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How to Plan to Fail

I don’t enjoy failing. I am sure you don’t either. I love to see my plans come together.

Planning is one of those activities in which we humans engage under the heavens. The Old Testament book, Proverbs, commends the wisdom of planning. Yet, there is a fundamental attitudinal error we can make in our planning: overconfidence.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”
-- James 1:13

This verse challenges the delusions about our self-sufficiency. You may not make it to that city because your flight was canceled due to a hurricane. Or, you may come down with a 24-hour stomach bug. Your business venture may end up in a financial loss due to a volatile stock market. As much as we’d like to think we’re autonomous, we’re not.

James is quick to adjust our sense of ourselves in God’s world.

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.
 -- James 4:14

Boastful planning discounts one important truth about God: God is all-knowing. It also fails to recognize two humbling truths about ourselves: our knowledge is limited and our existence is fleeting. Sobering, isn’t it? So, now what?

James urges us to adjust our attitude from haughtiness to humility.

Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 
-- James 4:15

Humility is a thread in the previous passage (James 4:1-10) that James weaves into this section. The humble person recognizes his finite knowledge and fleeting existence and plans while depending upon the Lord. This planning is in accord with the nugget of wisdom of Proverbs 16:9 which says, “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Go on making your plans, but avoid the error of boastful planning. Instead, hold loosely to your plans as you hold firmly to Christ who determines your steps. When your hope is in Jesus, you can have confidence because God’s plan always comes together for your good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Pastor Tim
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