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What Does it Mean ‘Many Are the Plans of a Person’s Heart’?

Outside of God’s good and perfect plan, however, even the best plans of man can end in disappointment and even defeat. It’s when we hold to God’s promises found in Scripture, we remember that God’s plans are always greater than our own.

Contributing Writer
Jul 06, 2022
What Does it Mean ‘Many Are the Plans of a Person’s Heart’?

Many plans are in a person’s heart, but the advice of the Lord will stand (Proverbs 19:21).

Goals are an essential part of human life.

Having something to aspire to and work towards is often what gives people purpose, motivation, and a reason to get up in the morning. Without goals, whether big or small, people can quickly stagnate and decline, losing a sense of purpose and even hope in life.

Of course, a goal can be as simple as wanting to finish a good book, learn a new skill, or go for a walk every morning.

Does God Give Us Goals?

For Christians, goals can include trying to spend a few minutes reading the Bible in the morning, getting involved more in their local church, or memorizing more Scripture.

Even something as mundane as getting dressed to go to work or making breakfast gives us a reason to get up and get moving.

On the other hand, our goals can also be massive, long-term, and seemingly impossible. They may involve moving, starting a business, or making a significant life change.

Dreaming beyond what is comfortable, easy, or safe is what inspired some of history’s greatest innovators, entrepreneurs, and dreamers to take risks, persevere through hardship, ridicule, and failure, and push the boundaries of what we once thought was humanly possible.

We tell their stories and marvel at their achievements, aspiring to reach new heights in our own lives because of their example. That’s not inherently a bad thing. Role models are essential to the health of the individual and the survival of any culture or society.

And while human examples are always flawed and never perfect, God has given us the ultimate example to learn from and follow in Jesus Christ.

Likewise, many of God’s followers throughout Scripture set their minds on the things of God, pursuing both long-term and short-term goals in their own lives.

For example, the Apostle Paul longed to visit fellow believers and local churches in person even though he was often prevented or incapable of traveling due to imprisonment or the demands of his ministry.

As a long-term goal, Paul hoped to preach the gospel and minister to the believers in Rome (Romans 1:11; Acts 25:11-12)

And looking to eternity, Paul determined, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Immediate, short-term, and long-term goals were present in Paul’s heart throughout his ministry, with Christ at the center of all of them. The same should be true for Christians of all generations.

Many of the goals and dreams we have, as well as the plans we have developed to achieve them, are God-inspired, God-honoring, and God-oriented. And when our passion merges with God’s good plan and purpose for the world, our dreams are in a wonderful place.

In fact, Jesus told His followers that “where the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

That is God’s desire for our lives, something He often accomplishes through our goals and dreams.

Understanding the relationship, we share with God as children to a loving Father is essential for stepping into the abundant life God has for us.

Accordingly, there’s also good reason to move forward with joy when we know that God delights in our goals and dreams.

Is it Wrong to Have Plans?

In many instances, it was God who put those dreams and ideas in our hearts in the first place. The worst thing we could do is hesitate or sit back when God has given us the green light and the freedom to go for it.

However, though many of our dreams are God-inspired and pleasing to the Father, some are simply not.

Beyond our sinful desires, which must be overcome and rejected, sometimes there is nothing inherently wrong or inherently sinful about our dreams and goals. Our priorities, however, are simply out of alignment.

Certain plans take precedence over the things God has asked us to do or wants for our life. We get distracted by our many aspirations that we forget to pursue or make time for what truly matters most.

This is why Solomon, like many figures in the Bible, recognized the importance of calibrating plans and passions to God’s will and desire (Proverbs 19:21).

Big or small, our plans are ultimately subject to the will and sovereignty of God.

To put that into perspective, when the children of Israel returned from captivity in Babylon and Persia, God instructed the former exiles to begin rebuilding the temple.

Initially, they were eager to get started on a project many of them had probably dreamed about while in captivity.

However, after just two years of work, construction had ceased. Rather than being motivated to finish, the people had become discouraged by opposition and distracted by other plans and projects in their lives.

And so, for the next 14 years, the temple was left unfinished while the Israelites worked on building their own houses and finishing other goals.

Some of those plans were good, fine there was nothing wrong with their desire to build a home and take care of their families; their priorities, however, were out of alignment, prompting God to send the prophet Haggai to encourage His people to get back to work on the temple (Haggai 1:1-11).

In this instance, the Israelites hadn’t outright refused to work the temple, they had simply put it off for another day.

Seeking God’s advice on the matter would have given the Israelites the guidance they needed to know which task to start and finish first.

Accordingly, when God’s plans are put off, our plans often suffer. When God’s goals are pursued first, He often helps our plans fall into place.

In other Proverbs, Solomon also writes:

  • The plans of the heart belong to a person,but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a person are clean in his own sight, but the Lord examines the motives. Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established(16:1-3).
  • The mind of a person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps(16:9).
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight(3:5-6)

It takes trust and humility to surrender to God’s way of doing things, especially when His plans aren’t always clear. However, in our goals and how we choose to pursue them, our priorities are ultimately revealed.

What Does This Mean?

Again, Christians would be wise to heed the counsel of the Lord and the wisdom of His Word. Our plans are big. They are many. Outside of God’s good and perfect plan, however, even the best plans of man can end in disappointment and even defeat.

It’s when we hold to God’s promises found in Scripture, we remember that God’s plans are always greater than our own. Best of all, they are good.

As Jeremiah writes, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

For further reading:

Can Faith Change God’s Plans or Ours?

What If My Plans Don't Match God's?

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Have Meaning for Us Today?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/HAKINMHAN

Joel Ryan is an author, writing professor, and contributing writer for Salem Web Network and Lifeway. When he’s not writing stories and defending biblical truth, Joel is committed to helping young men find purpose in Christ and become fearless disciples and bold leaders in their homes, in the church, and in the world.

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