Preparation versus Planning
Is James telling us not to plan? Yes and no. James'
admonition is of importance to leaders in that leaders are to plan for their
organizations but not to plan for their own lives. Does this mean that we are
not establish our 10-year plans for professional accomplishment? Yes -- and this
is the key to this devotional. James' advice is that if we, as individuals, want
to do something, then we should ask God to wish it for us rather than for us to
wish it ourselves. The reason for this is simply that when a person sets out to
accomplish his personal will for his life he negates the opportunities that God
provides. This is evident in the lives of people who sought their own success
and achieved it, yet comment that they feel like something is missing. Contrast
this with the people who seem fulfilled in what they are doing and who tell
people they would not have predicted a few years earlier that they would be
doing what they are doing or going where they are going. The difference between
the two types of people is that the first is planning and the second is
What's the difference between planning and preparing?
Planning is deciding what you will do and preparing is becoming ready to do what
you might be called to do.
Did Moses 'plan' to tend sheep for 40 years? Did Saul
'plan' to join the very Christians that he persecuted? Think about how Moses'
tending sheep prepared him to lead the Israelites from Egypt. Moses argued with
God and pleaded with God not to call him to this task. Can you imagine Moses
talking to his father-in-law and saying how a few years before parting the Red
Sea that he would not have believed that he would do what he did? Can you
imagine Paul meeting his pre-conversion friends on the road and commenting to
them how well his personal career plan was going? It is a common refrain from
folk that if someone told them a few years earlier that they would be doing what
they're doing now they wouldn't have believed it. But, using hindsight it is
easy to see how your past experiences have prepared you to serve God in where He
has placed you.
Example of the devotional
My own (Bruce Winston) background can be an example here. I
completed 12 years of experience in the commercial printing industry and felt
compelled to leave my business in order to study both an MBA and an MA in
Communication in order to understand what I did right and what I did wrong in
business (I think I did more wrong than right). As the time of graduation
neared, I was convinced that with my background and with my degrees God wanted
me to move into the Christian publishing field, but all the doors shut as I
sought work. Although I told myself that I would 'never' go back to the
commercial printing industry, I took a job in it. After spending a
semester adjunct teaching for the university, I then found myself, a year
later, back at the university. Within three months of taking a job at the
university I found myself unexpectedly in charge of a distance-education program
that required a strong background in printing, tape duplication, copy writing,
project coordination, curriculum development, and teaching. All of what I had
done in the past 15 years of work and study prepared me for the new position
directing the distance education program. My job at the university has changed
many times since then and I can see, in hind-sight, how the past has always
prepared me for the present. I doubt that I would have sought each new job and I
probably would have balked at the idea of each job if someone told me what I
would be doing in the future -- but each step provided the 'right' opportunity
to serve Him.
Application of the devotional
When reviewing the work of your peers and followers,
consider how their past experiences might have prepared them for future roles.
Don't look at the obvious, such as degrees, but at the less obvious.
Practical exercise related to the devotional
Consider how your past has prepared you for what you are
doing today. When you next feel 'compelled' to learn something or master a new
skill -- consider it just part of God's preparation for future service. He will
inform you of what service that will be when He is ready and He knows that you