As I was praying about 2019 I kept hearing the word strategic coming to mind. I believe with all my heart that this is a strategic time in the Kingdom of God. The word strategic carries with it some significant thoughts. I looked at several dictionaries to get a working definition of strategic. Allow me to mash them together to create a definition.
Pertaining to the identification and implementation of plans to achieve the specified long-term goals of an individual or organization.
That is a powerful thought. If 2019 is a strategic time we should carefully consider our working definition. What are the elements of strategy?
First there are the “specified, long-term goals.” In a nut shell, this is vision. There are two things to consider here:
1. What is God’s purpose for this season in the church as a whole, and more specifically, your particular part in the kingdom? It is unfortunate that Evangelicalism has so individualized the Christian experience that we no longer think in terms of the “big picture.” God has long-term, strategic plans and goals for and through the church (Ephesians 3:10). Does God’s “big picture” will take precedence over our little piece of the kingdom? Yes indeed! The plans and purposes are from eternity past to eternity future. Our brief tenure in the earthly Kingdom is small part of something far greater. We have to stop praying and acting as if what happens in my life (lifetime) is all that matters. Consider how the writer of Hebrews sums up the entire Old Testament population, “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us (Hebrews 11:40). I think it is safe to assume that future generations might say the same thing. Our lives are a small part of a very big whole. That doesn’t make us meaningless or insignificant. Every man and woman of God played their part in their generation. I love what the Bible says about King David, “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep….” (Acts 13:36 emphasis mine.)
2. What are you trying to accomplish long-term? For many people their long-term goal is to get through the week. This may sound crass, but how many Christians actually have long-term spiritual goals? Perhaps everyone does, if we include going to heaven – but what about here on earth? What are you supposed to accomplish for the Kingdom of God in 2019?
For many years I wore several hats. I was a pastor, online Christian counselor, and I owned a full time business. I also did a variety of ministry things like jail ministry, writing and more. During this period of time I would often see myself as the little silver ball in a pinball game table. I would be moving one direction at a high rate of speed, then, bang, I would hit a bumper and shoot off in a different direction. I think I suffered spiritual whiplash. (Can anyone relate to my analogy?) Honestly, I was so busy doing “stuff” that I could not be strategic. It was all good stuff, too. People were being touched and ministered to in significant ways. I enjoyed doing most of it, but I had no ability to be strategic. Many projects got started but never finished. My long-term goal was to prepare for the next ministry opportunity.
A long time ago I learned the psychological fact that people either act, or react to things. Reacting is an involuntary response. For instance you may see a snake in the grass and scream and jump back. You didn’t even have time to think through a response, you just did it as an automatic reaction. Sometimes reaction is good – like in the case of stepping on a snake. However you cannot live your live effectively simply reacting to everything. People who do this are always caught up in some sort of Jr. High-type drama. They are carried along by their emotions and opinions, and little – if any – ever changes in their life because they never learn to act with decision and purpose.
Action, on the other hand, is a planned response. “This happened and I will do this as a result.” Or, perhaps even more importantly, “I will do this, IF that happens.” We have thought about and planned our actions in advance. Having made good decisions before they are needed keeps us from reacting poorly. Reactionary people never make much ground. Action oriented people do.
Strategic living requires knowing your purpose and where you are headed. It means you have heard something from God. You can do lots of things, but are you doing what you are called to do – where you are called to do it? The second half of that statement is as important as the first part.
King Solomon said this, “Without a vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) The Amplified Bible puts it this way, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” A more modern proverb says it a bit differently, “If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.”
Too many individuals, churches and organizations spend a lot of time, money and effort and don’t really accomplish much because, either they have not identified their purpose, or the business of doing the work takes them off course. I can’t help but remember a sober arning Jesus gave. He said many would come to him on the day of accounting and point out all the wonderful works they had done in His name. He said, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.” Iniquity is the word for self-will. Basically Jesus said, you were not doing my will, you were doing your will in my name. They had activity and supposed results. They were using Jesus’ name. To the casual bystander they were successful Christian ministries. Jesus though otherwise.
This is not some judgemental statement in my part. It is an assessment tool for each of us to make sure we have the mind of God and are accomplishing the will of God. Jesus would not have said it if it were not going to be a reality. “Many will come….”
What are you aiming at? Anything? Nothing? Some vague idea of what you might want some day? It is time to become more strategic than ever before. Strategy requires visions and goals. Write them down. The Spirit of God told the prophet Habakkuk, “Write the vision and make it plain…” I encourage you to define and write your vision and mission statements and let them guide you in your Christian life.
The second part of strategic living involves identifying the plans to achieve the goals and vision. The best plans will never materialize if there are no steps taken to realize them. This involves the HOW of strategy. How will you achieve your vision? Basically this is the brainstorming time. What plans need to be made? What resources will be needed? Who might need to be included? What methods will be used to assess the level of success along the way. Identifying the ways and means is important. Having a God-given vision without a plan simply won’t work. While your plan needs to be flexible and adjustable along the way, you have to have a plan to move forward.
I am a chess player. Chess is a strategy game. There is no luck involved. There is no roll of the dice or deal of a card. If you win it is because you thought further ahead than your opponent did. Chess player who react to their opponent’s moves lose quickly. The goal of chess is to force your opponent to move where you want him too. You have already thought several moves ahead and know where you want to push your enemy. I can think of no better analogy for the spiritual battle that we are in than a chess game.
The devil has a strategy and he is at work to maneuver you into potion to lose. On the other hand, God has a strategy and has, at times used the devil to accomplish His long-term plans and goals. Consider the cross. The devil moved the religious people with pride, self-righteousness and hatred and got them to crucify Jesus. This played right into God’s plans. In God’s mind, Jesus was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), He simply maneuvered the devil into fulfilling His will.
Strategy has both long and short-term goals. Have you ever written down the things you feel like God wants you to do? Have you considered what strategy it might take to fulfill them? If not, take some time to plan. Develop a strategy. Remember the wisdom mentioned above, “without a vision the people run unrestrained.”
The third part of strategy is implementation. You simply have to act. If your plans are in line with God’s will you have the assurance that He is working with you. Twice in John 15 (verses7-8 and verse 16) Jesus made a very powerful promise that many Christians fail to appropriate. In fact, because of a false application, they literally rob the promise of its power. That promise is that we could ask anything we desired in His name and it would be done for us. That indeed is a powerful promise. However in the immediate context of the story and the individual verses the theme is fruitfulness. The promise actually was not generic. It was specifically that we could ask for anything we desire – or need – to be fruitful for the Kingdom of God. This was not a blank Check with Jesus’ signature on it. It was a promise, that in the course of serving the purposes of God, you could ask for and receive whatever you needed, “That you should bear fruit and your fruit should be remain.” By simply tacking Jesus’ name to the end of every prayer waters this verse down and ends up producing doubt when self-oriented prayers don’t get the answers we were expecting.
Strategy has to be acted on. Sometimes this means we have to forego one plan of action in favor of another. The question should not be what can I do, but what should I do. We have to sort these things out in our strategy plan. I can do lots of things, but which are the most important – or most strategic. On the other hand I often want to do things I am not really able to do, due to a lack of training or gifting. Some Christians spend their lives doing what they can. Others spend their lives trying to do what they can’t. Both often miss their strategic purpose in life.
So, with a vision and goals in hand and plans made, we start to act to strategically bring about the purpose of God in and through our lives in context of the eternal purposes of God.
I share this last thought – perhaps seemingly a bit off topic – as way of providing a prophetic word within a word. In other words: someone needs to hear this.
In December 2018 I had the privilege of speaking to the Enga Province, Foursquare Christmas Camp in Papua New Guinea. The theme was doing the will of the Father. As I was speaking, the Spirit of God emphasized a very strong message. Sometimes the will of God changes and we have to be willing to change with it. Some miss God’s strategic purpose in their life because they never consider that God’s plans and purposes might shift in regards to how He uses them. Over the past 38 years I have had to continually discern and adjust to stay in God’s will. Jesus said the Holy Spirit was like the wind. It blew where it wanted, when it wanted. To get to your destination you have to adjust your sails to catch the wind to propel you to your destination. The same wind that drives your boat can also blow against you if your sails are not set right.
Over the past 38 years I have to constantly discern and adjust to the Spirit of God directing my life. God has called me to different ministries and then closed the door on those ministries when they no longer served His purpose. I was called to places and then called away. You can not assume that once God does something in your life that it will never change. For some reading this, you will discover that God’s strategic plan for you is changing in 2019.
Live strategically this year/