devos from the hill

The Other Purpose for Planning


Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” – John 6:6

Planning is a wise thing to do, right? The Bible warns us what can happen when we fail to plan (Luke 14:28). We plan so that we can arrive at our goal, on time and within our budget. But there is another purpose for planning, one we might not expect.

It had been one of those kinds of days when the falleness of this world affects you to the core of your being. Jesus’s disciples had just returned from burying John the Baptist, who had been beheaded by Herod. After hearing their report, Jesus led them to the other side of the Galilee to find some quiet and rest. But the people learned of it and followed them.

It was getting late in the day and thousands of people had gathered round them. Many of them had come a great distance to see Jesus. Being responsible, anticipating the situation, the disciples approached Jesus, and offered their counsel. How foolish to counsel the Son of God. They urged Him to send the crowd away, so they might find food and shelter while it was still daylight. They were thinking ahead. Formulating a plan to avoid an undesirable outcome. That’s a wise thing to do, right?

So Jesus turns to Phillip and asks him where they could buy bread for all these people. Phillip should have known, that when the One who knows everything asks you question like that there is always another deeper question hidden inside the question. But Phillip was already working on a plan. He was already sizing up the situation, counting the cost. And not being able to switch gears, Phillip didn’t even answer Jesus’s “where question”. He jumped ahead to the “how question”, explaining that the two hundred denarii they had in their coffer wouldn’t begin to buy enough bread to feed all these people. And besides, even if they could buy enough bread, some of the disciples thought it would be unwise to spend all that money to feed this crowd.

Jesus did not even accommodate the option of sending the people away. Andrew worked on the problem from a different angle. Perhaps some of the people had brought food enough to share. But after assessing it, there was only a boy with five loaves and two fish. And after gathering all the data they could, after considering all the options they could see, the disciples came to the end of their advice. Based upon the known resources, they could not come up with a plan to deal with the inevitable issue they were facing. They didn’t know it, but they needed a plan that made room for God.

You know the rest of the story. Jesus stepped up and took the initiative. He instructed the disciples what to do. He fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.

Planning is a good thing. And usually, after counting the cost of reaching a goal and determining we don’t have what it takes to finish, it may be best to change our goal (see Luke 14:28-32). However, there are times when Jesus may call us to continue towards a goal, even when it defies human reason. There are times when He may not accommodate the option to turn back, even when we do not yet have the resource to finish. In times like that, there is still a purpose for planning. And it is not to have a blueprint that identifies each step along the way, but rather to gain an intimate understanding of God’s role in reaching the goal. Planning reveals how we should pray and what we must trust Him for. It helps us understand the gap that only God can fill. And when He fills it, He is all the more magnified and glorified!

Learn to plan well. But when God calls you to do something, and from a human perspective the plan doesn’t stack up, use what you have learned in the planning process to trust God!

2 thoughts on “The Other Purpose for Planning

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful lesson, brother Fred. I will hope to put it to good use in my life.

  2. Here is a great quote to compliment this devotional…

    “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
    – Dwight D. Eisenhower

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