Let’s return to the idea of us “taking things out of God’s hands” through our own control issues—specifically, through the plans and goals we lay out for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with having goals for our lives. They give us focus; they inspire us; they inspire others. And quite often, those goals are things worth aspiring to.
But there’s a down side: Namely, they’re our goals and plans. Thus, they can become a wall that gets between us and God’s plans for us—even when what we have in mind and what God has in mind look very similar on the surface. God is always more concerned with what’s going on under the surface. Let’s look at one of Jesus’ more in-your-face parables, and dig down from there:
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:15–21)
While this parable specifically addresses our possessions, we would be wise to expand our definition of the word “possessions” here. Let me ask a simple question: When you’ve reached a goal, whose accomplishment is it?
If you answered “mine,” congratulations: You have a possession.
It’s no coincidence that Jesus follows up this parable with his command to not be anxious (which we explored a couple weeks ago, via Matthew). When our goals are more our goals than God’s, we feel we’re the ones who need to protect them. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).
The next time you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself, “What am I protecting here that God can’t protect a million times better?” Again, it may not be the goal or the plan that’s wrong, but who’s being glorified by them. If God truly wants us to pursue such things, then we can lay them down at his feet, confident he’ll take care of them.
In my previous book, I’d put forth a series of questions for those considering pursuing a “God-given vision”—specifically, to determine whose vision it really was. I think, with a few minor tweaks, those same questions are a good filter for any goals and plans we have in life. Think about two or three goals you have right now, and then apply the following questions to each of them:
- As I’m pursuing this, am I sensing God revealing more about the things he truly cares about?
- Once this goal has been reached, will it reveal more about God to others, or just more about me?
- Which pieces of the plan were clearly not my idea (even if I’m excited about them now)?
- Have I tried letting go of my plans, only to find God bringing them up again?
- Would I still want this to happen even if someone else did it—or even if I did it and someone else got the credit?
How did you do? It’s OK (for now) if you thought, “Well, it’s both, actually—it’s me and God, it’s flesh and spirit.” But it’s critical that we stop to figure out what’s God and what’s just us, because at some point we’re almost certainly going to find ourselves disagreeing with God on some things. And when that happens, guess what? God’s right. At that point, you’ll need to remember what’s truly God’s, so you’ll be able to keep trusting him when you don’t understand what’s going on. Hold your own plans loosely, and hang on for dear life to God’s plans.
Lay It Down Today
Read Luke 12:13–48—or rather read, review, and reflect. This longer passage combines today’s passage, a reiteration of the Matthew passage mentioned/linked above, and two more parables that are tied in more than you might think, so read slowly. When you get to verses 35–48, read them aloud. Put some inflection into your reading; think about how Jesus said these words to his disciples as you read—because, after all, you’re one of them.
Reflect on today’s questions again, in light of what you’ve just read. Allow God’s Word to be “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:11). Ask God to help his Word penetrate more deeply into your goals and plans, so that the parts that are “just you” are cut away—if even if that means all of them. Trust that God’s plans are far better than anything you could come up with, and act on his leading as it comes.