In Genesis, when we meet Abraham, he is a simple man singled out for God’s promises. God tells Abraham probably the most unlikely thing. He was going to give Abraham a son. It is unlikely for the very reasons that the narrative of Abraham addresses; Abraham and his wife were old, and Abraham and his wife were sterile. This injects an incredible line of tension that runs through the entire narrative of Abraham’s life. He is always wondering and asking why God does not give him a son as he was promised. Certainly there is nothing wrong in this. If God gives you a promise, we have every right to expect such a thing to come to pass. Such an expectation is not unreasonable. The problem we see with Abraham is that, not only does he wonder and expect, Abraham makes other plans as well.
In Genesis 13 we read about Abraham moving everything that he has in answer to God’s call. In addition to this, He brought with him Lot, who was his nephew. This was not normative of the day. People didn’t relocate and bring their nephews with them. Sons were generally kept with their fathers. The only exception in Abraham’s time was that a nephew or younger son of a brother could be adopted to inherit and continue on the line of the heirless brother. Abraham takes Lot with him to be his heir just in case God doesn’t come through. Not only was this a backup plan, but it was really the only plan that Abraham ever expected. This is why Abraham allows Lot to choose to take possession of all the land that God promised to Abraham.
8 Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.1 9 Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” 10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. –Genesis 13:8–12
Abraham doesn’t believe that God will give him a son born of his wife as God had promised. Instead, he goes ahead with his plan and calls God’s plan a backup. The next chapters in Genesis we will see Lot being carried away and Abraham rescuing his perceived heir. Lot’s city is then destroyed. Constantly Abraham worries about his plan to have Lot as his heir. The next narrative that we see this is with Abraham following along with the plan of his wife to give him a son through a concubine. Again, Abraham’s plans seem to completely derail his life. Abraham meticulously planned to meet all his objectives and receive all of his promises, but his plans betray a heart problem. He failed to trust in God.
There is no problem with having plans and backup plans. There is no problem with being prepared. The problem that Abraham had was that all the plans and all the strategies took the place in his mind of trusting God. If you are familiar with the narrative of Abraham’s life, you will already know that his lack of trust in God and his desire to take things into his own hands made a royal mess of things. The promises were from God, the objective was given by God, but Abraham failed to trust God enough to believe Him to see it done. I think we as human beings are not so unlike Abraham. As Christians we can have great objectives, we can look for incredible promises, and they may very well even be God’s, but often times where the failure comes is in the execution. We can plan and strategies and say to ourselves “How can I make this happen?” and in doing so we completely miss the point and derail our lives. The difficult part about realizing the promises and the objectives that God gives us is in recognizing that they are only accomplished through God’s plans. If God is not in our plans, then they are not God’s plans. Look at the goals and the plans that you have been making in your life. Is the resounding question in your life “How can I make this happen?” or have you allowed for generous trust in God’s ability to get things done?
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 straight your paths. –Proverbs 3:5–6