How to Make Wise Plans: Know that God is Sovereign and You Are Responsible

In our sermon series through the book of Proverbs we examined the topic of making wise plans. Since this is such a broad topic, ranging across many sayings and aphorisms, I focused it with this question: What is true about people who makes wise plans?

In the first part of the sermon, we looked at Proverbs 16:1-9 to find the convictions of people who make wise plans. We discovered that people who make wise plans believe that God is sovereign and humans are responsible.

The book of Proverbs clearly upholds both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. On the one hand, it teaches that God has such control over the physical universe than not even a wave splashes farther than he decides (8:29). In the arena of warfare, soldiers may do everything they can do win the victory, but God has already determined the outcome of every battle. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (21:20). On the other hand, humans are responsible to decide and act. We are admonished to “prepare your work outside” and “get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house” (24:27).

At first glance, it might seem intellectually irresponsible to believe in both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Don’t these beliefs contradict each other? Without plunging into philosophical debate, consider the practical consequences of jettisoning either belief. Abandon, for the sake of argument, belief in God’s sovereignty. That leaves only human responsibility and the result would be paralysis by anxiety. Now hold to God’s sovereignty but abandon belief in human responsibility. The result would be paralysis by apathy (or perhaps, anxiety again). In either case, wise planning goes out the window.

The book of Proverbs, however, commends both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. For example: “The plans of the heart belong to man”—that’s my responsibility—“but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord”—that’s God’s sovereignty (Proverbs 16:1). Consider also Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man”—that’s my responsibility—“but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”—that’s God’s sovereignty. These two convictions—that God is completely sovereign and that I am responsible—form the bedrock of wise planning.

There’s a word that neatly summarizes the mindset that accepts and lives by these two convictions— trust. Thus, Solomon exhorts his son, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So, far from being irresponsible living by these beliefs is the way to make wise plans.

Consider these practical implications. People who hold to God’s sovereignty and human responsibility can . . .

1. Plan without presumption. They say, “I make plans, and God may change them.” See James 4:13-14.

2. Work without anxiety. They say, “I work my plans, and God decides the outcome.” See Mark 4:26-29; 1 Corinthians 3:6.

3. Succeed without pride. They say, “My plans may succeed, and God gets the credit.” See 1 Corinthians 15:10.

4. Fail without despair. They say, “My plans may fail, and God has something better planned.” See 2 Samuel 7:5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.