Downtown Cornerstone Media
Jan 6

Planning, Guidance & Decision-Making

Media, Proverbs: Living Wisdom, Sermons | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Proverbs: Living Wisdom

Audio | Proverbs Various


This week we’re going to look at the topic of planning, guidance and decision-making, which is particularly relevant as we start a new year together. Proverbs gives us insight into the paradox of planning, the posture of planning and the practice of planning. Let’s take a look together.


Happy New Year, Downtown Cornerstone. We are in the final stretch of our series through the ancient, yet incredibly relevant, book of Proverbs. This book is all about practical, nitty-gritty, day-to-day wisdom – exactly what we need, every day. Proverbs defines this wisdom as the skill of living, particularly in the gray areas of life. That’s helpful because most situations in life aren’t covered by the normal rules of life. You can be brilliant, moral, with all the right information and still make a mess out of things. That’s where Proverbs comes in. This book emphatically reminds us, over-and-over again, that the source of this wisdom is not merely found in mastering a new body of knowledge, but in giving our lives to God (see “fear of the Lord” 1:7; 9:10). This book shows us that God cares, not only about our future life, how we navigate our daily life. We spent the fall unpacking how this wisdom applies to various areas, including: marriage, family, singleness, friendship, our words, our hearts, our emotions, our pride, self-control, and more. I hope you’ve grown and learned as much as I have throughout our time in this ancient text. Today, we’re going to look at the topic of planning, which is particularly relevant as we start a new year together.


21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, 
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
16:4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Let’s start by looking at 21:5. To be “diligent” is to be strategic, thoughtful, intentional, consistent. To be “hasty” is to be impulsive. In other words, and this isn’t surprising to hear from Proverbs, that if you plan, generally speaking, your life will go better. That’s not a promise, but that’s generally how things go. But there’s more going on here. Did you notice that? Look at 16:1, 9, 33; 19:21.

So, on the one hand, you have “the plans of the diligent”, “plans of the heart”, “the heart of man plans his way”, “many are the plans in the mind of a man”. But, on the other side, you have “the answer of the tongue is from the Lord”, “the Lord establishes his steps”, “every decision is from the Lord”, and “the purpose of the Lord will stand”.

Which is it? Is it man’s responsibility or God’s responsibility that is in view here? Both – at the same time. We naturally don’t know how to hold these together, so we typically favor one or the other and think:

“Our choices matter, have significance and consequences…our destiny is not fixed but open.”

“Everything is fixed so who cares how I live, its all been predetermined…my destiny is not my choice”

Bible holds these two realities togethertogether: our choices matter and God’s choices matter. That is the paradox of planning. In other words, your choices are yours. You are responsible, for good or ill. No one is forcing you to act one way or another. Our sin has real consequences and those are our consequences. Our choices matter. But, what happens is determined by God. The Bible tells us that both of these realities are functioning simultaneously. This us not a mixture of responsibility (50/50, 30/70, etc). 100% yours + 100% God’s @ the same time.  (Ex. Trinity = 3 persons = 1 God @ same time; Jesus 100% human + 100% God @ same time)

Human categories don’t work for this. Now, while you may favor life as either being primarily open or primarily determined/fixed, have you ever thought about how both of those are inadequate ways of understanding/navigating life?

If life is only fixed and there is no connection betweeen our choices and our destiny, you will be passive, cynical, and indifferent. Ex. Eeyore. “Just way it is…Just a realist” Christians fall into this and don’t fight sin, share gospel, be intentional about holiness, etc.

If life is only open and our destiny is ours for the taking, then you will be paralyzed. Have you thought about that? “If I go this way…but if I go this way…” and inevitable result is analysis paralysis. 
The reason is that if the world before us is a blank canvas, we can become anything and do anything. That is both inspirational and horrifying. How do we know what the right choice is? As we age, we change, meet new people, like different things, life constantly changes – how are we to know what we want to become or, ultimately, do?  Ex. NYT. ’07. Daniel Dennett, “one of four horsemen of new atheism” philosopher/cognitive scientist @ Tufts
“when we consider whether free will is an illusion or reality, we are looking into an abyss. What seems to confront us is a plunge into [meaninglessness] and despair.”

What seems like a slippery intellectual concept ( holding both our responsibility and God’s responsibility together), is actually incredibly practical. “Why?”

Bible does not say that our choices have no connection to our destiny nor does it say that your choices alone determine your destiny. What the Bible does say is that God gives you the ability to make choices as he sovereignly determines them, and both those are happening at same time. So, you are held responsible for your actions, but you can relax because he is in charge and in control. The choices are yours. The good and bad consequences are yours. You and I have every incentive to use our gifts, think deeply and work hard. But, since everything under God’s good/sovereign control, you can relax and not freak out.

To put this another way, you’re absolutely free to make decisions (= moves you out of your passivity) and you’re absolutely in God’s sovereign hands (=move you out of paraysis/fear) at the same time. Without both, you’ll either be passive or paralyed and, in so doing, will never be wise.

Side note: How do bad things fit into this?

16:4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

The principle here is that “the Lord has made everything for its purpso”, good and bad things are part of his plan, but in different ways. This is not saying that God is the author of evil.  Evil deeds belong to the evil doer.  But, God is able to overrule, redeem, and weave even worst things for good. Ex. Joseph. Ge 50:20 Says to brothers at end… “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

One of the points of the story of Joseph is that we should never think God is not working, no matter how much may seem absent or how dark seems. At the same time never think you’ll be able to figure out what he is up to. Like Joseph, you’ll find out in the end. That’s the paradox of planning: We are fully responsible and God is fully responsible.

We work like, plan, dream like its all up to us and we trust like its all up to him. This gives sense of purpose, excitement because our plans, efforts count. We can do stuff. But, hold our plans with open hands, knowing our good God is sovereignly overseeing it all.


16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

When 16:3 speaks of “work” its not talking about our “job”. Rather the word in view there means deeds, acts, activities => or, “all things that happen in your life” That is telling. Look at what this verse is saying. It does not say: “Commit your plans…then all things that happen will established” But,  “Commit all things that happen in your life…then your plans will be estabslished”.

In the Hebrew, the word “commit” literally means to “roll onto”. So the author is telling us to rolle our acts/deeds onto Lord or  place the weight and center of gravity of your life on Him. This is a posture of radical and unconditional trust.  To unconditionally trust God is to not place any conditions on your trust of him. John Newton said it this way, “what you will, when you will, how you will”  In other words, as you “commit” your life (unconditionaly trust God) you will slowly become person who makes wise plans.

Finding God’s will is not saying to God, “I will trust you now you tell me what to do ________ ” Or, “Here are my plans, now bless them. No. That is a very transactional approach. Rather, finding God’s will begins by saying, “I trust you…whatever you give or take…whatever you think best…what you will, when you will, how you will…I’ll trust you, whether I understand it or not. I’ll accept whatever comes, whether I understand or not. I will not leave you.”

Corrie Ten Boom “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Only if go thru life like that, not bailing but trusting, over time, good/bad, do you bthe ecome kind of person who makes wise plans.

Q: Why would that be?
First, God is teaching you about yourself.
You don’t learn that you’re a sinner by just being told. You don’t learn you’re finite by just being told. You don’t learn about your flaws by just being told. You don’t learn need for a Savior by just being told. You have to be shown.

Secondly, God is teaching you about himself. No one ever learned God loved them just by being told. No one ever learned that God is sufficient just by being told. No one ever learned that God is absolutely faithful just by being told. No over learned that God is good and true just by just being told. You have to be shown over and over. So, God will make sure you find yourselves in positions thinking He has abandoned you, only to later realize you were wrong. As that happens over and over, again and again, as you commit yourself to him and don’t bail, you will become wise.

What happening there? You’re learning of your flaws, need, sin which makes you more humble and self-aware than would be otherwise. But, at the same time, you’re also learning God’s strength, sufficiency, love, faithfulness, which make you more joy-filled and confident than you would have otherwise been.

11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Tim Keller, “God does not tell you how to get guidance, but become kind of person that gets guided.”


#1 Make a plan.

21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, 
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Good time of year to assess:
Bible reading?
New/different job?
Personal growth?
Time management?

Marrieds: How are you going to nurture your marriage this year?
Parents: How are you going to grow as parents this year? Plan for your kids?
Singles: Going to invest, steward your time this year? Prepare for prospect of marriage?

Q: Where are you going to start?

#2 Prioritize.

24:27 Prepare your work outside; 
get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.

It is easy to do what we most like, before what is most important. But, what comes first? What needs to come first? Re-prioritize calendar? Get finances figured out? Address habitual sin? Re-prioritize relationship w/ Jesus?

#3 Be suspicious…of yourself.

12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…
16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

We always think we’re doing what’s best. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks “I’m going intentionally drive my life into the ground” Proverbs warns us that we all need to carry within ourselves a measure of self-suspicion.

#4 Invite others in.

11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety
15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.
20:18 Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.

We need people around us who are wise that we invite into our plans and decisions. Which decisions? Most of them, esp. big ones (work, moving, live, church, date/marry, money, etc) Importantly, this doesn’t mean we merely tell people what we’re doing, but we invite them to speak into it. Is there a decision you are making now that you have have told people about, but haven’t asked for input? Be intentional about who we talk to: (1) wise (2) people who won’t just agree with us.

#5 Listening.

12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
1:5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning…

We don’t just need people around us, we need to listen to them. It is easy to go through the motions and (1) not listen or (2) defend ourselves.

Now, if you’re anything like me. I want to commit myself fully, entirely, wholeheartedly to the Lord. Proverbs says if we do that we will become the kind of person whose plans are wise.
But, there’s a problem. Who does that? None of us. . If we’re honest, we’re not even eligible for this wisdom that Proverbs offers us. But, the good news of the Gospel is that there is one person who was wholeheartedly committed, to death, for us.
Jesus faced the storm of our sinful passivity and paralysis – so we can have purpose and passion. Jesus faced the abyss of our meaninglessness and despair – so we can have meaning and hope.

Therefore, our hope is NOT in our measure of faith, BUT in our object of faith – Jesus Christ. Our hope is NOT in the measure or our commitment to him, BUT in the measure of his commitment to us.

So, today and this year, roll your life onto Jesus. As you see how flawed you are…and how sufficient he is, you will grow to trust him – and make wise plans.

Downtown Cornerstone, let’s do some stuff this year and trust him to do what he sees fit. Dream big. Work hard. Share the gospel. Serve the city. Care for others. Be salt and light.
Let’s live like its all up to us…and trust like its all up to him…because it is.

Just do something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, Kevin DeYoung
Found: God’s Will, John Mac Arthur
Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Frieson and J. Robin Maxson