The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

What should we as Christians do when we face a significant decision? Where should we go for understanding and wisdom to make the best (wisest) choices possible? Our anchor verse for this week is from Proverbs 16:9 and contains both words of caution and an encouragement to help us with our plans.

A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. Proverbs 16:9
To understand the cautionary warning better, we can look to another scripture that exposes the nature of our hearts.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9-10

I’m sure most of us didn’t like hearing Jeremiah’s words. Everything in my heart (and yours) may not always produce thoughts and actions that are deceitful, but this scripture tells me the inclination to act un-righteously is always there. If I’m being honest, I know that this is true. There is a war in my heart and in yours—a mixture of godly intentions and impure desires that shape our thinking and thus our plans. Welcome to real life in a fallen world.
That’s the bad news – so how about some good news? We find that both verses give us insight into how to think and act in righteous ways. Rather than trying to direct our own path and make decisions solely on our own judgement, let’s ask ourselves a few key questions about how God wants to direct our paths.

1.  Do I pray, asking the Lord for wisdom. He is the ultimate source of wisdom and has promised that if we ask, He will give it. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  (James 1:5).

2. Do I seek counsel from mature believers, who by their experience and wisdom help me to think about what is good. The scriptures say only the foolish try to “go it alone”. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)

3. Do I study God’s Word, which exposes the motives and intentions of my heart, so I may align them more to His will. I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.  (Psalm 40:8)

4. Do I gather with other believers at church and other settings where I find encouragement and fellowship to sustain my faith. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:25)

5. Am I then intentional to plan from the above perspective, organizing a path forward in confidence that I’m prioritizing that it’s the Lord who establishes my steps? Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.  (Jeremiah 17:7)

The second part of the Proverbs and Jeremiah verses leave no doubt that it's God’s will that wins out over ours. Yielding to the Lord in our plans when we want to go in another direction isn’t always easy. Yet nothing happens apart from the Lord. He’s sovereign over everything in creation, including the plans each of us make. (Proverbs 16:1) says, “The preparations (plans) of the heart in man” I might then want to say, “This is my plan,” - but God establishes my plans. The second half of the verse says, “,and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.” He makes our plans work or He permits them to fail. He controls what ultimately happens. That should poke a hole in my pride, in the confidence I put in any plan I try to make on my own. Nothing you or I plan happens apart from the Lord.

I am grateful that the Lord has and will go before me to establish my pathway. He’s governing your path, too. Do you always get what you plan for? No. Much like a child whose parents see what is best for him, God knows what’s best for us. We might make elaborate plans, but the final word comes from Him. This is especially important if you face an uncertain future, it’s reassuring that your plans don’t happen apart from God’s hand. He is sovereign over all things, great and small. Take comfort that He’s got your life in His hands.

Lord, we acknowledge your sovereignty over all our plans. In the free will you have given us, help us to plan wisely, lovingly, and carefully with the aim of reflecting what matters to You. Give us a pure heart that desires to yield to your will in all we want to do. Amen

Credit: Ron Kelley

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