We are a culture of obsessive compulsive planners. Unless we live on another planet we have apps to schedule life, plot our daily routines, navigate our travel, track our mileage, tabulate our budget, and block the bothersome people with unnecessary influence. Siri and Lexa will warn of appointments, interruptions to our itineraries, and activities that we program into our day. There are other voices too. You know, the boss, the wife or husband, the people in our circle of influence, game times, and our television preferences. Even more, our bodies are calibrated by physical senses, alarm clocks, meal times, the need for some measure of rest and relaxation, and moments for personal hygiene. They are all elements of leading a balanced life and covering all of the bases. Planning regulates our lives, expenditures, investments, and outcomes.
It is our standard operating procedure, the planning mode. That's because life for most of us is usually routine and predictable. The paths we travel are well-worn because we tread them so often. And, like it or not, our bent for planning helps us manage the metrics of life. Without some measure of organization and design the elements of every day existence can quickly devolve into something resembling chaos. Since people watching is among our most practiced human past times we all shake our heads at those with no life management skills, and learn from those whose life planning techniques appear so profitable.
There's a catch in life planning, however, even for those who seem to have everything together. We humans can't foresee the future. Even when life is clicking along in smooth rhythm we can't accurately predict what is going to happen next. I mean, even with advanced satellite tracking and Doppler systems our meteorologists can't give us a clear reading on the weather today. In Charleston they're always correct in their forecast of a 50% chance of rain everyday. And, that's one reason creative humans have advanced their planning packages. You know, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and right through the alphabet just in case.
Yes, we can list planning in the virtue tab of our Bible understanding. This is true especially if we submit our plans to the greater purpose of God. Solomon wrote---
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that
Proverbs 19:21, ESV
But, in many ways, the Bible is a book of preparation. It's the human discipline of being prepared for whatever happens, regardless of the twists and turns of those unforeseen events that can flush our best laid plans down the drain. These lessons are especially noted in many of the parables Jesus told. Their context is more limited, usually aimed at the preparation expected with the uncertainty of Christ's imminent return. The three parables of Matthew 25 are a good example. They're too long to print here. But, Jesus related the parables of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25: 31-46) as instruction for his followers in anticipation of his near return. Since no one can know with any sense of precision the time of his return, the New Testament advises believers to be prepared, for he will come as a thief in the night (see 1 Thessalonians 5:2).
Practical James also wrote about our inability to predict the future and the blessing of being prepared.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and
spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow
will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then
vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.
James 4: 13-15, ESV
Yes, the ultimate counsel in James' words is that we are to be submitted to the Lord's will in all things. But, since we don't know what tomorrow will bring, being prepared for life is the fine point.
Being personally prepared for life is, therefore, a strong spiritual discipline. It means keeping our life and faith in order at all times. In the New Testament this preparedness involves being watchful and alert, persistently prayerful, steadfast in faith, and keeping a sober approach to the realities of life around us. Several verses illustrate this theme. As usual, there are many more---
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:2, ESV
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
1 Thessalonians 5:6, ESV
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8, ESV
Of course, personal spiritual discipline is the overlay that governs life in it's largest context. And, that's a hard one for us undisciplined Christians today. That discipline involves, among other things, counting the cost of our endeavors and service. Jesus spoke it well---
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the
cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a
foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man
began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another
king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to
meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet
a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
Luke 14: 28-32, ESV
Yes, we can plan: Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, down to Plan Z in our OCD ways. Or, we can count the cost of being his disciple and be prepared for whatever life throws at us.
Prepared for life.
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