Creating a Plan for Success
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:6
I am absolutely giddy over here! I’m completing my all-time favorite annual project—planning for the upcoming year!
Dreaming about possibilities and setting goals to make them happen is exciting, isn’t it? Every year I set aside a day to sit with the Lord, calendar open, heart exposed, ready to hear from him, and begin to set goals for the upcoming year. The process thrills me!
Planning is important; after all, we want to be good stewards of what we’re given. That includes our resources, time, talents, skills, spiritual gifts—every part of our life! In order to be good stewards, it’s essential to think through goals and determine a plan for accomplishing them.
I do this every year, but some years I’m more successful in accomplishing the goals I set for myself than I am other years. Certain years I’m cruising along, getting things done, but something just doesn’t feel right deep in my heart. Some years I find myself exhausted and overwhelmed before January is over. Other years I’m right on track, and then, WHAM! Life happens, and everything goes off course. But every once in a while, I seem to get it right.
What makes some years more successful than others?
As I’ve looked back at previous years, I’ve learned the key to success is including the Lord in the planning process. Proverbs 3:6 teaches, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.” When we begin to dream about the future and set goals to make those dreams come true, the Lord wants to be part of that process.
First Things First
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
Whenever something doesn’t feel right deep in my heart, I’ve learned to heed that warning sign. It tends to signal that I’m not fulfilling the Lord’s purpose. Instead, I’m working on my own goals. I may have good ideas and detailed plans to make them happen, but if they don’t line up with the purpose the Lord has for me, they won’t be as meaningful and, often, something will be off.
When we’re dreaming of upcoming possibilities and setting goals to attain those dreams, we need to remember that ultimately the Lord’s will for our lives is already established. He knows the plans he has for us. He created us with a specific purpose in mind, and he had that purpose in mind when he chose the skills, talents, and spiritual gifts he gave us. (Ephesians 2:10) God alone knows what he wants each of us to accomplish in the upcoming year.
Working on goals that he doesn’t intend for us to achieve will leave us feeling unsettled and frustrated. Before we start setting goals, we need to sit before him and ask what his purpose is for us in the upcoming year. That becomes our big, overarching goal.
One Step at a Time
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Another warning sign that I’m off track is when I start to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Accomplishing the Lord’s purpose will be hard work, don’t doubt that for a minute! But it will also be exhilarating and exciting. Fulfilling our God-created purpose may leave us a bit tired from time to time, but it should not deplete us and leave us with nothing left to give.
When I begin to feel exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s a sign that I’m out of step with the Lord, generally missing a step or rushing ahead of him. After determining his purpose for my year, I’ve learned to ask him to establish each small step and help me set a realistic timeline for accomplishing each one.
The small steps might not be glamorous or exciting, but those little steps add up to make the big things happen. We can’t skip them. The short strides also give us a chance to grow, to be encouraged in small progress, and even find refreshment because we aren’t trying to do it all at once.
After the Lord has revealed his bigger purpose for your future, ask him what small steps he wants you to take and what is a realistic timeline for accomplishing each one. Make sure not to miss that last part; if you’re anything like me, you may be tempted to rush the timeline to get to the end achievement as quickly as possible. Don’t do it! Trust me, you’ll be happy you waited on the Lord’s timing. If you don’t complete the little steps on his timeline, you’re going to end up exhausted and overwhelmed. And we don’t want that!
Warning: Detour Ahead
Sometimes we’ve taken time to ask the Lord what his purpose for us is, and we’re walking out those smaller steps alongside him when life throws us a curveball. What do we do then? Does that mean we were off course to begin with?
If you took the time to genuinely ask and receive the Lord’s will, then you’re probably right on course. Don’t doubt where he’s leading you! Instead, look to see if there’s something he wants to teach you in the new path. Perhaps he wants you to remember to rely on him. Maybe he’s doing a little sanctification or character building in the reroute. Or possibly the enemy is trying to get you off track and make you lose focus.
If you hit a detour, remember Proverbs 3:6 and acknowledge the Lord. Ask him to re-clarify your purpose and show you the next small step. He will be faithful to make your path known!
As we dream about 2021 and begin to make our plans, let’s remember to include the Lord in the exciting planning process! Before dreaming and planning, take a few minutes to reflect on the scriptures we discussed. (They’re listed below to make the activity easier--I even included a bonus passage!) Then, spend time in prayer, asking the Lord to give you a clear vision of the purpose he has for you in the upcoming year and the steps he wants you to take to complete that purpose.
Acknowledge the Lord with every step, and you will be on your way to a fulfilling year!
Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Sovereign Lord, I lay 2021 before you today, all of the hopes and dreams I have for the future, and I ask you to be Lord over every step I take. What is the purpose you have planned for me in 2021? Please show me what small steps I need to take to accomplish your will and help me to set a realistic timeline for each one. Lord, you promised that if I acknowledge you, you will make straight my path. I trust you and your plans for me. I seek your will for my future. Please put your vision for me in 2021 upon my heart and help me walk alongside you to achieve it. May your name be glorified, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
What dreams do you have for 2021? We’d love to be able to pray over them for you!