Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” These are strong words that suggest that success is largely dependent upon having a definite goal in mind and then having thought through the steps to reaching that goal. Modern motivational speakers have taken Franklin’s words and modified them to be somewhat less harsh. The declaration today is, “Most people do not plan to fail. They simply fail to plan.” Most of us understand and accept the premise behind this statement. We recognize the need to make plans, and to follow them, in order to achieve our goals in life.
There is another side to this principle, however. It is suggested in the statement, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This is a line from a poem entitled, To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with a Plough, written by Robert Burns. Burns’ point was that no matter how well one may plan a course of action, it often doesn’t work out as planned. Military commanders understand this point all too well, and often note that a battle plan gets thrown out the window as soon as the first shots are fired.
Interestingly, both of these aspects of planning have biblical foundations. The first is suggested by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. In Mt. 7:13-14 He exhorted His audience to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life, rather than through the wide gate that leads to destruction. The idea of planning is seen in the Lord’s statement that many enter the wide gate, but only a few find the narrow gate. This suggests that one does not enter the narrow gate by accident. He must plan to do so by his obedience to the gospel. Those who do not plan to be saved will wind up on the broad path that leads to destruction.
The second aspect is seen in the Lord’s parable of the rich fool in Lk. 12:16-21. In this parable the rich man had great plans for himself, but things did not turn out as he had planned. In vs. 18-20 the rich man laid out his plans to tear down his old barns and to build larger ones. Then, he planned to take his ease, to eat, drink and be merry, for many years to come. This man had detailed plans for reaching the goal he had set for himself. However, in v. 20 God called him a fool because that very night his soul would be required of him. In this case, the best laid plans absolutely went awry.
The reason the rich man’s plans did not work out for him is explained in v. 21. The Lord said, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The rich man’s plans failed because they were self-centered and took no account for God’s will. This is exactly the point that James made in Jas. 4:13-15. In these verses James chastised those who proudly spoke of the plans they had for themselves. He reminded them that life is a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (v. 14). For this reason, James concluded that we should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (v. 15).
Taken together, we see from these things that it is important to make plans so we will have the best opportunity to reach our goals. However, our plans must always be made with God’s will in mind. We do so by insuring that our plans are in accordance with His revealed will. We cannot expect to be successful in any plan that goes against God’s plan for us, which is our salvation (1 Tim. 2:4). Also, our plans must also take into account the fragile nature of life. As we plan, we must say, “If the Lord wills”. If we have planned to walk the narrow path that leads to life, and if we have acknowledged that life is fragile, then we will indeed have “best laid plans”, and these plans will not go awry.