Day 181

How to Plan Your Life

Wisdom Proverbs 15:31-16:7
New Testament Acts 19:14-41
Old Testament 1 Kings 22:1-53


Almost everyone makes plans. We make plans about how to spend our evenings, our weekends or our holidays. Some people plan how many children they are going to have; they make plans for their education. We need to plan our finances and our giving. Individuals have plans. Businesses have plans. Churches should have plans.

I love these pages in my own Bible in One Year. In June 1992, alongside the verse, ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed’ (Proverbs 16:3), I wrote the plans we had for ’92/’93. God blessed these plans more than we could ever have asked or even imagined. Every year thereafter, I have written down the plans for the year ahead. I find it so encouraging and faith building to look back at how much the Lord has done for us over the years. It is so easy to forget his kindness and faithfulness.


Proverbs 15:31-16:7

31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
   will be at home among the wise.

32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
   but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
   and humility comes before honour.

16 To humans belong the plans of the heart,
   but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
   but motives are weighed by the Lord.

3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
   and he will establish your plans.

4 The Lord works out everything to its proper end —
   even the wicked for a day of disaster.

5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
   Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
   through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.

7 When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,
   he causes their enemies to make peace with them.


Our plans

We do not always get it right (certainly I do not). But it is not wrong to make plans. Indeed, it is good to plan ahead. As has been pointed out, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark! The writer of Proverbs says, ‘To human beings belong the plans of the heart… Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed’ (16:1,3).

Here, we see the key to success. Your plans should never be made independently of the Lord. You are called into relationship with him. Your plans need to be aligned with his plans. Your vision and your plans need to be led by the Spirit. As you sense God’s leading, commit your plans to the Lord. Bring them to him. Lay them before him. Then God promises ‘your plans will succeed’ (v.3). What does it mean to commit to the Lord whatever you do?

1. Cooperate

One translation of the Hebrew word for commit is to ‘roll towards’. There are two ways to go through life. One is to decide that we are perfectly capable of running our own lives – without God. We make plans independently of God to please ourselves. This is the way of pride (v.5) and independence. The proud cannot be told anything because they think they already know.

The other is to be willing to lay aside your own desires. This is the way of faith and humility: ‘Humility comes before honour’ (15:33).

God has good plans for your life (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 2:10). Co-operate humbly with him, being willing to give up everything that clashes with his purpose for you.

2. Confide

To commit your plans to the Lord means to speak to him about his plans – to make plans together with him. At the start of each day you can commit your plans to him. I find that holidays are a good time to plan ahead and commit the months, or even the year ahead, to God.

I remember hearing the actor David Suchet, when he had recently become a Christian, being asked on the radio whether there were certain roles he would turn down. He replied, ‘That is a very difficult question. All I can say is now when I am offered a part I go away and pray about it and if I feel it is wrong I turn it down, whereas before it would have been, “How much?”’

3. Consult

The Lord says, ‘Woe… to those who carry out plans that are not mine… Who go down to Egypt without consulting me’ (Isaiah 30:1–2a). To commit to the Lord means to consult him and discuss your plans with him and seek his wisdom and advice (Proverbs 15:33a). With major decisions, a wise person will consult others to check that they have accurately heard from the Lord (vv.31–32).

Having committed your plans to the Lord you can trust his promise of success. God is sovereign over your plans. ‘Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word’ (16:1, MSG). ‘In your heart you may plan your course, but the Lord determines your steps’ (v.9).

God gives you the freedom and responsibility to make plans. It is positively right for you to do this. And yet, God relates your decisions to your destination. This is not a reason to be passive or fatalistic, but rather it is an encouragement that you can rest assured that God is in ultimate control of your life. You need not be frozen in a state of indecision.

You can trust that God will work out everything for good for those who love him (vv.6b,7; Romans 8:28).


Lord, I praise and thank you for the amazing way in which you bless the plans I commit to you. This year I want to commit to you all my plans for the future.

New Testament

Acts 19:14-41

14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

The Riot in Ephesus

23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.


Paul’s plans

Paul was a strategic thinker. He made careful plans. ‘After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer’ (vv.21–22).

Paul’s vision, mission and plans revolved around the evangelisation of the whole known world. His strategy focused on cities: Jerusalem, Rome, Corinth and Ephesus.

He spent a great deal of time in these cities preaching the gospel to as many people as possible, whether in the synagogues or in the lecture halls.

He was not unopposed. Interestingly, in Ephesus the opposition was not doctrinal or ethical but economic. Demetrius thought he might lose money as a result of Paul’s preaching. So, he stirred up opposition (vv.24–29).

But God also had a plan. Another proverb for today tells us that, ‘The Lord works out everything for his own ends’ (Proverbs 16:4). In this instance, God worked through the city clerk (Acts 19:35). Even though he didn’t seem to believe in God (vv.35–36), his actions still stopped the riots. God often works through those who are not believers to achieve his plans.


Lord, thank you for the example of Paul’s planning, strategy and courage in the face of great opposition. Thank you that you work out everything for your own ends. Please guide me in all my plans. Help me to be strategic and courageous.

Old Testament

1 Kings 22:1-53

Micaiah Prophesies Against Ahab

22 For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. 2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. 3 The king of Israel had said to his officials, “Don’t you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?”

4 So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?”

Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 5 But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.”

6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

“Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”

7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”

8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

“The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied.

9 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.”

10 Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. 11 Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the Lord says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’”

12 All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”

13 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favourably.”

14 But Micaiah said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”

15 When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or not?”

“Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”

16 The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”

17 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’”

18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”

19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’

“One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’

22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.

“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.

“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’

23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked.

25 Micaiah replied, “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.”

26 The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king’s son 27 and say, ‘This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.’”

28 Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”

Ahab Killed at Ramoth Gilead

29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. 30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.

31 Now the king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, “Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.” 32 When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, “Surely this is the king of Israel.” So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out, 33 the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him.

34 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armour. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” 35 All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. 36 As the sun was setting, a cry spread through the army: “Every man to his town. Every man to his land!”

37 So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. 38 They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared.

39 As for the other events of Ahab’s reign, including all he did, the palace he built and adorned with ivory, and the cities he fortified, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 40 Ahab rested with his ancestors. And Ahaziah his son succeeded him as king.

Jehoshaphat King of Judah

41 Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. 42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 43 In everything he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. 44 Jehoshaphat was also at peace with the king of Israel.

45 As for the other events of Jehoshaphat’s reign, the things he achieved and his military exploits, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 46 He rid the land of the rest of the male shrine prostitutes who remained there even after the reign of his father Asa. 47 There was then no king in Edom; a provincial governor ruled.

48 Now Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail—they were wrecked at Ezion Geber. 49 At that time Ahaziah son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “Let my men sail with yours,” but Jehoshaphat refused.

50 Then Jehoshaphat rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the city of David his father. And Jehoram his son succeeded him as king.

Ahaziah King of Israel

51 Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 52 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. 53 He served and worshiped Baal and aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, just as his father had done.


God’s plans

It is not a good idea to try and outwit God! This was Ahab’s problem. He tried to manipulate people and events in order to defeat God’s plans.

Jehoshaphat wisely told him that before going to war with Aram he should seek the Lord’s counsel: ‘Before you do anything, ask God for guidance’ (v.5, MSG). This is another example of the vital principle. If you want your plans to succeed you need to ask God for his guidance in making your plans.

The 400 ‘puppet’ prophets may have been state-employed parrots who simply did what they were paid to do – that is, say whatever the king wanted them to say.

However, Jehoshaphat knows that this is not genuine prophecy and asks, ‘Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can enquire of?’ (v.7). The king replies, ‘There is still one through whom we can enquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah’ (v.8).

Micaiah, who is a genuine prophet, speaks the word of the Lord to them. Whereas the 400 prophets put forward the popular view, Micaiah was the only one who in fact knew the mind of the Lord. We must not be swayed by popular opinion if it does not come from the Lord. The fact that we may be outnumbered is not conclusive.

Micaiah is courageous enough to speak truth to power: ‘As surely as God lives, what God says, I’ll say’ (v.14, MSG). He warns them of the danger of going against God’s plans. For his troubles, he is put in prison on nothing but bread and water (v.27).

Ahab is determined not to listen to the voice of God. He continues his manipulation. He thinks he can outwit God by disguising himself (v.30). But, as we have read, ‘The Lord works out everything for his own ends’ (Proverbs 16:4).

We see this principle at work as ‘someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armour… The king died… and dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared’ (1 Kings 22:34,37–38).


Lord, thank you that you are the sovereign Lord and that you control the events of history.

Forgive me, Lord, for the times when I have perhaps known I am on the wrong path but have tried to manipulate events. Help me always to stay in line with your plans. May my plans be your plans, and may these plans succeed.

Pippa adds

Proverbs 16:2

‘People think all their ways are innocent, but motives are weighed by the Lord.’

Our motives can be a little mixed at times.



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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

The Bible in One Year, daily readings arranged by Hodder & Stoughton (London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto), 1988. New International Version (Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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