". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


We Should Plan. But It’s God Who Decides.

March 19, 2024

As we plan for the events of life, whether a picnic or retirement or anything else, we are wise to consider carefully what might happen. Yet as we all know, an unexpected rainstorm can ruin a basket lunch in the park, and an economic downturn can suddenly diminish, if not destroy, long-term savings.

The Bible has a lot to say about preparation for the future. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5), Solomon tells us. Yet while this wise counsel should inspire us to work hard and save prudently, it is not an ironclad guarantee of financial success. Many believers around the world work with great energy and try to sock away whatever little they have left over from daily expenses, but they still live in relative poverty because of limited opportunities or repressive economic conditions.

The apostle James offers us a sobering warning about the pretense of thinking we can control our lives as we wish. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” Instead, James writes, “You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15). This is not to say that every time you go to the grocery store, you need to tell yourself, “If the Lord wills, I’ll buy salmon for dinner.” Rather, James is reminding us that any confidence we have in our own ability to predict with certainty the outcomes of our lives, whether in the short- or long-term, indicates unjustified arrogance and a rejection of an inescapable reality: God is in command, not us. This is why Solomon reminds us that while “many are the plans in the mind of a man … it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).

These truths are as relevant to the political as to the personal. Psalm 146 is a vivid reminder that placing our hope in any political leader is not just a form of idolatry but really quite pathetic. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” This is about as clear and declarative a statement as anyone could make. Why? Because whatever good a leader does in the short-term, he is like the rest of us — mortal, transient. “When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”

Does this mean we should greet the current political season with a shrug? Not at all. Followers of Jesus are to “seek the welfare of the city” where He has sent us and “pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare [we] will find [our] welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). We must both stand for truth and seek to advance righteousness, whether in our personal lives or service as Christian citizens.

Rather, we need to remember that no election will bring about a permanent resolution of the crises of our time. Not only are virtually all desired political changes achieved incrementally, but we delude ourselves if we believe any public figure will fulfill all his or her promises or realize all of our political hopes. Consider the psalmist’s reminder of Who actually does these things (146:5-9):

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, Who keeps faith forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.”

The repeated emphasis is it is the Lord Who accomplishes all these things. Can we be His instruments in doing these things? Yes, certainly. For example, many of the readers of The Stand are adoptive or foster parents, faithful and loving men and women who have brought “the fatherless” into their homes and hearts. Moreover, we are right to support candidates whose character and convictions reflect fidelity to God’s priorities for political and social life.

But this brings us back to the central issue: We are right to consider probable outcomes, to anticipate and plan wisely. But we simply can’t bank on a candidate, a party, or any other human being or institution to complete the work the King reserves for Himself alone, nor should our hope in anyone be so desperate that we ignore his or her failings and failures. The Lord “brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness,” we read in Isaiah 40. “Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when He blows on them, and they wither.”

This is why Psalm 146 concludes with words that should both brace and comfort us: “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” To Him belongs all sovereignty and glory, in things from picnics to elections.

To which, I hope, all of God’s people can say, “Amen!”

Rob Schwarzwalder, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.