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Plans that Succeed
by Tom Brown

Many sincere Christians have bought a dangerous lie: “To live by the Spirit is to forsake planning.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

 Proverbs 16:1-3 says, To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.  Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

            Man has a right to plan; of course, God has a right to redirect his plans. The point of this verse is God has given to man the responsibility to make plans. If he is waiting for God to give him the plan then he will wait a long time. God waits for us to make plans, and then he will direct us along the way.

            God promises to reply to man’s plans, but how can God reply if there is nothing to reply to? In other words, man must make the plan first, and then God will reply to it.

            When I first became a Christian I heard it preached, “Don’t ask God to bless your plans, find out His plans and then they will already be blessed.” This sounded good. People applauded this statement; however, in a practical way how were we to discover God’s plan. Most were stumped. We were frozen. We became afraid to draw up any plan for fear that the plan was not approved by God.

            It was the passage in Proverbs 16 that liberated me. I realized that it was man’s right to plan, and it was God’s prerogative to reply to our plans. If you want to hear from God, then make a plan and God will reply to you about it.

            I am a planner. I believe in it. I have also discovered that some plans I made were not exactly God’s perfect will, but that is okay, because I learned to hear God’s voice while pursuing my plans. This is what James 4:13-15 means:  

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.”

            Please do not misunderstand James. He is not advocating that we abandon “plan-making”. Rather He advocates including hearing God’s reply to our plans. That is why you should say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that.” Sure you plan to do this or that, but you also realize that God can override your plan and give you something better. 

            Twice I tried to purchase property for our church before we landed some prime real-estate. The first time I even had our congregation march around the property claiming it for the Lord. After the ceremony, I got into my car and as I was driving the Lord spoke, “I don’t want you to get that property.” What!? We had already declared to our church that we were going to make an offer for the land. But God had replied.

            I told the owner of the property that we changed our mind and we were not going to make an offer after all. They thought I was trying to play hard so they offered a low price. I told them I was not interested. So they countered and offered owner financing with a low interest. I turned it down. I finally had to explain that I don’t believe that this property was the best for our church.

            The second time I agreed to purchase five acres that were way outside the city limits, with the hope that the city would move out where we were. However, the morning I was to sign the papers, I did not feel comfortable.  I drove to the city planning department and asked the man in charge when he thought the city would move out to where we were planning to build. He said it was going to be a very long time like ten or twenty years. I could not wait that long. So I cancelled the purchase.

            My point in these stories is that I made a plan but God replied each time and told me to keep looking. Finally we found the present nine acres and purchased it for $110,000 which was lower than the other properties and yet the value of this land far exceeds them. We built our church on this land, and now our area is the fastest growing section of our city.

            You must have a plan if you expect to succeed. A plan is a method of action to accomplish a definite purpose.

            A plan is a blueprint. It is a detailed explanation of how you are going to build a structure. A contractor doesn’t take a group of men and say, “Let’s build. Do what you are led to do.” No way! He gives each man a blueprint and specific instructions on what to do. As long as they do what is on the blueprint, the structure will be built.

            Imagine sitting in an airplane, hearing the pilot’s voice, “Hello, this is Captain Lost. Our goal is to arrive at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. I have not plot our course, but I hope to arrive there anyway.” That is your cue to get off the plane.

            We plan our day when it comes to the unimportant details of life, but when it comes to our dreams we neglect to plan. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

            There are three “D’s” for making a plan that works:

1. Dedicate Your Plans

            Proverbs 16:3 points out the most important ingredient for successful planning:

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

  This is God’s promise. Your plans will—not might—but will succeed, if you commit your plans to God. You must dedicate your plans to God.

            You may ask, “How do I know if I’m making plans according to God’s will or if I’m making plans according to my own mind?”

            Proverbs 16:3 in the Amplified Bible answers that question:

Roll your works upon the Lord—commit and trust them wholly to Him; [HE WILL CAUSE YOUR THOUGHTS TO BECOME AGREEABLE TO HIS WILL, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.  (Emphasis added)

This translation says that God will bring your thoughts into agreement with His will. In other words, you’ll have inspired thoughts. An inspired thought is God thinking through your mind!

            You’re dreaming with God!

            First Corinthians 2:16 says, “We have the mind of Christ.” An inspired thought is really the mind of Christ being released through you. That’s wonderfully incredible!

            The most important part of making a plan is to dedicate your plan, your ideas, your thoughts to God. Then get ready for divinely, inspired thoughts.

2. Decide to win

            1 Corinthians 9:24 says, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

We should run to win, not simply finish. Some people have the win/lose philosophy: Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, sometimes the game gets rained out! No, we should live our lives to win.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph... (2 Corinthians 2:14 KJV).

      God doesn’t lead us to lose. He leads us into triumph, always!

            God never made a failure! Failure is man-made. We should have a winning attitude.

            An Olympic runner doesn’t start at the blocks and hopes, “I hope I place fifth.” Of course not. He goes for the gold! You should too!

            “But not everyone wins,” you may exclaim!

            Yes, but in our race we compete with no one. God puts everyone one of us on our own track. This means that everyone can win, as long as we all run the race marked out for us. Many get off of their track and race in someone else’s course. Stick with your course and you can win!

            I told you about the property we purchased. Well at first the owner did not want to sell us the land. They wanted cash, but we did not have that kind of money. Through my agent I offered to put down $30,000 if they would finance for seven years. They shrugged the offer and replied that they might take half and finance the rest. I could not see anyway to come up with $55,000.

            I refused to take no. I told my agent to give me the phone number of the owners. He reluctantly did and I called them up. I pleaded with them to sell the land to the church. I told them it was for God. I explained that we were going to quickly build through a bond program and that they would get their money quickly, but for now they would get only $30,000. They said they would think about it.

            The next day my real estate agent called me and said, “Pastor, I don’t know what you said, but it worked. They will sell to the church.”

            The next challenged was to raise $30,000 the next Sunday morning. And by God’s grace we did. Just barely!

            I shared this story to illustrate the need to have a winning attitude. Things do not always go your way, but you cannot abandon your plans so quickly.

            If you had a bad game don’t hand in your uniform to the coach and say that you were not cut out to play. No! Go back and learn from your mistakes and improve. Keep at it.

3. Discipline your life

            Look at the next verse and you’ll find that discipline in necessary to succeed:

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training... (1 Corinthians 9:25)

To make your plans work you must be willing to discipline your life. If you think sticking to your plans will be easy, then you are deceived.

            Make your plans long range, yet with many short-range increments. For example, if you desire to lose thirty pounds, then set a short-range goal of losing ten pounds in the first month; then eight pounds for the next month; seven pounds for the third, and five pounds for the final fourth month. This way you can be encouraged by your progress every month and still reach your final goal.

            Make your goals tough enough so that it takes effort, but realistic enough so that you won’t be discouraged. It would be foolish to plan to lose thirty pounds in two weeks. You probably won’t make it, and as a result become discouraged. On the other hand, it would not take much effort to plan to lose thirty pounds in three and a half years. With no challenge, you’ll become a blimp real soon.

            An Olympic athlete is willing to work nearly every day for many hours, eat foods that are tasteless but nutritious, and give their life to their sport, because they know it takes arduous discipline to win.

            Anything worthwhile does not come cheap. Anything valuable will cost you much. Realize that!

            Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, was willing to sacrifice to get his business started, so he lived in his automobile in order to start his chicken restaurant because he couldn’t afford a place to live and finance his business at the same time. Not only was he willing to give up comfort, but he started the fast-food restaurant after he retired. You’re not too old to have a dream!

            You must be willing to sacrifice unimportant things in order to accomplish your goals.

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