Just imagine that if in any of Jack Bauer’s nine days saving the country he had decided, “You know what? I’m just gonna quit. In the last 12 hours I’ve been beat up, tortured, stabbed twice, shot and sutured my own wounds. And I haven’t even taken a break to eat or use the bathroom. It’s just not worth it. I’m getting on a plane and going to Disney World to ride Space Mountain with my granddaughter.” Washington, D.C. and New York City would be in rubble now and maybe the entire United States annihilated. But Jack didn’t quit. He stayed with it. He stuck to his mission and we are all better off because of it. Even more profoundly, Jesus, while sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, could have decided, “I just don’t think I want to get beaten, flogged, nailed to the Cross and stabbed in the side with a spear. God, you have to think of another way to help mankind out of the mess they made.” I am so glad that Jesus stayed with the plan that God had made for us. Wouldn’t it be great if we could stick with our plans?
One thing I am learning to do in my old age is to stop labeling all big decisions as God’s plan. As I check in my rearview mirror, many of these decisions were just ill-advised lane changes that got me off track. When we lived in Weddington and were doing quite well, I had a feeling in my gut that the party would not last forever. As we were committed to homeschooling our kids we would be living just on my income for a while, so we decided to sell our house and downsize. It’s been years since then and I can’t remember if I had a burning bush, “this is God’s plan for our life” type moment, but our plan was biblical. We wanted to reduce the amount of debt that enslaved us. So we sold the house and the four of us moved into a tiny duplex apartment that we owned. By the time we started looking for a new house we were feeling the effects of our family of four living in less than 800 square feet. I need to pause right here and introduce a term that anyone who sets a goal needs to be familiar with…realistic expectations. Upon reflection, we had unrealistic expectations about what our money could buy. We were accustomed to living in a certain size and certain type house in a certain kind of neighborhood. Even though we wanted to downsize, our expectations did not correspond with the money we wanted to spend. As a result, over the next year our price target kept creeping up. There’s another concept that will surely enter the scene when you are working towards a Godly goal…temptation. The Enemy will do anything to knock you off track. Tempting you is one of his most efficient weapons. We agreed to look at the Waxhaw house despite me insisting with our real estate agent that the price was too far off target. In fact, and you will think me stupid now, the purchase price was more than which we sold the Weddington house. But the moment we drove down the 600 ft driveway through the woods to the beautiful house, we lost the game. After being cramped for over a year, one of our biggest temptations was space to roam. Room to graze. By the time we walked into the front doors and saw the dream kitchen, I was already justifying in my mind why we should buy the house. “We can house visiting missionaries in the extra bedrooms upstairs. The resort-like qualities of the property would be ideal for weekend marriage retreats, blah, blah, blah.” The Enemy will deceive you into thinking that you are doing the wrong thing for all of the right reasons. I remember even saying how God led us to this house. I just lost my brain, pure and simple and then tried to blame God for it. We should have fled from this temptation as the Bible instructs. Another thing we should have done when setting our goal to downsize was sought out accountability. We needed to give someone permission to call us stupid and push us back on track when we were tempted. The allure to please yourself can be so strong in your subconscious that it can overtake you at times and you just need a wise, objective person who will keep you in check. What happened to our plan to downsize and reduce our debt? How did we reinterpret this Godly plan to mean go buy a larger house with a larger mortgage and larger payment a year later? Did God change His mind about debt? Nope and the seed of this bad decision has produced a bitter fruit that we will be eating for a while. Financially, things began to unravel in Waxhaw. Our credit card debt rose(duh? We were living beyond our means) and our medical bills stacked up. Our son, Will, was born with complications in Waxhaw and we are still paying for his ongoing medical needs now.
My point in all of this, when God gives you a plan, stay with it. Test every thought that comes into your head against what the Bible says and against what you believe God has already told you(and He won’t ever give you a plan that contradicts His Word.) When the temptation comes to give in, and it will come, remember God’s plan and fight that much harder to see it through. This is why the high divorce rate among Christians is really shocking. God hasn’t changed His mind about the vows we took before Him. Marriage can be really difficult at times and we often may want to escape for a better, happier life, but divorce is not God’s plan(except for a couple of situations in which He will give you a pass.)
So, in summary. Set Godly goals. Maintain realistic expectations. Expect temptations. Find an accountability partner. Test every thought against God’s Word. Stay with it. Pray.
My prayer now goes like this…help me God to hear from You, to obey You and to stick with You when tempted with an opportunity to please myself in some way that contradicts You.