Proverbs 8) Wisdom for the Future

Wisdom for the Future

 

What are your plans for the future? Maybe you’re planning your next holiday. Maybe you’re planning a change in your university degree, or your work. Maybe you’re planning a move to a different suburb. Maybe you’re planning for your retirement. We all make plans for the future. But how should we plan? What things should we consider when making important decisions? Is there a right and a wrong way to make decisions? Those are the questions we’re going to look at this morning. The book of Proverbs contains a lot of wisdom for the future, and like usual it contrasts foolish plans with wise plans.

 

1) Foolish Plans

So let’s start with foolish plans. According to Proverbs there is a wrong way to make plans. In fact, Proverbs says five things about foolish plans.

a) Fools ignore advice

Firstly, when it comes to planning only a fool would ignore advice. In the opening chapter the writer says, ‘25 …you ignored all my advice… (Prov 1:25a)’ and again, ‘30 …they would not accept my advice… (Prov 1:30a)’ If you wanted to invest some money for your retirement you would talk to a financial adviser. They would tell you what would be a good investment and what would be a bad investment. If you wanted to travel overseas you would talk to a travel agent. They would tell you where to get the cheapest flights, when’s the best time to travel, and where you shouldn’t go. If you wanted to get insurance, you’d go to comparethemarket.com.au, not comparethemeerkat.com.au. If you wanted to know about God and how he wants you to live, all you have to do is read the Bible. In fact, Proverbs is pretty much a book of advice. Unfortunately, fools ignore advice and they make bad plans because of it. They don’t listen to the wisdom of others.

b) Fools get bad advice

And if they do happen to listen to advice, a fool will often only listen to bad advice. If you’re going to make good plans for the future, you need good advice, and so you need to go to someone you can trust, someone who knows what is right. Proverbs 12:5 says, ‘5 …the advice of the wicked is deceitful. (Prov 12:5b)’ Don’t go to a criminal for good advice, because you’ll get bad advice. Don’t go to someone you know is dodgy, because you’ll get dodgy advice.

c) Fools plan evil

Thirdly, fools plan evil. Proverbs 3:29 says, ‘29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor… (Prov 3:29a)’ To plan to hurt someone else is a bad plan. We see this sort of bad planning all through the New Testament. The Pharisees are constantly planning to harm people. For example, ‘15 …the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap [Jesus] in his words. (Mt 22:15)’ And later, ‘4 …they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. (Mt 26:4)’ If you’re planning something that will harm someone else, or something that’s illegal, it’s a bad plan.

d) Foolish plans go astray

In fact, Proverbs says that bad plans have a tendency to go astray, they don’t work out so well. Proverbs 14:22 asks the question, ‘22 Do not those who plot evil go astray? (Prov 14:22a)’ And the answer is yes. Proverbs 14:22 presumes that everyone knows that people who plot evil end up in bad situations. Basically, if you make bad plans bad things will happen to you. This is a consistent teaching, not just of Proverbs, but also in the New Testament. Jesus says, ‘2 …with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Mt 7:2b)’ And later he says, ‘52 …all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Mt 26:52b)’ I classic example was those two teenagers earlier this week planning to rob a local pub, only to have the patrons turn the tables on them, literally. Foolish plans have a tendency to turn on you.

e) God condemns foolish plans

But most significantly, God condemns foolish plans. Proverbs 15:26 says ‘26 Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord… (Prov 15:26a NASB)’ In fact, earlier we read that God abhors ‘18 a heart that devises wicked schemes… (Prov 6:18a)’ They are strong words. If you plan evil, if you’re planning to harm someone, if what you’re planning is wrong, then God is not on your side. God abhors evil plans, they are an abomination in his sight. Foolish people ignore advice, or listen to bad advice, they plan evil, and their plans will go astray. God doesn’t want us to make bad plans.

 

2) Wise Plans

Instead God wants us to make wise plans. But how do you make wise plans?

a) Wise people seek advice

Firstly, wise people seek advice before they make their plans. I found seven proverbs that deal with this idea alone. According to the opening chapter the book of Proverbs was written to ‘5 …let the discerning get guidance. (Prov 1:5b)’ Like I said earlier Proverbs is a book of good advice, so if you want to make good plans read Proverbs. Here are a few examples. Proverbs 15:22, ‘22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Prov 15:22)’ Proverbs 20:18, ‘18 Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance. (Prov 20:18, cf. 11:14; 24:6)’ And Proverbs 19:20, ‘20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Prov 19:20)’ The point, if you want to make good plans get as much advice as you can before you make them. When Alice and I had to make a decision about the call to St Mary’s we talked to as many people as possible, and we got some really good advice that helped us make a decision. The best people to get advice from are those you trust, your best friends. Proverbs 27:9 says, ‘9 …the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. (Prov 27:9b)’ Wise people seek advice.

b) Wise plans are godly

Secondly, wise people seek advice that is godly. When you make your plans you need to ask if your plan honours God. Proverbs 12:5 says, ‘5 The plans of the righteous are just… (Prov 12:5a)’ In Proverbs certain words are theologically loaded and this is one of them. If you were to ask the original audience of Proverbs if just meant what you thought was just, or what was just in your culture, they would just look at you blankly. Justice is what God thinks is just. Righteousness is what God thinks is right. Fair is what God thinks is fair. When you make your plans you need to ask whether they are right in God’s eyes. Another proverb that speaks to this idea is Proverbs 29:18, ‘18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. (Prov 29:18)’ The idea is that unless you have a vision, or a plan for the future, people don’t have direction and so they just do whatever. But only if our plan is based on God’s law will it be blessed. Wise plans are godly, they reflect God’s character.

c) Wise plans are committed to the Lord

Thirdly, wise plans are committed, or entrusted, to the Lord. Proverbs 16:3 says, ‘3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Prov 16:1-3)’ And this principle is essential to understand, because we don’t always know if what we plan lines up with God’s plan for us. Proverbs 27:1 says, ‘1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. (Prov 27:1)’ The truth is we don’t have a clue what is going to happen tomorrow. Jesus actually tells a parable about just this issue. A rich man had a bumper year and decided to invest it all in himself so he could retire early and live the good life, but God says, ‘20 …You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (Lk 12:20)’ We don’t know what tomorrow, or even tonight will bring, so we need to hold our plans lightly, we need to commit them to the Lord. James picks up this idea in his letter. Rather than making plans without any reference to God, James writes, ‘15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (Jam 4:15; cf. Act 18:21; 21:14; 1 Cor 4:19)’ James isn’t saying we shouldn’t make plans, but that we should hold onto them lightly, that we should be aware that God may change our plans. We’re going to explore this idea in a bit more depth in our third point this morning.

d) Wise plans lead to blessing

Next, according to Proverbs, plans that are made on good advice, that are godly, and committed to the Lord, result in blessing. Proverbs 21:5 says, ‘5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit… (Prov 21:5a)’ If you make wise plans more often than not they will work out. Good advice usually leads to good results. If you plan to live God’s way, you will usually experience God’s blessing. We saw this concept in our Mother’s Day sermon about a godly woman. Because she planned ahead, because she stored up food and warm clothes we’re told ‘25 …she can laugh at the days to come. (Prov 31:25b)’ Wise planning leads to confidence in the future. Not that we dictate what the future holds, because anything can happen tomorrow, but we have done what we can, and we leave the rest in God’s hands. Earlier we looked at how evil plans go astray, well the rest of that verse says, ‘22 …but those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness. (Prov 14:22b)’ Again these are loaded words. Sure if you plan to have a good marriage you’ll be blessed with a marriage filled with love and faithfulness. But these words also have a deep theological meaning, if you plan what is good in God’s sight you will experience God’s love and faithfulness in your life. God blesses those who honour him. We’ve seen all through this series that the smartest thing you can do is to fear the Lord. If you make wise plans, plans that honour God you will know God’s blessing.

I want to ask you this morning: how wise are you in your planning? When you make decisions about the future, or any decisions for that matter, do you seek advice from people you trust and respect? Do you ask yourself whether your plans are godly plans? Do your decisions honour God, or are they really just self-centred? Do your plans reflect God’s character? For example, do they balance out God’s commitment to work with God’s commitment to rest. Holidays are good, God worked holidays all through the yearly calendar of his people, and even through their work week, and even through your work day, but if you’re planning to make holidays a lifestyle, rather than planning to serve God and his people it mightn’t be such a godly plan. And you can apply that principle to how you plan to spend your money, or where to take your career, and even what sort of house you’ll buy. Wise people seek advice, their plans honour God, they commit them to the Lord, and they will be blessed.

 

3) God’s Plans

But what are God’s plans? What does God want you to do with your life? It’s a good question and I don’t have a clue, so I’ll see you next week. Just kidding. But that’s one of the most difficult questions people ask, ‘What does God want me to do?’ I remember being so uncertain about one particular decision in life that I told people I wish God would tie a note to a brick and drop it on my head. I must admit feeling a bit that way as Alice and I considered the call to St Marys. What is God’s plan? Well the Bible tells us a number of things about God’s plan.

a) God’s plan is Eternal

Firstly, God’s plan is eternal. By that I mean God created his plan before he created anything else. The Bible talks about ‘11 …[God’s] eternal purpose… (Eph 3:11a)’ And that eternal purpose doesn’t just apply to the universe as a whole, but down to specific historical events. Before the creation of the world God planned to send Jesus into the world to die on the cross, that was God’s plan of redemption. Peter describes Jesus arrest and crucifixion as being according to, ‘23 …God’s set purpose… (Act 2:23b)’ And Paul puts it like this in Galatiasn 1:4, ‘4 [the Lord Jesus Christ] gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. (Gal 1:4)’ You can actually see God’s plan in Jesus Christ working itself out all through the Old Testament. In Genesis, God promised that one of Eve’s descendants would crush Satan’s head. God promises Abraham that one of his descendants would bless all the nations. God promised David that one of his descendants would sit on the throne forever. God promised Isaiah that he would send someone to die for his people’s sin. God rescues his people from Egypt, and he brings them back from Babylon. Over and over in the Old Testament we see God working out his plan to send Jesus. And God even planned to save you and me before the creation of the world. Paul writes, ‘4 …[God] chose us in him before the creation of the world… (Eph 1:4a)’ We call that idea predestination, the idea that God planned our destiny before we were even born. In terms of our salvation we talk about how God elected those who would be saved, but the Bible also talks about how God has a plan for the wicked as well. Proverbs 16:4 says, ‘4 The Lord works out everything for his own ends— even the wicked for a day of disaster. (Prov 16:4)’ God has an eternal plan.

b) God’s plan is universal

Secondly, God’s plan is universal. By that I mean God’s plan includes everything, there is nothing that happens which is outside God’s plan. According to Paul God, ‘11 …works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. (Eph 1:11b)’ And when Paul says everything, he means everything, both good things and bad things. Elsewhere he says, ‘28 …in all things God works for the good of those who love him… (Rom 8:28a)’ We talk about the sovereignty of God, the idea that God is in control of everything. Jesus even talks about how sparrows won’t fall to the ground apart from God’s will (Mt 10:29). We might think that life seems random, but according to the Bible nothing happens apart from God’s will. Proverbs 16:33 puts it like this, ‘33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. (Prov 16:33)’ Even something as random as choosing lots is within God’s plan. God’s plan covers everything, from Jesus dying on the cross, to who will be saved, to the decisions we make, and even seemingly random events.

c) God’s plan is Unshakable

Thirdly, God’s plan is unshakable. By that I mean there is nothing that can stop God’s plan. We might think we’re stuffing up God’s plan, but we’re not. Over and over the book of Proverbs testifies to this fact. For example, ‘9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Prov 16:9)’ And  ‘21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Prov 19:21)’ And ‘24 A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. (Prov 20:24a)’ These verses aren’t suggesting that we don’t have free will. We have complete freedom of choice. You can choose to do whatever you want, you can plan whatever you like. But what these verses are saying is that whatever you choose is exactly what God has determined. Things will turn out exactly as God intends. One thing we can be sure of is that the Lord’s purposes will prevail. Proverbs 21:30 puts it like this, ‘30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. (Prov 21:30)’ God’s plans are unshakeable.

d) What is God’s plan?

So, God’s plan is eternal, it is universal, it is unshakeable, but what is it? What is God’s plan? Well, to put it is simply as possible, God’s plan is that he will be glorified. The point of everything is that it brings God glory. God created the universe in order that it might bring him glory. Psalm 19 starts, ‘1 The heavens declare the glory of God… (Ps 19:1a)’ And Psalm 72 finishes, ‘19 Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen. (Ps 72:19)’ But not only is the purpose of the universe to give God glory, it is also our purpose as Christians. According to Paul God saved us ‘5 …in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace… (Eph 1:5b-6a)’ Jesus said that as his followers we are to ‘16 …let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. (My 5:16)’ The purpose of your life, is to bring glory to God. And the Bible talks about that purpose specifically in terms of how we live our lives. According to Paul, ‘3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified… (1 Thess 4:3a)’ or be holy. And later he says, ‘16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18)’ God’s will, or God’s plan for our lives is that we should be holy like God is holy, that we should bring him glory, by joyfully celebrating our salvation in Jesus Christ, by constantly turning to him prayer, and by giving thanks in all circumstances. God’s plan is that our lives will bring him glory.

 

So how does all that help us in making our plans? I can’t answer that specifically for whatever you’re dealing with at the moment. But I can give you some general guidelines. Firstly, seek godly advice from some people you trust and respect, and weigh up that advice carefully. Secondly, ask yourself if these decisions or plans honour God. If your plan harms someone, or it’s contrary to what Scripture teaches, it’s a bad plan; but if it honours God, then it may well be a good plan. Thirdly, commit your plans to the Lord. Just lay it out before him, and ask God to give you clarity, or peace about it. Someone told Alice and myself that it’s helpful to give yourself a time limit depending on how big the plan is. For something small you might sit on it for an hour or a day, for something bigger maybe a week or even two weeks. Fourthly, hold your plans lightly, because you don’t know what the future may bring. Like James says, we need to have the attitude, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this, but if it isn’t the Lord’s will we can change our plans.’ Remember God’s will is unshakeable, not ours. Finally, no matter what you decide to do what matters most is: are you bringing glory to God? It’s not so much what you do, but how you do it. So as we finish this morning I want to ask you: Where does God and his glory fit into your plans? Amen.  

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