When someone is staring something new, whether it’s a business or ministry, I usually give them the same advice. I tell them, “Start with Timex, not Rolex.” You want to build something that will take a licking and keep on ticking. You also don’t want to over spend. So many times when we’re starting something new, we make it about the sizzle instead of the steak. If you want to build something that will last, take your time, do things right and lay the foundation work first. No, it’s not sexy and it may not get a lot of attention, but if you do the small things right from the beginning, the larger things will take care of themself later. God puts it this way, “If you will be faithful in the small things, I’ll make you faithful over many things.”
In Zechariah 4, the Lord showed him Zerubbabel in a vision. He was the man who would lead the first group of Jews out of Babylonian captivity around 500 BC. This first set of Jews went back under his leadership, and with money collected by all Jews, with a mission to rebuild the Temple. The work was tedious and hard. People tried to disrupt them and stop them, but Zerubbabel kept working and kept the people focused. The Lord reminded him that it wouldn’t be completed by his might or strength, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Then in verse 10, the Lord sends him a reminder, and one to us too. He said, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (NLT). It was a reminder to not undervalue the beginning work of laying the foundation.
If we don’t get our foundation right, the rest of the structure is unsound. God is not concerned with whether or not we’re making things attractive enough. He wants us to do them right and to do them well. Whatever you’re starting won’t be a success because of your might or power, but by God’s Spirit. Yes, you should work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God, but don’t despise the small beginnings. Don’t compare yourself in the beginning stage to where someone else is that has been doing it for a while. Put your head down, do what God called you to and leave the results up to Him. He doesn’t measure success the way we do anyway, so quit trying to build something that’s successful in man’s eyes. It’s not their approval you’re after.
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Have you ever had to start over at square one? It’s one of the most frustrating things there are. After you’ve done the work and made progress, something happens and you have to start over. I’ve had to do that in life, with dreams God has given me, with work and in relationships. I don’t have many pet peeves, but doing work I’ve already done is one of mine. It’s redundant, but I’ve learned to not look at what I’m having to do over. Instead I focus on the outcome. The work is worth the payoff in the end.
After Isaac inherited all of Abraham’s wealth and land, people became jealous and didn’t like him. They poured dirt into the wells that Abraham had dug and forced him to leave that area. Genesis 26:17-18 says, “So Isaac left. He camped in the valley of Gerar and settled down there. Isaac dug again the wells which were dug in the days of his father Abraham but had been clogged up by the Philistines after Abraham’s death. And he renamed them, using the original names his father had given them” (MSG).
I’m sure Isaac was frustrated, but he did the work anyway. I believe that’s what you and I need to think about today. You may be frustrated at how clogged up life is at the moment. You may feel like you’re at square one with the dreams God planted in you. Don’t quit or give up. Do the work with gladness and push forward. There is a reward and times of refreshing coming, but you’re going to have to do the work. It may require sacrificing other things, spending more time in prayer, reading the Bible or fasting, but God’s rewards for you are on the other side of your obedience. Pick up a shovel and start digging.
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Have you ever wanted to get a fresh start? Have you ever said, “If only I could do it all again”?Sometimes it would feel nice to get to wipe the slate clean and start over. You would get the chance to do things differently. A fresh start would let you change how people perceive you as well. There are a lot of benefits to getting a fresh start. The problem is that most of the time, a fresh start happens because things didn’t work out the way we planned.
I grew up playing Atari. While I’m not much of a gamer now, a lot of my childhood was spent trying to “flip” games. On certain games, there were levels and your goal was to get to the end. When I would fail at a level, I would try again over and over. I learned to try different strategies to get past certain things. What worked on one level didn’t work on another. I never really thought about it, but each time my game was over, I was getting a fresh start to try again.
Life isn’t much different. I’ve been to the “game over” screen before. I’ve burned through everything and come to the end of the line. I remember being upset that I was having to start over, but I was also thinking of how I would do things differently. I had to change my choices and my behaviors if I was going to get a different result. I did not, and do not, want to end up in that place again.
Psalm 145:14 says, “GOD gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit” (MSG). If you’re at the game over screen in life, don’t quit. Look at it as an opportunity to get a fresh start. You may feel like you’re down on your luck and your life to this point has been wasted, but you didn’t lose your experience. God gives us fresh starts with the wisdom we’ve learned through experience. It gives us the opportunity to make better decisions and to be more successful. What looks like “game over” is really a fresh start.
Author Robert Burns penned the now famous line, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I can’t tell you how many times in my life the plans I made were detoured. I thought my plan was foolproof, only to find out it wasn’t life proof. Things happen that I don’t foresee and derail my goals and dreams. Often times, in disappointment and frustration, I give up on them and never return to complete them.
Sadly, this is the story for most of us. Life happens and takes away our happily ever after. We either think life has it out for us or God just doesn’t care. The truth is that often we try to build our own plans for our life and never include God’s plan for our life. When all of my plans came crashing down several years ago, I looked at my life and only saw a foundation left. I remember hearing God say, “Now that your plan failed, will you try it my way?”
I agreed that His way was best. I remembered the prophetic words spoken over me shortly after disaster took it all away. God said, “What looks like an ending is only a beginning. Where I am leading you, you will find more joy than you’ve ever known.” As I handed over the reigns of my future to God, i prayed, “God, I trust your future for my life over mine. Do what you want with my life and work out your plan for me.”
God has been faithful to do just that. Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will work out his plans for my life” (NLT). If your plan for your life has failed and you’re at what looks like an ending, I recommend handing over the reigns of your life to God. You can trust your future to Him. He will take what looks like an ending, and turn it into a new beginning. Pray that same prayer I did and watch God work on your behalf.
A friend of mine recently called me to invite my wife and I to go somewhere with him. I said, “Sure! We’d love to.” He paused for a moment, then nervously asked, “Are you going to check with your wife first to make sure she doesn’t have any plans for y’all?” It was a good question with much wisdom behind it. I was about to make plans without checking with her first, much like many of us make life changing plans without asking God.
A friend of mine recently asked on Facebook, “Where in Scripture does God, or any of His prophets, tell us to follow our dreams?” Many people attempted to put verses from the Bible in there, but none could give one. His point was that we’ve become people who teach our kids to follow their dreams and to become anything they want, but we haven’t taught them to ask God what plans and dreams He has for their life.
There’s a saying that’s been changed through the ages, but the current one says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Too many times, we are making plans and telling God our plans without consulting Him first. Proverbs 16:1 says, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word” (MSG). So many of my plans in life have changed because God’s plan overruled my plan. Thank God too because His plan is much better.
If the plans you’ve made for your life are falling through, don’t despair. Pray and seek God for what His plans are for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord” (NLT). God knows the plans He has for each one of us. It’s time we stopped what we were doing and asked for His plans. Until then, our plans will continue to fail. Trust me. I’ve been there and have had to start over a few times. It’s better when we ask for His plans. They’re more elaborate than ours.
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.
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Ever since we moved into our house, my wife wanted to renovate the living room. She hated it because it was dark and out dated. I fought her on the renovations because I liked the room and also because I knew what renovations would entail. I knew that once we started, it wouldn’t end with a simple paint job and floor change. Once we began, it would set off a chain of change for the foreseeable future and I wasn’t ready to do that. With the help of friends, she finally convinced me to let go of my fear and embrace the renovation. I saw in the process how God wants to renovate our lives.
God desires for each of us to undergo the process of renovation in our lives. He wants to take out old ways of thinking and replace them with the mind of Christ. He wants to remove the hard parts of our hearts and put in a heart of flesh. He wants to give us fresh insight into His Word, but we have to be willing to submit to the renovations. We have to quit fighting God on the changes He wants to make and allow Him to do His work. Psalm 51 is all about renovating David’s life. In verse 10, he surrendered and prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.” The first step of renovating your life is submission to God’s will and design.
The next part is counting the cost. In my living room, I allowed the cost to keep us from renovating. It was more than I was willing to pay because the outcome was unsure. Once I let go of the purse strings, the work began. The same is true in our personal renovation. We have to understand that there is a price to pay in renovating and we have to let go of the fear that keeps us from releasing God to do in our lives what He wants to do. It may cost us time, relationships, location or money, but in the end, we will receive more than we lost. Renovations in our lives increase our ability and usability.
The last thing I learned is that you have to be patient in the process. It wasn’t long into ours that my wife said, “We’ve made a mistake. We shouldn’t do any more. What if we keep going and lose a lot more money?” She was right. In the middle of the process, we lost sight of the vision. We questioned the renovation and almost gave up. We decided to see it through and love the outcome. In the Message, Philippians 1:6 says, “there is no doubt in my mind that God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish.” It might get messy and you might lose sight of what God is doing in your life, but be patient. God will complete the work in you and it will be more amazing than you can imagine and worth the cost.