April 14, 2009
Make Your Plan and Work Your Plan
by Charles R. Swindoll
Getting a big job done well starts with careful planning. Never forget that a good plan is an essential part of the preparation process.
In the Bible there is an unforgettable story about planning, which isn't very well known. Its setting takes us far back in time---somewhere in the middle of the fifth century BC---after Jerusalem had been destroyed and the Jews from all over ancient Israel had been deported to Babylon.
As the years passed, Babylon was overtaken by the Persians, whose king, Artaxerxes, had a soft place in his heart for all those Jews who were being forced to live away from their homeland. One of his trusted confidants named Nehemiah, himself a Jew, longed to return to his beloved city in order to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem so it could be protected once again. When Nehemiah made that request, the Persian king not only granted him his wish, he even provided the official papers that would allow Nehemiah to return without any difficulty.
Finally, Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem. And what he saw must have broken his heart---perhaps he felt like those who had once lived in New Orleans and who returned following Hurricane Katrina back in the early fall of 2005. There was nothing but devastation. Nehemiah realized more than ever that the protective stone wall must once again stand tall and sturdy surrounding the City of David. Talk about the need for a big job to be done well! The man was determined to rebuild that wall . . . but where in the world do you start? And how do you get it done? He needed a careful plan.
Not surprisingly, he spent several days putting together that strategic plan. He began by walking through the devastation as he surveyed the damage. According to Nehemiah 2:11-16 (please read), he took plenty of time to think and to pray as he prepared for the days that lay ahead. We read that he didn't discuss his plans with anyone (except the Lord, of course), before he finally called a meeting and broke the news to everyone. Here are Nehemiah's own words as he told of that moment:
Then I said to them, "You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach." I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, "Let us arise and build." So they put their hands to the good work. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
No less than 52 days later---in less than two months---the project was completed (read Nehemiah 6:15). The sturdy stone wall was totally reconstructed, new gates were built and hung, and everyone rejoiced! Oh, they had plenty of challenges along the way, they had numerous obstacles from without and within, but each one was overcome as the job was finished in record time. All the leader's work of preparation paid off because the tasks were organized so well ahead of time. As the old saying goes, Nehemiah planned his work then worked his plan.
Maybe you've made some goals for this new year that involve adopting a healthy lifestyle. If so, that's wonderful! But just as preparation played a vital role in a project of the magnitude of Nehemiah's, so also we can be sure that the same is true as we face the challenges of change. It won't "just happen." A good place to start is to face the truth of where we are---acknowledging the toll that bad habits and an undisciplined lifestyle have taken . . . but we can't stop there. We then must map out a plan we'll follow, just like Nehemiah did when he took a walk around the city. That involves preparing our minds and hearts for whatever it will take to reach our goal(s). And then? With enthusiasm and determination, we get underway . . . one day at a time.
I wish I could promise that in 52 days we'll reach our objective(s), but I can't. However, I can assure you that you'll see some major changes start to emerge in that relatively short period of time, and that will be very encouraging.
Let's plan well. Let's prepare diligently. Let's pray hard. And then, let's go after it with our whole hearts.
I'm proud of you . . . furthermore, I'm with you all the way!
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.