth of the sun.

Even the children watching the movie know exactly what will happen to Olaf if he ever gets his wish. However, the lovable, naive snowman does not realize that he will never see summer because he will melt in the spring.

We’re not fictitious animated characters, but we can also be wrong about the future and what we plan to do. When that happens, how do we respond? In this last session from the book of James, we’ll see where our focus should be even as we plan for the future.

Nothing is wrong with planning. In fact, the Bible contains several proverbs that encourage us to make plans:

  • Like the ant, wise people plan and prepare for times of need (Proverbs 6:6-11).
  • Wise people include counselors when planning (Proverbs 15:22; 20:18).
  • Diligent people make plans, which leads to abundance (Provers 21:5).

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told a parable about wise and foolish virgins. Jesus called the unprepared wedding attendants “foolish,” but He called those who prepared “wise” (Matthew 25:1-13). Jesus also spoke of the wisdom of planning as He called people to count the cost of following Him (Luke 14:28-33).

Planning is important, but planning is also fallible. Even the wisest executives cannot know what the future holds. Only God knows the future, and only God is infallible. These truths should humble even the most confident planner. However, the businesspeople in James’ example lacked humility and made their plans as if they confidently knew the future. Plans are good, but these people were boasting in their arrogance. Their arrogant action was not that they made plans; it was that they thought they knew or could control the future.

Not only did the businesspeople in James’ example not know what the future would be, they did not even know if they would have a future. Life, James cautioned, is just a vapor that is here for a moment and then disappears. Only God knows how long we will live (Job 14:1-6).

Stan Gerlach made this point as he delivered a eulogy and presented the Gospel at a funeral. He said, “You never know when God is going to take your life. At that moment, there’s nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?” When he finished, he sat down and immediately fell over and died. Members of his family tried to resuscitate him but were unable to do so.

Life is precious and fragile. We should plan, but we must subject our plans to God’s will. “Many plans are in a person’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21).

We do not put our trust in our plans. We put our trust in God, submitting our plans to God’s will.

*Jim L. Wilson is professor of leadership formation and director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Bible Studies for Life

Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God’s Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found on the internet at biblestudiesforlife.com.