- “Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.” – (Socrates)
- “Never let a fool kiss you–or a kiss fool you.” –(Mardy Grothe)
I came across some familiar phrases in a study of chiastic (KEY-astic) literature. A chiasm (KEY-asm) is a rhetorical device in which two or more clauses are balanced against each other by the reversal of their structures in order to produce an artistic effect. Often connected through the use of a reoccurring words or phrases. (standing with your hand against a mirror.) This technique is mostly used in ancient literature, and in scripture. (OT passages such as the Psalms, Proverbs, and even the books of Law.) Way of organizing God’s word systematically.
“Planning to fail is planning to fail” – this familiar quote is most often attributed to Winston Churchill, but many believe that he adapted it from the words of Benjamin Franklin. We are not going to investigate chiastic literature. But I do want to consider Mr. Franklin’s chiastic axiom.
- “IF you fail to plan you plan to fail”
I. The Value of Planning: Benjamin Franklin’s words are fundamental. They ring true in so many endeavors of life, and are included in many speeches on “How to be a Success”. Is planning and preparation important in the spiritual pursuits of life? There is value in planning for the future.
A. God planned His work: Our salvation was not a spur of the moment activity. If fact the scriptures indicate that God planned our salvation even before we needed it. Eph 1:3-4- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, As the atoning sacrifice for every sin, Peter says Jesus was “foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (1 Peter 1:20) – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8)
Note: God’s ability to plan our salvation is linked to His sovereign power to make it happen. He can plan without chance of failure because He is in complete control.
B. Discipleship Requires Planning: Luke 14:26-30 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ There are some who come to Christ without a realistic expectation of what God requires. Simon, the sorcerer may not have understood what God would require him to give up. He attempted to incorporate his old lifestyle with his new one and he was overtaken in sin.
C. God’s Work Requires Planning: The growth of the Christian is planned growth, as it is dependent on purposeful activity. 2 Tim 2:20-22 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. To be useful to God (honorable vessel) I must cleanse myself and prepare for good works. Pursue righteousness, faith, love & peace. (Seek as a hunter – takes planning).
1. In 2 Cor. 8 Paul commends the Corinthians because they had planned a contribution for the poor saints in Judea. 2 Cor 8:12 – For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.2 Cor 9:6-7- But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
a. What do you plan to do to grow spiritually? Does it just involve coming to an assembly (and even that just occasionally)? What can you plan to do?
• Read your Bible everyday
• Plan your prayer life
• Plan to give more to the Lord’s cause.
• Open your home to others? Plan occasions of hospitality
• Help someone in need
• Teach a Bible class in your home
• Mentor a young person
b. As a congregation we need to plan our work and worship. True worship demands thought and we must engage our minds in preparation.
• Schedule evangelistic efforts – reach out to the community.
• God will bless our efforts – He is interested in our success in this area.
2. One important point to be made here: Planning alone will not accomplish anything. Intentions without action produces discouragement. James says that the person who hears the will of God without doing it is foolish. James 1:22-25 – 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
II. We Cannot Plan: In contrast to the value of planning is the vanity of planning. We cannot plan our earthly life here. Ironically this is where we do the most planning and preparation.
Do you plan out your vacations, trips? Diane & the maps… make a list, make a schedule, have a plan. About 10 years ago we took a trip up the Atlantic coast with two of my brothers and their wives. 4300 miles, all the way to Acadia National Park in Maine. The ladies had it all planned out. (If you fail to plan; you plan to fail) As much preparation and scheduling as we did in anticipation of our journey, we could not make our deadlines or completely follow our agenda even one day! We simply could not foresee how it would go, and in the end, we could not control all that happened. The same is true of the journey of life. We are not in control.
Consider James 4:13-16 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. The boasting that James condemns here is the arrogant perception that we are in control and that we can plan our future.
A. As you consider James’ rebuke here in James 4, what is under condemnation? What about this man’s planning made it an act of sinful pride? The businessmen’s statement contains five presumptuous elements:
1. First, they chose their own time, today or tomorrow.
2. Second, they chose their own location for doing business, such and such a city.
3. Third, they chose their own duration, deciding to spend a year there.
4. Fourth, they chose their own enterprise, to engage in business (literally, “to travel into an area for trade”).
5. Finally, they chose their own goal or objective, to make a profit. James is not attacking their profit motive, but their exclusion of God. Allowing for no contingencies, they planned as if they were in complete control. This exposes a view of life that is not only unrealistic (we ARE NOT in control), but arrogant, and sinful.
B. James gives 2 reasons why this presumptive approach to life is foolish:
1. “You do not know what will happen tomorrow” – Prov 27:1- do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth. Prov 3:5-6 – 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
2. “Your life is just a vapor that appears for a little while.” (Did you see your breath this past week? – How long did you see it?) Time Flies. How many of you agree with that? Job had a unique perspective on life – He agreed: Job 7:6 – “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, And are spent without hope.” Job 7:9 As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up. Job 14:1-2 “Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble. 2 He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue.
C. If the Lord Wills – Acknowledging and obeying the Will of God is the mark of true believers. We see this in the clear didactic commands of scripture. Do we also submit to the will of God in our attitude toward the future and everyday events of life?
1. The child of God cannot plan apart from God. In true humility the Christian incorporates the will of God in every choice about the future. In fact, James prefaces the statements that we just considered by calling on Christians to humble themselves in the sight of God. (vs. 10).
Conclusion: Are you planning your spiritual journey? Do your plans focus on your spiritual growth and God’s work? Or are they the arrogant plans that concern the things you cannot control?