Monday, June 22, 2015

Ya Gotta Have a Plan!

As someone wise first observed, the road to failure – and lots of other bad places – is paved with good intentions. We have a worthwhile idea, fully intend to get around to it someday, but when “someday” arrives, we haven’t done anything.

The problem is, intentions without well-conceived plans – plans subsequently executed – are like clouds that one moment look white and fluffy, then dissipate moments later. Intentions are good. They serve as seeds for future endeavors, whether it’s learning a foreign language, acquiring skills to find a better job, deciding to take up a musical instrument, losing weight, improving a relationship, or growing closer to God.

Plans, without action, are
little more than good intentions.
But intentions are like the starting line of a race. They won’t get you to the finish line until they are activated with a specific plan in mind. Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright are known as “the fathers of powered flight,” but it’s likely other people had similar ideas. They might even have intended to invent something to bring their ideas into reality. But the Wright brothers were the ones that did it, devising very specific plans and performing the hard work to carry out the plans.

The world’s greatest musicians, business leaders, surgeons, statesmen, writers, designers all started with a dream. But it didn’t stop there. The idea conceived was birthed through careful, intentional planning that spurred them on to action.

When you woke up this morning, did you have in mind something you intended to do? Have you done it yet? Have you taken even the first step toward getting it done? If not – why not?

There are many principles and philosophies that guide successful enterprises, but often they can be reduced to three simple questions: Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How will we know when we’ve arrived?

In other words, goals and objectives are of little value without plans in place for pursuing and achieving them. This is true not only for the business and professional world, but also for every other facet of living.

Let’s say you’re concerned about your physical conditioning and want to make improvements. Buying exercise videos or joining a fitness club might fortify your intentions, but unless you start putting those to use on a consistent basis – not once every week or three – your intentions will remain nothing more than wishful thinking. The attitude, “I love exercise. I can watch other people doing it for hours,” won’t tone your muscles or shed unwanted pounds.

What about something even more important, like spiritual growth? After all, the Bible observes, For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Again, many of us have wonderful intentions. We’d like to become wise, godly individuals, people that others would recognize as having a close walk with God. But intentions alone won’t get us there.

So we need a plan. And it’s not something another person can devise for us. We’re all uniquely, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as Psalm 139:14 reminds us. God has a special, distinct plan for each of us, so what works for me might not work as well for you.

But in every case it should start with striving to know the Lord, and there’s no better way of doing that than spending time in His Word, where He reveals Himself as well as His commandments, laws and principles for everyday life.

After Joshua succeeded Moses in leading the Israelites, God told him, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

Psalm 119, all 176 verses of it (by far the longest chapter in the Bible), repeatedly underscores the importance and value of knowing and following the teachings of Scripture. The psalmist states it plainly in writing about God, ”How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word…. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9,11).

However, there’s more to it than simply knowing what the Bible says. It also involves using it to formulate a plan for putting intentions into action. As the apostle Paul exhorted followers of Jesus in the city of Philippi, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

And he wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

So if our desire is to know God and live fruitfully for Him, we need to move those intentions into a solid, workable plan, built on the foundation of His Word. Then, drawing from the wisdom and insight He gives us, we need to find answers to the three simple questions: When am I going? How am I going to get there? And how will I know when I’ve arrived?

Devise a plan that works – and work your plan.

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