By Dr. Teresa Hairston
Recently, TV host, Wendy Williams created another one. â€œHow you doin?â€, her â€˜official greeting\’ has been echoed by many. But beyond the over-the-top, gossip-filled shows and advice that reeks of cultural (non-biblical) principles; there is a message behind Wendy\’s greeting worth considering. This basic greeting evolved in a time when people were genuinely concerned about the welfare of their neighbors. Its meaning was deeper and more comprehensiveâ€”â€œI am concerned about your life; how are things going? Are you achieving overall success?â€
According to the Bible, we should all be concerned, not only for our own lives, but about the overall success of those around us. â€œLet each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of othersâ€ (Phil 2:4).
No matter what calling, endeavor or venture a person is pursuing, one thing is certain: everyone wants to be successfulâ€”reach or exceed a set of goals that, when achieved, bless others. However, in my experience, and in speaking to count- less other leaders, I have found that a critical element for success in all types of enterprisesâ€” whether business, parenting or ministryâ€”is strategic planning.
Without a strategic plan you are doomed to failure. Yes, God shows up, shows out and works miraclesâ€”Hallelujah!â€” but first, He gives us access to His wisdom in order that we may understand how to proceed in achieving the dream or vision He has given us. Many people know what they want to achieve, but they often stumble through life and miss the mark or fail to meet their optimum goal because they don\’t have a clear idea of how to get where they\’re trying to go.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, â€œFor I know the plans I have for you,â€ says the LORD. â€œThey are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hopeâ€ (Jer. 29:11, NLT).
Did you know that God thought about you way before your mommy and daddy did? Did you know that when God created you He gave you every capability, gift, talent and skill you would ever need? Not only that, but God made plans for your lifeâ€” plans that will lead you to great exploits and accomplishments!
The key to success is finding out, focusing on and fol- lowing God\’s plans. Most of us mess up when we attempt to implement our own plans and ask God to â€œrubberstampâ€ them. Jeremiah indicated that God purposefully orchestrated and outlined plans for each of our lives that will lead to suc- cessâ€”physically, emotionally and spiritually!
God\’s plans are strategic; in fact, He is the Master Strate- gist! When asked, He will give each of us the specifics of how to walk the road of life; and, if we carefully follow His plans we will achieve success.
The Bible clearly affirms that the Israelites were God\’s chosen nation. He loved them and promised to make them powerful and prosperous; and, they wanted all that God had for them. The problem was that they had a faulty, flawed strategy for how to obtain God\’s promises; they thought they could do it their way and trust in their own wisdom. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness 40 years. Later, after entering the Promised Land, they violated God\’s Word and way time after time and reaped God\’s wrath.
Jeremiah warned them: â€œRepent and turn back to God, or he will punish you!â€ (see Jer. 18:11) He pleaded; encouraged; and ministered, but they didn\’t listen. How appropriate Jeremiah\’s message is today.
In today\’s â€œBurger-King-microwaveâ€ society, we often want everything our way; and we want it in a hurry. But God\’s blessings can only be obtained in God\’s wayâ€”in accordance with His plans (and timetable!) for our lives.
We know that God loves us and wants the best for us. What we have to figure out is how God wants to give us his best; how to get where He wants us to go! We do that through our intimate relationship with Him (knowing, hearing, trust- ing and obeying Him).
I encourage you to consider the following suggestions:
1. Get clarity on God\’s strategic plans for your life. â€œI know the plans I have for you.â€
After you have a clear vision; get a clear strategy. God\’s instructions are always precise and purposeful. Other voic- es and influences will distract, misinform and mislead. The plans of God will always agree with the word of God.
2. Trust God\’s Plans. â€œThey are plans for good and not for disaster,â€
Not only does God know what He wants you to do (vi- sion) He knows how He wants you to do it (strategy). You might have thought you understood God\’s strategy, but per- haps, you didn\’t. Habakkuk knew God\’s purpose was to bless His people, and he also thought he knew God\’s strategy (see Hab 1-2), but he didn\’t. He mistakenly had a preconceived no- tion of how God was going to handle things; but once he went back and listened to God, he was corrected; and then he saw and wrote the vision clearly. Go back and listen to God again, then write what God reveals about the strategy (reposition yourself); and trust God that no matter what it looks like or feels like, or how long it takes; the vision will come to pass.
Years ago, we sang the great hymn of the church: â€œTis\’ so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take him at his word; just to rest upon his promise, just to know, â€œThus saith the Lord.â€ The writer of the hymn, Louisa M. R. Stead, wrote the lyric in the aftermath of a tragic experienceâ€”the horrific drowning of her husband.
Louisa Stead was born in England. She felt the call of God upon her life for missionary service. She arrived in America in 1871. In 1875, Louisa married a Mr. Stead, and to this union was born a daughter, Lily. When the child was four years of age, the family decided one day to enjoy the sunny beach at Long Island Sound, New York. While eating their picnic lunch, they suddenly heard cries of help and spotted a drowning boy in the sea. Mr. Stead charged into the water. As often happens, however, the struggling boy pulled his res- cuer under the water with him, and both drowned before the terrified eyes of wife and daughter. And out of her struggle with God during the ensuing days, flowed these meaningful wordsâ€”â€œTis so sweet to trust in Jesus.â€
God operates in another dimension. We can never track Him; but we can trust Him. Trust that He has the Master Plan; that He is the Master Strategist and that his strategy will ultimately result in our well-being, growth and prosperity.
3. Put God\’s strategic plans in action. â€œ…to give you a future and a hopeâ€
As I write this column, the United States is facing the BP oil spill, which many are describing as the worst ecological disaster in American history. Up to 40 million gallons of oil are estimated to have gushed into the Gulf of Mexico. It\’s a catastrophe that will have decades of impact.
America is focused on this unfolding tragedy with a fore- boding of fear, doom and gloom. But, as Christians, we do not lose hope; but we have faith in the knowledge that the same God that brought us through Katrina, H1N1, tornadoes, hurricanes, foreclosures and economic downturns has strategic plans for our future. And that no matter whatâ€”God is going to bring us through. We have a future AND a hope!
Because of our God\’s plans for us, we look up and not around, we rejoice instead of worrying and we operate with confidence and conviction rather than despair. We choose to declare like David, â€œEven when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.â€