At the moment I’m writing this, I wish I was back at my mom’s house in Michigan. On the second floor, I have the second room on the left. My high school choice of navy blue carpet still covers the floor. And on a bookshelf in the corner is a book covered with wallpaper.
I went to elementary school at Nelly E. Bird Elementary. Couldn’t make that name up if I tried! In second grade, we wrote a story about things we’d like to do in life. We wrote it on special paper and personally illustrated each page. The books were then bound by a real book binder (no spiral binding) and given a wallpaper treatment for a book cover.
My writing back then was simple, my drawing poor. I consistently sketched myself looking like a big, skinny tree with arms and box feet. It was clear my talent didn’t lie in art.
The reason I wish I was at home is because I would like to scan the pages and put them up here, but a description will have to suffice for now. I only remember two pages. In one, I am riding a motorcycle because I’m in the old Nintendo game, Excitebike. In another, I’m playing in the Super Bowl. That page has a picture of a really big tree (me) running down the field with a football in one hand and a carrot in the other. The page reads something like, “I’m going to play in the Super Bowl and eat carrots every day because they give you good eyesight.” I showed such intellectual promise as a 2nd grader. Unfortunately, that one sentence was probably the highlight of my entire educational career.
Isn’t That Cute?
You’re picturing me as a 2nd grader, aren’t you? You see my little head and want to ruffle my hair and say, “Aww, you’re so cute. You want to play in the Super Bowl.” Little kids don’t know they’re being patronized at that age when someone says that to them. But as we get older, if someone jokes about our plans and dreams, we don’t like it too much. In fact, one of the most common things you’ll hear professional athletes say after winning a big game is, “Nobody believed in us! We had to come out here and prove them wrong! We shocked the world!”
Yesterday night, I was talking with my friend Paul about how God views our dreams. There’s a phrase that’s pretty popular right now that tries to summarize: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Now, I’m about to get medieval. So if you love that phrase, I want you to know that the remainder of this blog is intended for instruction in God’s nature! It is not an attack on you!
The problem with the saying is that it’s just not biblical! There are only a handful of times in Scripture that we’re told God laughs. Each time, He is laughing at wicked people who are opposing Him – not at His children. In fact, the Proverbs tell us a totally different story!
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
In essence, this verse negates the popular phrase we use today. It says, “Yes! TELL GOD your plans, and they will succeed.” Now there’s a caveat to this a couple verses earlier…
To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.
In other words, “Go ahead and plan things, but the Lord will be the One who ultimately decides what happens.”
There’s no laughing going on here!
(NOTE: If you’re interested in a firm biblical example, read Nehemiah 1-2:9 and look at how Nehemiah makes a plan to speak with King Artaxerxes about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, communicates that plan to God, speaks with Artaxerxes and, ultimately, has success.)
Keep the Baby, Lose the Bath Water
Our popular saying – “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans” – is well-intentioned, but communicated poorly. There is a truth that phrase attempts to convey, but it does so too generally! We’ve seen that plans are encouraged by the Lord! But there are at least two instances where our plans are not received well by Him.
How often do we tell people things like, “I’ll see you next week!” James says, if done wrongly, we presume too much when we speak those words.
Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
If we plan our lives without acknowledging God’s control over the details, James says it’s bad. Remember Proverbs 16? “…but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.” He is in control of our lives. As a Christian, to plan apart from Him is to be a boaster and bragger – to pretend you’re in control. This is one way we can plan poorly.
Earlier in the letter of James, he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 3:2-3).
Imagine you make a plan. And you tell God about that plan through prayer. “God, I want promotions at work so I can have an enormous house and all the material things I desire.” James asks, “What is your motive here? Is it so you can invite the poor or lonely into your home? If that’s your plan, God is probably going to bless you. But is your plan purely to satisfy yourself? If so, that is why your plans are constantly frustrated.” (NOTE: I’m NOT saying that God ONLY frustrates plans when we’re being selfish. He does it for other reasons, too).
Biblically, brothers and sisters, God will never laugh at your plans! He laughs at the wicked who oppose Him! He’s not going to muss your hair because you want to play in the Super Bowl or bring drinking water to 1,000 villages in Africa or speak about Jesus to a tribe in Papua New Guinea or run a company that devotes its profits to His work or express your creativity in a way that makes Him look great! He’s not laughing, He’s listening! All we have to do is align our plans and dreams with His heart and what He’s trying to do on the earth! Speak your heart to Him! Tell Him what you want to do. And wait for His reply. He wants us to dream big dreams and make big plans to do great things! God is bouty bout all that! He’s looking for guys and girls to do His work! He wants to hear our plans!