Avoid the Planning Trap (#25); Take the Action Step of Faith

One of my greatest strengths is my ability to plan. I love to create detailed plans that cover every contingency and in my mind and in my plan, carefully go from one level of achievement to another. And there are, of course, contingency plans along with the main thread of the central plan. O, it is a work of art! Yes, planning is one of my strengths . . . and it is also one of my most glaring weaknesses, because I fall victim to the notorious “planning trap.” This is that tendency to plan and plan and plan, and keep on planning until the perfect plan is constructed, only to find out the opportunity is gone. The planning trap is the pitfall of ever-planning, but never acting.

What I want to talk about is the ACTION STEP OF FAITH. That is to say, this must become the believer’s ongoing habit of life, to put their faith into practice by TAKING ACTION. Planning is good, but action is better. Kingdom work can take place without planning, but no Kingdom work can take place without action. In fact, nothing takes place without action. Therefore action is better than planning. Never confuse the two!

A perfect plan that is not executed is useless, whereas an imperfect action step can be directed by the Lord to bring about significant results. Action done in faith is much better than creating a detailed plan. The planning step, therefore, must have as its goal the creation of a tightly linked series of directed, intentional ACTION STEPS. DEFINITION OF A PLAN: A linked series of ACTION STEPS intended to achieve a worthwhile goal.

Ecclesiastes 9:4 says, “It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion.” Why is that? That is because a live dog can still take action and can still speak, but a dead lion, although regal and powerful in life, is impotent and silent in death. Therefore, while you have life and breath and health, SPEAK AND ACT AND DO! People are measured by what they accomplish, not by what they plan. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the servants are rewarded and praised or condemned based on what they actually did, not on what they planned to do or intended to do. Action received praise from the King, “Well-done, good and faithful servant!” A lack of action received condemnation from the king.

This is not to discount planning or to say that planning is a useless activity, but it is to say that the plan is not the end in itself. Rather the plan exists to lay out the ACTION STEPS needed or projected to reach the GOAL.

Start with the GOAL. What is it that the Lord wants to accomplish through you? Or, what worthwhile goal do you want to achieve to fulfill God’s plan for your life? Start with a GOAL like that. The GOAL is needed because the GOAL motivates the ACTION. But then action is needed, because without action nothing happens. Planning is optional. There is no risk in creating a PLAN. Risk only appears when action begins. There is no accomplishment in planning, but only ACTION produces results and success.

In James 2 we find the famous passage about “faith without works is dead.” This passage is very appropriate to this discussion. The man of faith must demonstrate his faith in the Lord by the actions that he takes. If you only make plans, but never take action, how would anyone know that you had faith? Faith is demonstrated when the believer takes bold action in a God-honoring endeavor where the outcome is far from certain or even where success is unlikely. Trust in the Lord is not shown by a flawless plan, but is demonstrated by bold action in the face of doubts and unfavorable odds, believing that what the Lord will bring about the victory. This is the ACTION STEP OF FAITH.

APPLICATIONS:
Fear can lead to endless plans and to procrastination, but faith takes action in the face of uncertainty. Be careful that the effort to create perfect plans is not just fear disguised. Planning can actually become an idol, because you can believe that it is the plan that brings the results, rather than trusting that it is God who brings results. God is the one who brings the results that He desires.

Demolish perfectionism and the striving for perfect plans. (I am speaking to myself, even if I am speaking to no one else.) Replace “perfect” with “excellent” and replace detailed plans with ACTION plans. Force yourself to take action when it is time to take action, not when you have the “perfect” plan.

Planning should stop long before all the details are known. This is because we walk by faith, not by plans (sight). Sketch out a plan, then, if the Lord is leading you, GO! Watch what the Lord will do.

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