Jan 29 2009

Rethinking If You Want To Make God Laugh, Tell Him Your Plans

Published by at 3:23 am under Life,Theology Reloaded

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.

Whoa, Nelly!
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!

Rethinking Dreams
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.
(Proverbs 16:3)

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.
(Proverbs 16:1)

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.

World Traveler
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.
(James 4:13-16)

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.

Wrong Motiver
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).

The End
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!

19 responses so far

19 Responses to “Rethinking If You Want To Make God Laugh, Tell Him Your Plans”

  1. Emilyon 29 Jan 2009 at 9:54 am

    What a great, great encouragement! Well written and communicated with joy and a sense that God would be honored!

  2. Megson 29 Jan 2009 at 10:53 am

    Ahhh . . . when was the last time i hear the phrase “bouty bout” – love it. Thanks for the encouraging words today, friend.

  3. Mandyon 29 Jan 2009 at 11:11 am

    So about that book you are going to write, 😉 I think this definitely deserves a spot in it. Too many dreams are squelched because of what “society” deteremines to be silly, impossible, ridiculous, etc. Who knows what purpose God might have put us on this earth for… maybe it is a little silly, or impossible by man’s standards or completely ridiculous just to increase our faith. If He gets the glory, then be silly, do the impossible and be completely ridiculous. I think too many of us (myself included sometimes) have been conditioned to just do what’s expected of us and forfeit our dreams… we all need to dream a little bit and probably a little bit more.

  4. Katieon 29 Jan 2009 at 11:18 am

    You’re awesome! This is so something I needed to hear today. And, um, you gets five extra points for using “bouty bout”.

  5. Deborah Barnetton 29 Jan 2009 at 11:40 am

    When I saw your title I thought, “oh no… here we go”. But then a sigh of relief… thank you for saying this! I’m so grieved when people say that because it means they’ve missed the loving nature of the Lord. It’s also grievous when people say they don’t want to get involved in missions because they’re afraid God will send them to live in a mud hut somewhere in Africa. First off… if that’s His plan… He’s going to put that passion in your heart. I know quite a few people who have moved to Africa to live in a mud hut and they LOVE the life the Lord has given them there!

    That, and… “Be careful what you pray for – you just might get it!” Again, it’s like God’s sitting up on some lofty throne just waiting for our tongues to slip and ask for something that we we’d regret someday. “Ha! You said it – so now you’re gonna get it!” When actually, it’s the opposite… sometimes I ask for things that I would unknowingly, and ultimately regret… but God and His mercy spares me from it by NOT answering my prayer (or answering with a “no”). Later down the line, with my hindsight glasses in place… I recognize the grace I’ve been granted. Phew… thank God (literally) He doesn’t always give me what I ask for!

    Anyway – preaching to the choir… I know. :o)

    See you tomorrow night!

  6. Jedon 29 Jan 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Right on! This hearkens back to part 2 (I’ve burned up my entire luch break for the last couple days and read the entire series) when you mention spiritualizing relationships. So many of us today, I think, over-spiritualize “God’s Will”. Don’t get me wrong, there are definately times when He will say “Do this, this specific thing is what I want you to do.” But He also gave us a will, and a creative mind, and I believe He intended us to use both of them. In the grand scheme of things God has given us a Book that contains the information necessary to make choices pleasing to Him, and to not use it is to incompletely utilize the abilities He has given us. So many of us waste years agonizing over whether or not this is the woman God has chosen specifically for us, or maybe it’s that other girl, or maybe I should never get married.? (rhetorical question, get it?) When I think that many times God would say “I’ve given you a list of qualifications that a good spouse should have, why not use it?” Does everyone have a soulmate? I like to think so. But maybe, just maybe, we get to choose them.

  7. sarahon 29 Jan 2009 at 12:59 pm

    hey andy! i’ve been following your blog for a couple of weeks now, first for your insights into relationships. as i did more clicking around, it’s clear you’ve got a God-given talent for writing… writing in a way that’s real, relatable, practical, side-splitting and rooted in the Word. i thought i’d say hey today because your post hit me hard, as this whole concept of “planning” is one i’ve been mulling over in my head and in conversation with others. your points gave me more to think about and also some clarity! so thank you!

  8. Jenniferon 29 Jan 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I am a HUGE fan of the theology reloaded, makes me think brother- MAKES ME THINK!

  9. Rachelon 29 Jan 2009 at 4:52 pm

    If for no on but me, this post was meaningful. I needed to be reminded of those verses and will read Nehemiah. Thanks.

  10. Kyla Coferon 31 Jan 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Perfect timing with this post. Thanks for writing and encouraging.

  11. kimberlyellenon 02 Feb 2009 at 6:17 pm

    this post was written for me to read today. i thank you for it. the verses were what i needed to read today. my children made the same books when they were in grade school. one of them has grown up to be quite a writer. thanks for sharing andy.

  12. Alan Milleron 15 Oct 2009 at 10:30 am

    It seems to me that you are criticizing a mistaken understanding of the quote. As I read and receive it, the laughter of God is friendly and knowing, not mocking or demeaning. The intent of the statement appears to me to be that God knows things that we do not know and has access to a flow of events that are hidden from us. For me, it has been a faith-building statement rather than a comment that needs to be challenged and corrected. I am absolutely certain that God will never mock or ridicule my plans. However, I am also confident that if I shared with God my thoughts on how my life was going to work out, God would smile and laugh with me because of His wisdom and love.

  13. Andyon 25 Nov 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Alan…thanks for your comment, man. With respect, I don’t think I’m mistaking most people’s understanding of the quote. It CAN be interpreted how you take it, but I don’t think most people view it the way you do. Thanks again for the comment.

  14. Tessaon 05 Sep 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Hey i know how you feel i hope god gives you what you are wanting and i know he will just keep praying cause ive been praying and i think god is givin me what ive been wanting so just keep it up pray as much as you can

  15. Nathanon 11 Apr 2011 at 12:09 am

    Andy, thank you SO MUCH for that post.

    You have no idea how much I have been stressing over that “God laughing” statement, as if everything I plan in life will surely fail.

    Reading those Bible verses really puts me into perspective; that if it GODS will, i will be able to SUCCEED in ANYWHERE where he wants me too!

    Being in high school, I have huge dreams of becoming a successful lawyer. Successful- defined by monetary means. I am now going to rethink my plans in a way that may glorify God. Hopefully, from a high position in a lawyer, my daily life and attitude will be a living Testament towards what he had in store for me, and perhaps influence people higher up whom others were not able to reach.

    Thank God for this post! I will now review your verses, and pray for what God has in store for me. :)

  16. Kevinon 30 Mar 2012 at 12:51 am

    I can appreciate the view that the saying is not biblical and that God would never laugh at your plans, but I think you all are taking it way too literally! I believe in God and while I am not religious, I am very spiritual. Think of the “laugh” as more of a “chuckle” than downright scorning. In other words, what the quote is saying is that God is the only one who knows what your plan and purpose here on earth is, and not you… Think about it, how many of you reading this knew you would be where you are in life and who you would be there with 10 years ago, heck, even 5 years ago? Very rarely does life turn out exactly as you plan, hence the quote.

  17. Kevinon 30 Mar 2012 at 12:57 am

    Also, I just read Alan’s comment, which is exactly how I think the saying was intended to be interpreted… In a lighthearted way, not in a scripture-challenging, ridiculing way… I guess it’s because I, along with many others, prefer to look at things in a positive light.

  18. Tonion 18 Feb 2015 at 12:49 am

    I agree that the phrase is not meant to challenge Scripture, but to remind us that God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension.

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