God’s Plan for You in 2021
Have you heard this saying? “Man proposes, but God disposes.”
It means that you and I will often propose a course of action for ourselves. We will have everything sorted as best we can, nicely laid out for the future. But then God scatters everything. In an instant, He can dispose of our nice plans and show the futility of trying to determine everything ourselves.
“Man proposes, but God disposes.” You won’t find that saying in the Bible, but Proverbs has a few that come close. Think of 16:9,
A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
We map our life: school, courtship, engagement, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, and finally, a prepaid funeral. We plan and expect and assume and presume and decide—but at the end of the day, it is the Lord who has the final word.
That is the truth of Proverbs 19:21:
There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.
Here we need to focus on the most important words in this text: the LORD’s counsel.
What is the counsel of God?
We can say that God’s counsel is his plan. It’s his goal. His counsel is God’s vision for the future, the things that God wants to accomplish with this world, his creation, and his people. There are many things that God desires to take place. Just like us, you could say, God has set a certain course for the future. And the difference with God’s plan is that it will “stand.”
So often, our plans fall over for lack of foundation: we didn’t lay the right groundwork.
So often, our plans fail for lack of ability: we just don’t have the necessary skills to get it done.
Our plans wither away because we lose interest and move on to something else.
Or we run out of time.
Or we don’t have the will to stick with it. Just think of all the New Year’s resolutions, abandoned by the middle of February!
But God’s counsel stands. If God has decided, if He has planned—yes, if God has resolved something—then it will most surely take place. For He has no deficiencies or limitations, like we do. He is not bound by time, like we are. His drive doesn’t run out of gas, like ours so often does. His goals are always met.
And we need to see this counsel in a comprehensive way. All things are part of God’s purpose: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Consider Proverbs 16:4, “The LORD has made all for himself; yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”
Pick the worst of events you can think of—how about a virus that kills hundreds of thousands of people? Or a brutal genocide? Even these things have a place in his purpose! There are no loose ends in God’s world. There are no surprises for God Almighty. All of it He works out for himself, his own cause.
This is the clear teaching of Scripture, that God Almighty has everything in his hands. God is sovereign, and his providence is perfect. Yet this teaching isn’t always easy to accept. We can confess that the LORD’s counsel will stand when evil people rise up, or when we see the carnage from natural disasters, or when we hear of wars and rumours of wars. Then we are glad that we can say it: “In all of this, the LORD’s counsel will stand.”
But then are times it hits closer to home. Isn’t it harder to trust in God’s counsel when He chooses to send us hardship? It is hard to cheerfully confess that God is sovereign when we have a lot of plans that suddenly crumble. We start to wonder about his fatherly hands when life begins to seem pointless, or when life is rocked by this or that event.
For even though we know that God’s purpose always stands, we struggle. When there’s a heavy burden in the family, or a grave illness, when we have to live for many years with a disappointment, we don’t always see God’s purpose—we don’t see where God is bringing all this. We don’t see it at the moment, and sometimes we never see it. This makes submitting to God’s counsel a real struggle. What’s his plan? And will it be good for us?
In times like that, we should return to some key words in Proverbs 19:21: the “LORD’s counsel.” Underline the name that is used for God in this passage: the LORD. He is not just a Lord, one who rules over things, and orders people around. No, He is the LORD—all capitals. This is how English translations render God’s personal name, Yahweh.
This is the name that points us to the God of the covenant, the One who formed a lasting relationship of love with his people. This is the LORD who appeared to Abraham and gave him his great and gracious promises, and the LORD who delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. This is the LORD who sent his well-beloved Son into the world, even to die for our sins.
It is the LORD, the covenant God who has a purpose! It is the God of steadfast love who is working out his will on this earth! And that tells us at once that his counsel is always good. For what is the spirit behind God’s plans? What is God’s reason for doing what He does?
As God of the covenant, He wants what is good for his people! God constantly does those things that will make our salvation even more sure! Like we can read in Romans 8:28,
We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.
God works for our good: that’s his prevailing counsel! Because He loves us so much, He desires that everything in our lives will serve the one goal that we be his people and walk in fellowship with him.
Whatever God does, however God leads your life and guides this world, remember his perfect motive: that his people would draw ever closer to him, in faith and in love. That is his ultimate aim, his greatest goal, that God would get the worship that is due his holy Name.
Our salvation, and God’s glory: this is the foundation of God’s unchanging counsel. And He will surely bring it about! For “there are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.”