Monday, August 15, 2016


Life is filled with obstacles and unplanned detours. It is how we respond to hindrances to our plans that measures our spiritual maturity.  Even the most godly among us make futile plans for the future.  The Apostle Paul, in the latter half of Romans 15 demonstrates just how easily plans, altruistic as they may be, may not necessarily be God's plans. Paul, in writing to the Roman believers, shares his plans to pass through Rome on his way to Spain.  God had plans for Paul to go to Rome, just not the way Paul expected.  Rather than a ministry stop along the way, Rome, for Paul was an extended stay prison sentence.  Paul's plans being foiled reveal nothing of his spiritual life, however, his reaction and behavior in the midst of failed expectations reveal just why God was able to use Paul to change the world.  Paul's reaction and faithfulness to God in the face of persecution and wrongful imprisonment can be attributed to one word - trust.

This does not mean we should not make plans. On the contrary, the Bible contains numerous passages dealing with planning for the future.  Here are some common sense tips that every believer can employ in order to mitigate the discouragement found in unmet expectations and seemingly failed plans.

1. Seek God's council
 Planning, in and of itself is not sinful and we are encouraged by scripture to "count the cost" before embarking on an endeavor, but at the same time, we also are in need of seeking the counsel and direction of the Holy Spirit.  Throughout the Old Testament, we find the most successful people inquiring of the LORD prior to embarking on or making a plan.  Some of the greatest failures recorded in the Bible are prefaced by, "and they failed to seek the LORD in this matter."   Before we ever begin planning, we should be on our face before God seeking His direction.  Often, we make a plan, then we go to God and seek His approval and when the plan fails, we get angry with God. ( How to handle anger with God, CLICK HERE  ) Our plans may be completely God honoring and born of the best intentions, but if they are not God directed they are destined to fail. Proverbs 16:25  There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. 

2. Seek godly counsel

God designed us for community.  The phrase, "no man is an island" can very well be applied to our Christian lives.  Unless we find ourselves completely cut off from all communication, like John on the Isle of Patmos, we know other believers of whom we can seek good and godly counsel and of whom we can bounce ideas off. Seeking the counsel of others, especially those who are not directly affected by our decision, allows for an unbiased perspective that we may be missing due to emotional involvement. The one caveat is, and this is a major caveat, we must ensure that our counsel comes form someone who has a solid relationship with God.  Scripture tells us to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers and asks us, "what fellowship does darkness have with light?"  We cannot seek direction from those who have a worldly perspective and expect a spiritual outcome.  Choose advisers, but choose them well. Proverbs 15:22  Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. 

3. Have a specific goal

     Often, people make plans without an end strategy or a specific goal in mind.  If there is no concrete desired outcome, discouragement can quickly neutralize our action for lack of results.  Before implementing a plan of action, a key question to ask is, "what am I hoping to accomplish?"  Without a clear answer to this question, a plan is destined to fail because it has no real objective, and unless, by some fluke, a pleasant outcome is reached, our plan will land on growing pile of other failed plans and unmet expectations.  Rather than taking a "let's do this and see what happens..." type of attitude, be sure  objectives are clear, not only to yourself, but others as well.  If we cannot coherently state our objectives, we do not have any. If we do not have a set goal, we certainly cannot reach it and will have no ability to gauge the success of a plan. Philippians  3:14  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

4. Be prepared for detours 

    We may have a plan to accomplish a certain goal and suddenly find ourselves on a different path towards that goal than we expected.  We must keep in mind that God is just as interested in our spiritual life and growth as He is in those with whom we minister to and evangelize.  Because God is interested in our growth and maturity, He is actively working in our lives and that may mean life detours.  Just because we take a different path towards a goal, does not mean our plans have failed, after all, our plan is based on outcome more than actual execution. The Apostle Paul wanted to bring the Gospel to Rome on his way to Spain, but instead, he was arrested, detained, shipwrecked and imprisoned.  Surely Paul did not plan on being shipwrecked and locked up in a Roman prison, nonetheless, he brought the Gospel to Rome.  Paul did not fail, he still brought the gospel to Rome, which was his plan all along. Eventually, Paul was released from Roman prison and embarked on a missionary journey that included Spain.  Even the most meticulous planners must acknowledge God's sovereignty in the execution of said plans. Proverbs 16:9  The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. 

5. Consider the cost or effort required
    One of the quickest way to see plans fail is to realize we are not willing to expend the resources required to see our plan to the end.  Surprisingly, the biggest obstacle to most people is the expenditure of time.  Time is the one thing that everyone on earth has in equal measure, yet the complaint, "I just can't find the time" is often used as an excuse for failure in plan execution.  Whether we plan to work on our own personal devotional life or a city wide evangelistic campaign, the cost of time may be one resource we are not willing to expend.  If we fail to consider the cost of resource and effort needed prior to embarking on a plan, discouragement and disillusionment may derail us before we really get started.  One very important thing to remember is, if God  never directs us to do that which He has not already equipped us to accomplish.  Luke 14:28  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

6. Trust in the power of God

     One of the biggest mistakes a disciple can make is failing to act on a plan or God directed course of action due to the seemingly impossibility of the task set before us.  If after prayer, godly counsel and acceptance of the cost, we are positive God is directing us in a certain direction, no obstacle should hinder our action.  We must take care not to listen to the nay sayings of those without the Spirit of God.  The amazing part about serving a supernatural God is that He can, and does, accomplish supernatural wonders through willing servants.  Imagine if David listened to the discouraging words of his brothers rather than God when he decided to challenge Goliath with a sling and stone.  Imagine if Elijah failed to call fire from heaven, while challenging the prophets of Baal, because it seemed too unlikely to work.  If we are set on a course which we are confident God has directed, we must also trust in the power of God to bring about His desired result. Zechariah 4:6  Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 

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