Proverbs 21:5 – Planning for Life Success

Proverbs consistently encourages diligence in work but this verse adds an important contrast: planned versus impulsive actions. It is not enough to be busy, a person must be diligently working on the right things to be productive.

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)

Proverbs consistently encourages diligence in work but this verse adds an important contrast: planned versus impulsive actions. It is not enough to be busy, a person must be diligently working on the right things to be productive.

Planning Is More Important Than Plans

Winston Churchill, incorporating the wisdom of military planners such as Moltke the Elder, observed that ““Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” (1) Though game plans may need to be abandoned or significantly adjusted once the game begins (or, Moltke’s assertion that plans do not survive first contact with the enemy), the very process of planning allows a person to make wise decisions to adapt to the changing environment.

Proper planning includes the evaluation and elimination of alternate plans or ideas that might be use in the changing circumstances. Likewise, the evaluation of a course of action might indicate where following the plan would lead to a disastrous outcome though, initially, the plan seems to provide a desirable result. Evaluating such plans in advance allows one to refuse the tempting option in favor of another alternate plan that will provide better results. Additionally, the planning process should generate contingency plans that can be followed when problems strike. NASA, as featured in the movie Apollo 13, documented and trained on unusual scenarios and had documented plans of actions to deal with problem situations.

Using Priorities To Plan Purposeful Action

The danger of keeping to-do lists is that some people list tasks to complete without asking if they should delegate the work to others or even do the work at all. An important part of planning enabling the diligent to be successful is outlining goals and performing actions that lead towards those objectives instead of wasting time on things that might make one look busy but distract from a worthy goal. Plans help us say “no” to actions that are unproductive so we can say “yes” to tasks that bring success. Planning programs such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Successful People incorporate goal development and visioning to create plans that allow productive people to determine what tasks to perform, delegate, or eliminate.

Spiritual Application

Though the proverb has initial application in business success, the same thinking can help us grow spiritually. Do you have spiritual goals such as learning sections of the Bible or becoming more useful in God’s service? Do you have a plan for daily meditation, purposeful prayer, and teaching others? Sometimes we do not grow spiritually or produce fruit because we are satisfied where we are or do not think about what specific steps we need to take to grow in knowledge and be more active in the kingdom. The same principles apply (principles in bold, examples in italics):

  • From your Bible study, identify ways in which you need to grow as a Christian. 
    • I need to be engaged with my brethren in their time of need.
  • Specifically define and write down how you would describe having achieved success in the identified area of development.
    • Every week I am sending cards, calling, and providing assistance to brethren in need in addition to daily prayers on their behalf.
  • Write down what would be needed to achieve this goal.
    • I need a contact information directory of the brethren handy, a weekly list of who needs prayers and some type of service, a weekly reminder to initiate actions or plan actions for later in the week, and a reminder to check at the end of the week to see if I have accomplished this goal. It would be good to have a collection of greeting cards and stamps to prevent procrastination.
  • List specific actions required to achieve this goal and schedule the actions as appropriate.
    • Make a list of everyone announced who is sick or in need. Schedule a recurring appointment on Monday morning to pray over those in the list and list by each name a specific action (or actions) to take this week. If unable to write the cards or make calls at this time, add phone reminders (or add to calendar) for what actions to do at what times. Perform the actions as scheduled. Set a recurring reminder on Saturday morning to review progress and see if additional action needs to be taken (i.e., follow up phone calls). Give thanks to God for the ability and opportunity to glorify Him by serving others to honor Him.

Following a plan like the one above for a month or two may actually develop a habit that may not require a specific schedule (though it would be good to keep in order to block times in the week for particular actions, though habitual). If the plan is not working examine to see whether you need to get more specific in your planning (“do good” is a great goal but not a defining action), actually do the actions you have planned (instead of snoozing reminders), or determine if you have chosen a goal you want to achieve versus what you think you should do but really do not want to do.

Haste Leads to Poverty

The second part of this verse is equally important. Impulsive action generally leads to poverty. Much debt is accumulated through impulse buying. Hard feelings result from impulsive words said or actions taken against others when deliberate thought about what to say (or whether to say something) could have alleviated many problems. Business have brought legal problems on themselves for acting hastily without thinking about the consequences of their actions.

Though bold action is often praised in business and the cinema, bold thoughtful action is what brings consistently good results. When we act impulsively, we are reacting to emotion or situations. We are allowing how we feel in the moment (which is ever changing) or the priorities of others to dictate our course of action. If you do not have a plan for your life, there will always be others to press you into service to achieve their goals and you can end up reacting to everything in life and suffering financially and professionally as a result.  It reminds me of the interaction between Alice and The Cheshire Cat in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: Oh, no, no. I was just wondering if you could help me find my way.
Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: Oh, it really doesn’t matter, as long as…
Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go

(From IMDB)

If you don’t have a plan then any way seems right because you are drifting with the tide or blowing with the wind. When you have a goal (destination), and a plan (map from your origination to your destination), you can cut through the tide, sometimes steering against the wind, to reach your objective. Haste wastes time; planning redeems it.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV)

(1) Strategic Plans are Less Important Than Strategic Planning, Harvard Business Review

 

Own Your Life and Give Up Your Excuses

Kyle Maynard’s Story

Kyle Maynard wrestled in high school and in college for the Georgia Bulldogs. He set records in weightlifting, fought in mixed martial arts, and ascended to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. These would be amazing feats for anyone to achieve but they are more amazing when you consider Kyle Maynard’s physical condition: he was born with a condition known as congenital amputation. Most of his arms and legs were not there at birth.

According to his biography, his parents told him that the world would not be designed to meet his needs so he would have to find ways to adapt to how the world works. “With basically two elbows he can type up to fifty words per minute on a normal keyboard, eat and write without any adaptations, drive a vehicle that has little modification, and live on his own in a three-story townhouse in Atlanta, GA.” He can feed himself, shave, and otherwise take care of himself.kylemaynard

He had many challenges: he lost every wrestling match for most of the two years he competed but with an iron will and parents who supported him he won 36 varsity matches, defeated several state champions, and bench pressed 240 pounds 23 times and, with leather straps and chains, lifted 420 lbs. “In April of 2009, Kyle became the first quadruple amputee to step into the cage and compete as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter. Kyle’s focus is on grappling and ground fighting — he’s currently in his 7th year studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and now training with Renzo Gracie black belt Paul Creighton.”

The reason that Kyle had such success is that he took responsibility for his life instead of giving up because of his physical condition.

Taking responsibility means giving up your excuses

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told the Parable of the Talents. The master was going away and entrusted his servants with various sums of money and expected them to use that money to make more money for him. The master had different expectations for each man but expected all to prosper. He rewarded or punished the men based on how they used the talents. When the master returned, two of the servants had some success but one failed prosper. He thought he was playing it safe but the master was angry and punished him for being a wicked and useless servant.

This is a parable of judgment. The issue is not taking care of money but using what God has given us to His glory. God will judge us on how we use or waste our lives and the blessings He has given. Two men made a choice; one made an excuse.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God, Romans 14:12

What is “responsibility”?

There are many definitions available. For our purposes, one could define responsibility as:

  1. The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control overs someone or something
  2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something
  3. The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization

Responsibility means trust is placed in an individual with expectation that they will fulfill their obligations without being told or threatened, accepting the good and bad consequences of their actions, and running to responsibilities instead of hiding from them.

Accepting responsibility is the essence of being mature

God has given us free will – the right to choose our course of life. We are not robots who follow a predetermined program. He does not force us to do His will or refrain from sin. Like the servants in the parable of the talents, we are given great freedom in what we choose to do with what God has given us. We are stewards of the life God has given us and He will hold us accountable for our actions or failure to act. God has given us control over how we live our lives.

I remember when I got the keys to my first car. The keys meant I had the freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted. I didn’t have to depend on anyone for a ride and I could go on dates. I was also responsible for paying for gas to fuel my freedom. I had to wash and clean it if I wanted it to look nice: no one did it for me. I was also accountable for the safety of myself and my passengers. One night I almost killed myself and two girls by being stupid behind the wheel. When I was given the keys to the car I was given freedom, responsibility, and accountability.

God has given us the keys to our life and with them freedom, responsibility, and accountability for how we use our lives. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 -17 that God’s word fully equips us for EVERY good work so we can’t blame God for not telling us what to do.

One of the most sobering passages of scripture is Romans 14:12: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” We will have to answer to God for how we lived our life: the choices we made and the things that we failed to do. 2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Our parents don’t answer for us. The preacher or elders don’t answer for us. We cannot blame or credit anyone else for how we have lived. We receive reward or punishment based on what we have done.

Some people fail to accept responsibility for their lives. Some churches filled with people who are spiritually weak and biblically ignorant having given no serious effort to their spiritual growth. Churches need spiritually strong Christians grounded in God’s word to live faithful holy lives and to serve God and others. In some churches a few are willing to step up and work and learn new responsibilities but they are surrounded by irresponsible people who are willing to let others work and do not challenge themselves to godly service.

Some people won’t grow up. Most kids know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up, only wanted to play, and escaped from the real world to keep up his immature life. Far from being discouraged in our society, our emphasis on professional play, entertainment, and sexual promiscuity encourage a long period of irresponsibility. Some boys and girls do not want to leave play time to transition into the society of responsible men and women. I shocked a person who wondered why video games are intense and had language and other mature characteristics when I told her that video games weren’t made for kids, the biggest users are young adult men. I’m not condemning the playing of games because alcohol, laziness, non-electronic hobbies, etc. can limit a young person’s growth or lead people to perpetual adolescence. Though talking about spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 13:11 tells us there is a time to put away the childish things and accept responsibility.

Instead of seeking responsibility, some are passively avoiding it. They let others do the work. They wait for others to direct them to work. We have a lot of boys running around in men’s bodies who will not do hard work, want others to do things for them instead of serving others, seek entertainment and comfort instead of embracing the mature satisfaction of rising to the challenges of life. Proverbs 10:5 reminds us “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”

Help others with their burden

Opportunity plus ability equals responsibilityThe Christian must rise to action to serve God, not hide or wait for others to work, but must seek opportunities to serve and rise to the task. John, in 1 John 3:16, describes a brother in need who requires an open heart and active hands to help him. Faced with this situation, the Christian should act if they can help. No one has to tell you to act: the situation calls you to action. When we encounter an opportunity to help, and we can help, then are responsible to act.

Be honest about your ability. You may not have the cash but can you use your time and energy to help the situation? Maybe the need isn’t financial, perhaps someone needs a friend, sympathetic ear, or word of encouragement.

Bear your own burden

We can help other people carry their burdens but everyone is responsible to carry their own burdens, Galatians 6:1-5. Some people will let you carry all of their burdens: do their work, make lots of demands on your time, etc. They might try to make you feel guilty for not doing more but remember they are responsible for their own lives.

Many years ago I spent several hours at the house of a husband and wife with marital problems AND problems raising their kids. I gave them some practical things to do to help in both situations. A couple of weeks later they called during the middle of some family time saying, “You need to come over here. We’re having problems.” I asked if they had followed the advice I gave earlier. They said “no.” I told them to discuss these things because I wasn’t going to come over repeat the advice they ignored. I didn’t feel guilty because they had ignored my help before. I would have sacrificed precious time with my family because these people were making poor decisions in their family and until they made different choices they would continue to have the bad consequences.

Conclusion

We have so many opportunities to let God’s light shine through us but we have to look for opportunities and act without being asked. Living this life will enrich your life and the lives of others and glorify your God.

Don’t Talk Your Dreams To Death

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

“In all toil (labor) there is profit”
Diligent work always leads to some result or profit of benefit to the worker. Most work is neither easy nor fun but it does pay the bills and provides money for doing good and having fun. Even if you have a job you enjoy, there will be  unpleasant duties. People who love to garden still must get dirty, sweaty, and dig through the soil if they want to have the flowers or produce of the garden.

“Mere talk leads to poverty”
In contrast to diligent labor, talk without action leads to poverty. Idle talking does not pay and has gotten some people fired. Grandiose plans and slick presentations may impress others but it does not pay one cent if no labor is expended to make the dream a reality.

The first obvious application—indeed the natural application—of this verse is to the business world. In the early days of personal computers —before the average person could access the Internet—a man I knew had great plans to work with realtors to put pictures of houses for sale on videodisc (pre-DVD) with sale information for agents and customers. He had a prototype system, good marketing plan, and enthusiastic presentation. He talked with people in the office about his plans and the unlimited potential for profits. One problem: he did not have customers or profit from the work because he did not get out and talk to the customers who needed the system. In short, he planned and talked his way to poverty while other people, through hard work, were able to profit from similar ideas.

The world is made up of  poor creative geniuses and  rich people of average intelligence. The difference is not what they know but by what they do.

This principle is especially important for spiritual growth. Is your spiritual life the product of hard work or mere talk?

Some people talk about “getting their life right” or “straightening up” but still hang out with ungodly friends, feed their minds with filth, and do not change. Some say they want to pray or study more—and do so year after year. Some talk about doing more things with their brethren, helping the sick or needy, or getting involved with some work in the church but do not act.

Some people realize their life is displeasing to God, is yielding undesirable consequences, and is unsatisfying so they change their behavior. Some want a closer relationship with God and execute a plan to study and pray more frequently. Some take action to involve themselves with their brethren so they can have richer and deeper fellowship with other Christians.

If you want to have a rich and meaninful spiritual life, you’ll have to work for it.

  • Romans 13:11-14 – Awake and get busy
  • Thessalonians 5:4-8 – get busy with good things
  • Ephesians 5:14-17 – wake up and make good use of your time

 “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” Proverbs 28:19 (NIV)

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How sad it will be for those who dreamed of a close relationship with God and their brethren, a close loving family, and a meaningful life’s work to fail because they only dreamed and did not act.

A Mind Like Christ

Action follows thought. If we want to act like Christ we must think like Christ. Consider these verses:

2 Corinthians 10:5 – We must bring every thought under control
Mark 7:20-23 – The heart of a man is the source of his actions
Romans 1:21-22 – Terrible abominations are rooted in evil and futile thoughts
Colossians 3:1-3 – Set your mind on things above
The worldly mind dwells on empty, meaningless, and demeaning thoughts. Abominations, evil inventions, and cruelty (even in the name of religion), or indifference to others is the common result. The worldly mind focuses on the present world and fulfilling lusts. This mind is trained by the philosophy of the world through television, movies, songs, books, and through popular opinion.

The mind of Christ is taught by the word of God. We consciously decide to think like Christ so that the natural state of the changed mind dwells on godly things and makes judgments in light of Christ’s doctrine. It is a mind that seeks to develop a relationship with the Father, live pure and holy, and esteem others better than self.

In contrast to the chaos of the mind, it is a mind at peace. Instead of being selfish it serves. It is not directed by the whims of passion but by purposeful direction and discipline. It takes a while to develop this mind but the effects on the attitude and behavior of the transformed Christian are worth it.

The Mind of Christ in Action

After we transform our minds, our actions must change.  Jesus taught that a man’s heart dictates his actions.  If our heart is right, right actions will follow.  A godly life is the natural result of a mind cleansed by God and consecrated to Him.

When we set our minds on things above our actions will change.  Colossians 3:5-17 describes this transformation:

Put to death/put off
Put on
Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, conveteousness, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, lying
Holiness, tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, forgiving, love
This is the old man, made in the image of the world.
This is the new man, made in the image of the Creator.

As Paul illustrates, the new man acts differently towards his fellow man.  He seeks to build other people up, not destroy them.  He speaks good, not evil.  He is longsuffering, not impatient.  Our actions towards other people change because our attitude towards them has changed. God commands us to serve others as part of our service to Him.  We must transform from a self-seeking, self-centered being into a selfless servant, like Jesus, seeking to serve rather than be served.