Building a better future: Making a plan to improve your life
We need a plan to improve our lives. If you’re going to build a better future, you have to have a plan for your life. You have to have a life plan. You need to write down a simple plan and get started on building a better future. Now it’s not going to happen without a plan. If you don’t have a plan for a better future in your life, you’re just going to coast. And you can’t coast into a better you, you can’t drift into a better future. It takes intention and it takes planning.
Something To Talk About:
- Pray and ask for God’s favor: God’s favor is God’s grace. This is the first thing that Nehemiah does in his life plan. Is it okay to pray for success? Nehemiah did. “Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me.” (Nehemiah 1:11) I don’t know what to do with my life. So I don’t have any idea what to pray about.” Well, you know what? You can pray about that. You can pray that you don’t know what you should be doing. James 1:5 says this: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.…” So you go, “I don’t even know what my vision, what my dream, what my goal, what my target, what my plan is.” Start saying, “God, I don’t have a plan. What’s your plan for my life.” Once you start asking God for wisdom and direction, you know what? He’s going to eventually plant an idea in your mind or a burden in your heart. You’re going to look around and you’re going to see something that needs changing.
- Prepare for an opportunity and wait: I think God wants me to do something about this problem in society.” Or, I believe God wants me to do something about this problem in my company or in my home or in my community, or in my church. When you start praying for a vision, for a dream, for a goal, for a plan, it doesn’t come instantly. God is not a vending machine. He’s waiting to see if you’re serious. Nehemiah had gotten this burden four months earlier, and for four months he’s been waiting for something to happen, and now something happens. What had been happening between that time when Nehemiah got his first idea, about rebuilding the wall and rebuilding Jerusalem, and when he asks and gets the opportunity to present his idea to the king. He’d been praying. But he also had been planning and he had also been preparing. Are you doing that? Are you thinking about the next six months? Are you thinking about the next year of your life? Are you thinking about the next five or 10 years of your life? A wise man thinks ahead, a fool doesn’t and even brags about it. See, it’s wise to spend time thinking about your life.
- Expect fear, but don’t let it stop you: When King Artaxerxes was dining, Nehemiah took the wine to him. The king had never seen Nehemiah sad before, so he asked him why he was so sad. That made Nehemiah very afraid. Now, this is the moment Nehemiah is waiting for. He’s been praying for an opportunity to present his idea to the King. He’s got an opportunity now to state his case because he’d been planning, he’s been preparing, he’s ready for the answer. He has a burden and he can’t hide it. In those days, it was a capital crime to be sad before the King. They didn’t want anybody raining on their parade. Now, in those days, if a King doesn’t like your request, it means he doesn’t like you. So no wonder Nehemiah is frightened and on top of that, he’s going to ask permission to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah has reason to be afraid. But he overcomes his fear and sees the opportunity.
- Establish a clear target: Then Nehemiah shares a specific goal with the king. “I replied, ‘“If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” (Nehemiah 2:5). You need a target. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it. Ask yourself three questions as you set the goal: What do I want to be? What do I want to do? Set big goals. Big plans honor God. Nehemiah was a great example of this. He had never built a wall (or anything else) when he went to Jerusalem to build the wall, but he trusted God for this stretch goal.
- Set a deadline: A goal has to have a deadline. If your goal doesn’t have a deadline, that’s not a goal. You know what you want to do, and then you know when you want to do it. You schedule it. You put it in your calendar, and you ask the question, “How long is it going to take?” And so the King says, “How long are you going to be gone?” It showed that the King really did like Nehemiah. God had a time in it and you have to have timing. Nehemiah establishes a deadline. He puts it on his calendar. Remember this, a dream without a deadline is just an empty wish. A dream without a deadline is just an empty wish. It won’t go anywhere.
- Anticipate the barriers You’ll face: Nehemiah had already asked the king for permission. In 2:7, he asked for protection—a letter he could take with him to provide safe conduct along the way. Nehemiah’s long journey went through quite a few provinces. People didn’t travel freely in those days. They had to go through proper procedures. Nehemiah recognized this potential problem and planned for a solution. As you set out to tackle your goals, make the effort to define what could potentially hold you back. Anticipate problems nobody else thinks about. Ask yourself what could hold you back. What are the problems or potential problems? What are the barriers? What could go wrong?
- Trust God to meet all your needs: When you’re writing out this life plan, trust God to meet all your needs. Nehemiah 2:8 says this, Nehemiah says, “…And the king granted these requests because the gracious hand of God was on me.” Notice he gives God the credit. He says “look at what God did.” God was behind it all. We don’t always get the right plan. Our plans are not infallible. My plan isn’t infallible. We can make our plans and God tells us to make our plans, but God has the last word. And so if my plan doesn’t happen in my time or in my way, I just go, “God, I trust your plan is better than mine.” When God finds a person willing to do it His way, in His timing, based on His power, He will always provide the resources. I have found that to be true in my life for 50 years.
- How do we know our plans align with God’s will? How can we recognize when we are following the world’s view and not God’s?
- What plans did you set for your life that did not go as you had hoped and what did you do? How might the outcome have been different if you had turned to God first?
- As Nehemiah makes thoughtful preparations, how do you still see the dynamic of faith, prayer, and reliance? What other biblical examples can you think of that demonstrate the importance of having a plan as well as relying on God?
- As Nehemiah demonstrates, constructing a feasible plan requires an accurate assessment of “current reality.” How do we do that?
- What are the critical elements of planning implemented by Nehemiah?
- In the past, have you planned something on your own, or did you ask God what steps to take? How did it turn out and what did you learn?
- Give an example of a time when fear prevented you from planning something, and what was that fear that stopped you. What could you have done to overcome that fear?
- Planning requires patience. Are you able to establish a clear target and set a deadline, or do you want immediate results, and why?
- How do you anticipate the barriers you may face when planning? Will you trust God to overcome those barriers?
- What did you think or find interesting about today’s message? Did anything that was said in the message particularly speak to you or surprise you? What is your biggest takeaway from the message?
Take one thing home with you:
This is a stressful and unsettled time. And you may feel like you’re going through it alone. But you’re not alone. God sees what you’re going through and he cares. He’s right beside you, no matter the situation or circumstances you are facing.
There is nothing to fear when you know God is near. No matter what you face in the future, you will never face it alone. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you”