It is December and that is the time that I set goals and plan for the coming year … I have, over the years, read a lot about planning and goal setting. And, I realize each year at this time that it would be easy to get the idea that if you just plan well enough or persist long enough you will succeed. But, again, over the years I have learned that this is seldom enough.
I was reminded again this morning of a Bible verse… “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1)
Ultimately, we cannot do anything of lasting value unless God blesses our work. The Apostle Paul reminds the believers at Corinth:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6)
This statement doesn’t diminish the work of Paul or of Apollos. If you have read anything about either of their lives, you know that both men possessed incredible faith and courage. They worked hard. They endured setbacks without losing heart. But, at the end of the day, they also knew that it was all in vain unless God “gave the increase.”
No one knows this better than a farmer. The farmer can till and fertilize the soil. He can plant the seed. He can chase off varmints. He can spray for bugs. He can even irrigate his fields. But he can’t make it rain. Nor can he restrain the winds, the lightening, or the hail. At the end of the day, whether he acknowledges it or not, he is dependent on God for a successful harvest.
This is true in any endeavour. This has at least three implications for today’s disciples and followers of Jesus…
1. Stay humble. The Bible says “pride goes before a fall” (see Proverbs 16:18). Just when you think you have it figured out, things change. To remain effective, you have to keep adopting the posture of a beginner. I like the prayer, “Lord, forgive me, a beginner.”
2. Trust God. If you don’t need God to pull off what you are planning, you are not dreaming big enough. In case you are wondering, no, you are not smart enough. No, you don’t have enough experience. and, no, you don’t have enough resources. But with God, all things are possible (see Mark 10:27).
3. Work hard. Too often, people want to exercise faith in lieu of real work. But these should never be pitted against one another (see James 2:14–18). They go hand in hand. Trust God and then work your buns off.
This sounds pretty simple, right? The problem is in living it out.
Many people do #1 and #3 pretty well. But it is #2 that we can forget if we are not careful. I believe that man was created to be in a relationship with God. This is the real purpose of life. If what you are doing serves that purpose, great. But if it causes us to forget God and act as if he doesn’t exist, then, in His love for us, He is quick to remind us how finite our own resources are and how much we need Him.