For Women in Ministry: What's the Plan?
- Mary Southerland Author & Speaker
- 2005 27 Jan
In order to allow the power of God to freely reign in our lives and flow through us, spilling out in effective ministry, we must cultivate spiritual habits. Habits are powerful motivators and determine the difference between failure and success in ministry as well personally. We are examining seven habits that will enable us to experience true success - God's idea of success - in daily life and in ministry. We have explored the simple but life-changing truths that our immeasurable value rests solely in the fact that God created us, that His stubborn love sets us apart and the amazing fact that He designed and empowers a unique plan for each one of us.
First Habit: Perceive Your True Identity
Second Habit: Uncover your life plan!
Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart!"
Each one of us has a life plan! Yes, I know that plans are rampant in your life! God loves you and everyone else has a plan for your life, right? But the only plan that matters is the plan made for you by the One who formed you - the One who loves you, knows you and has set you apart to be His own! And it is a great plan!
My life plan is customized!
Psalm 139: 16 You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!
You were born in response to the determined plan of God, not as an afterthought. Before you took even one breath, every day, every step and every circumstance in your plan was recorded. God's plan uses your strengths as well as your weaknesses. We all have strengths - they are part of the plan. We all have limitations - they too are part of the plan. We all have seasons of life that are essential to the plan as well.
True success comes when, instead of constantly fighting against or trying to change the plan, we learn to identify and build on our strengths, accept the limitations as hedges of protection from God and yield to the seasons in life as God's avenue of perfect timing. God's plan for you is not a "one-size-fits all". No, it is customized and just your size!
My life plan is good!
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
For some reason we tend to think that God sat down one day and designed a sinister life plan laced with pain and defeat. Nothing could be further from the truth. This train of thought contradicts the very nature of God and misunderstands His heart - the heart of a loving Father who wants the absolute highest and best plan for His child. It is a good plan!
My life plan is guaranteed!
1 Thessalonians 5:24 "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."
What God calls you to do, He empowers you to do. With the plan comes every resource that we will need to accomplish that plan.
For many years my life mission in ministry was really quite simple. I tried and often succeeded in filling every waking moment with activity. Oh, it was wonderful activity filled with good things - but they were not the best things, the highest things for my life. I just did them in order to feel important. I thought that ministry would bring my life into balance and under control. I hoped that ministry would provide a purpose and plan for the restlessness in my soul.
Sitting at the bottom of a deep, dark pit named "Clinical Depression", I discovered a truth that has redefined who I am and altered my soul perception of God. I now realize that the most powerful ministry flows from a clear life plan not to it! It is a simple truth that most women in ministry can easily say but rarely live.
How do we discover our life plan?
By spending time with the Plan Maker! By saturating daily life with His truth and continually turning our hearts to conversation with Him. Not because we have a Bible Study to teach or an invitation to speak, but simply because we love the sound of His voice and long for the ecstasy of His presence. When we spend time with Him the plan naturally unfolds as we take every "next step" in obedience.
What are your spiritual gifts?
What are you passionate about?
What are your natural abilities?
What is your personality type?
What are the spiritual markers in your life?
What do others see in you?
I began to ask these questions, looking for the gifts He has given me instead of the ones I thought I should have or wanted to have. I began to accept my limitations knowing that He had woven them into the seams of my journey for my good. I began yielding to the seasons of life, trusting Him to lead the way through this foreign land called life. Guess what? I looked around one day to find myself smack-dab in the middle of His life plan for me. It was suddenly so simple and amazingly clear! I am learning to say "no" to those things that do not fit into that life mission. Certainly, I fail and have to begin again. And sometimes I am misunderstood because I have chosen to follow God's plan instead of someone else's. But I would rather be misunderstood than disobedient. I had to choose a new audience and so must you! I had to make a decision about the One I wanted to please and so must you.
Today I know who I am and where I am going! I've discovered that the secret of "doing it all" is not doing it all! It is finding which part of "all" He has given us to do and then doing all of that! In other words, find out what His plan is and stick to it, knowing that it is guaranteed by God Himself.
A personal note from Mary: When planning any trip, every Southerland knows that a family meeting is bound to take place. In that meeting, every family member offers suggestions and gives ideas but the final plan is left to Dad - the Plan-maker! We are content with this scenario because Dad has an excellent track record for making great plans. So does God. He stands ready and waiting to pour His blessings through the perfect life plan He has customized and guaranteed just for you! Don't settle for anything less!
Mary Southerland is a pastor's wife, mother of two teenagers, director with Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of Coming Out of the Dark (Harvest House, 2004), and conference speaker. She is also the founder of Journey Ministry, a teaching ministry dedicated to equipping every woman for her unique journey. Visit Mary's new website at www.MarySoutherland.com.
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