The Best-Laid Plans

The famous Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote a poem as an apology to a mouse, for unintentionally destroying its home while plowing a field. In his ode To a Mouse, Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft a-gley [often go wrong—SH], and leave us nought but grief and pain, for promised joy.” His point is simple: Many times, we make plans and they do not turn out as intended, and often because of things out of our control.

       It is likely that every day, someone, somewhere, has made plans intended to being a bit of joy, but will never happen, and often are not just unfulfilled, but the ones who made the plans find no joy, are often disappointed, and sometimes face tragic and devastating events. Maybe it was the athlete who has trained for years to compete in the Olympics, only to have his country boycott the games and leaving him and hundreds of others sorely disappointed. Maybe it was the man who has enjoyed good health most all of his life but, upon retirement, instead of traveling the world, visits only doctors and other medical personnel who are trying to diagnose his debilitating illness. Maybe it is the young man who is about to graduate and is looking forward to getting further education that will lead to his dream job, but is struck and killed by a drunk or careless driver. Some plans are thwarted and the results are devastating, while other plans are delayed indefinitely, leading only to great inconveniences and disappointment.

      Or maybe it is the man whose ground “yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’” (Luke 12:16-19). This man had enjoyed great success and great abundance, and this led him to make plans as to how he could selfishly enjoy it all. But…

      As Jesus continued the illustration, we find, “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (Luke 12:20). While this man had what seemed to be a good plan [for him], he did not get to enjoy the riches of his abundance, and it seems that he would not enjoy eternity, either, for Jesus concluded by telling the audience, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). The point of His story was that material gain should not be our main focus in life, and whatever plans we have that depend on those riches to bring us joy are going to disappoint us and fail us, in the end. It will all be for naught in the final Judgment.

      The rich man in this story made no plans for eternity, and he was called a fool by God; do we think we will be any less foolish in the sight of God if we also fail to plan for eternity? Let us make the clear statement here that any plans we make that do not take into account our eternal destination are foolish plans, indeed. If we are looking at the things this material world offers, we will most certainly be disappointed, and our plans will not bring ultimate joy. The only plans we can make that are guaranteed not to disappoint must include the following:

      Plan to Have Faith. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Since eternity is infinitely more important than the temporal things of this earthly life, then pleasing God is of the highest importance, and we simply cannot do that without faith. He has told us plainly here that this is the case!

      But how does one acquire faith? He answers this for us, too: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The Scriptures [the Bible] are God’s testimony put in written form, and they are for us as evidence of the very things we are to believe if we are to be pleasing to God. For us today, that means we must believe the testimony God has given to us regarding His Son Jesus Christ. We must believe He is whom he claimed to be — the Christ and Son of God — but God doesn’t expect us to believe without evidence. He has recorded some of the miracles of Jesus, but they are sufficient to cause belief in Him, for John wrote, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30, 31).

      If you plan for faith, then consider the evidence God has provided, you will not be disappointed. God has a reward promised to those who believe.

      Plan to Love God. Faith is much more than a mental acknowledgment of the facts and evidence that convict us of the truths Jesus claimed about Himself. True faith is trust in God and the obedience to God’s commands that follow that conviction and trust. But an honest conviction of what the Bible teaches will also lead one, as a natural consequence, to love God. This need not be   by compulsion, either, for one who learns of God, His character, and His great acts of mercy and love, will unhesitatingly return that love of his or her own free will. As John put it, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

      In fact, we find the greatest thing we can do in our obedience to God is love Him! When asked what the great commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:34-40). It is the greatest command because one who follows that to its fullest meaning will keep every other command! You see, loving God is more than just a warm feeling in the upper torso; it is a desire to please Him in everything, and that includes the desire to keep every command He has given us. Jesus, in fact, tells us plainly, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15, NASB).

      If you plan to love God and Jesus, obedience to their commands will not ever be a question, but something done willingly, done to the best of our ability, and done not as an obligation or duty, but as an act of love.

      Plan for the Eternal, Rather Than the Earthly. As physical, fleshly beings, it is expected that we will have fleshly desires such as eating, drinking sleep, etc., but those things and the things of this world that bring fleshly pleasure and emotional [but temporary] happiness should never become our main purpose in life; they should not be our focus. Remember that Jesus once said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19); in other words, what we value most is what we will be thinking about most often.

      As he noted earlier in that same context, the things of this world can be stolen or lost or destroyed, and focus on the material will always bring disappointment. It is for that reason the apostle Paul urged the early disciples [and us], “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1, 2). Treasures here on earth will fail us, but we will never be disappointed if we are those who have “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4).

            These are truly the best-laid plans, for they will never disappoint.   — Steven Harper