Chuck Swindoll tells the story about his brother Orville who drove his family back from the mission field in a beat up old Chevy. Chuck's Dad was the kind of Christian who believed you needed to have money in the bank and extra bucks in your wallet if you're going to make it. So he said to Orville “How much money do you have?” And he replied, “Ah, Dad, don't worry about it.” “No,” he said, “I saw the tires you've got are so slick.” And then he said, “How much do you have?” Orville reaches in his pocket, pulls out a nickel, and he rolls it across the table. His dad said, “You're kidding!” And Orville said, “No. Isn't that exciting?”1
So which is it? Do we plan and make provision or do we just wing it, and hope for the best? Do I buy insurance or instead rely on faith that the Lord will provide? What about planning for the days when I no longer work and have an income? What does the Bible teach?
The Bible teaches the importance of careful planning and calculations. Proverbs 14:15 says “…a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” And Proverbs 20:18, “Make plans by seeking advice…” (ISV). In Ephesians we are told, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (5:15,16 NIV). Even God Himself had a plan from before creation. He executed His plan in history in sending Christ. Jesus planned to build His Church and plans to return at the end of the age. Therefore, as those made in the image of a planning God I believe He expects us to also plan.
But there are passages, which seem to contradict what I just noted. They teach not to worry about the future, seek first the kingdom, and trust the Lord for daily needs (cf. Matthew 6). They also teach us to pray for daily bread, living with the belief that “…God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
We shouldn't do what many of us like to do—camp only on verses that suit us. We must live in balance. James points out the sin of planning without considering the Lord's will. Planning isn't sin. But failing to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our plans is (James 4:13-16).
God expects us to always depend on Him totally, even when we plan. He desires us to plan in faith. How do we do that?
Planning in faith does not mean I plan believing those plans will occur because of my faith. Faith is not wishful thinking, or presumption based on unbiblical assumption and supposition. Faith is living in total dependence on the Lord. It means I am to make my plans in the context of God's sovereign plan for all things.
Nobody knows what God's future plan is and therefore I must humbly acknowledge that He is God and His will is supreme. To avoid becoming arrogant I should acknowledge that God might have a different plan. Everything I plan is ultimately subject to whether God is willing for that to happen or not.
In His providence the Lord supplies our daily needs. And if we are wise stewards with what He gives we realize He also supplies enough for our future needs, or provides wisdom so instead of burying His supply in the ground of our own indulgence, we are able to multiply it for future needs. That is commendable to the Lord.
When it comes to planning in faith the old Arab saying is right, “Trust in the Lord, but tie up your camel.”
1 From the sermon “Anticipating the Unusual” in the series The Strong Family. Copyright 1985 by Charles R. Swindoll Inc. All rights reserved.