My family and I are in the final days of preparation for a two-week summer vacation. As I reflect upon the planning we have completed, I’m stunned at how much time and effort it can take to get everything in order. The list of preparations we have made include setting our travel routes, tuning up the van, researching activities to enjoy along the way, cleaning and folding the laundry, packing, making arrangements to have our home and dog taken care of, and much, much more. With as much planning as we have done already, it seems that there is still an endless amount of things that we could do to prepare even better. Even though there may be things left unplanned, with each step of organization we become more confident that we will have a fun, fulfilling, and successful trip. I consider the work spent planning our vacation to be an extremely valuable investment, which we will enjoy the return on over the next two weeks.
I did not always advocate such rigorous planning, however. I used to be very skeptical about the value of planning. Perhaps the cause of my skepticism was my youthful idealism, giving impulse and spontaneity greater priority. Perhaps it was the stories I’d heard about elaborate plans failing miserably. Perhaps it was the belief that planned time was not free. Perhaps I felt that planning my time reduced my ability to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Whatever the cause was, I frequently resisted careful planning and gave way to caprice instead, believing that I would live a more rich life by leaving my options open, not bound by plans.
Eventually, I learned that it is easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable to be more deliberate with the use of my time. Living without plans for the sake of leaving options available is analogous to a sail boat refusing to raise a sail at sea for fear of having to choose a direction. While any direction is possible, no destination will be reached without some commitment. Reaching any destination or goal requires setting a direction and taking the incremental steps to arrive there. Doing this successfully requires thought, research, planning, and activity. Through experience, I have learned that investing effort into these planning activities pays off.
The fact that God is a planner establishes the importance of planning. He has made His goal very clear in that He will establish a Kingdom and a Family on Earth. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:7, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,” which reminds us that God’s plan has been in effect for a very long time. The plan of salvation that God has in effect right now is very intricate as well. You and I have a very specific purpose in this plan of God, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9). There is no greater example of rigorous preparation than that of God’s great plan to establish His Kingdom on the Earth. It is clear that God does not have a corner left unprepared and open to risk of failure. This should encourage us to live by this example, and prepare ourselves well for the fulfillment of this same plan. The effort spent on thought, learning, improving, and putting God’s ways of life into practice will pay off if we are in alignment with this plan.
While planning and preparation are indispensable to the life of a Christian, it is important to note that there are things that simply cannot be planned. Since we know that Jesus Christ will return at an hour that we do not expect (Luke 12:40), there is a limit to how precisely we can plan for the return of Jesus Christ. It is important to know that all plans have limitations. We can expect that unexpected events will occur, throwing careful plans into a tail-spin if they are too rigid. However, when we prepare spiritually, we will have an easier time making adjustments to set our course in the right direction.
Consider the difference between two different approaches implied when Jesus Christ describes the time of the tribulation, written in Matthew 24:17-18. “Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.” It is clear that a careful plan for survival will fail without a righteous goal. Our plans and preparations must be spiritually driven, so that moments requiring a correct response will be executed correctly. It is the way in which we plan to act that is important, much more than the precise execution of a specific step in our plan, at a specific point in time. It is therefore vital, not only that we prepare and make plans for the coming Kingdom of God, but that we do so correctly; with a clear understanding of God’s perfect will, only available through the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12).