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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - Making a Plan to Improve Your Life

Rick Warren - Making a Plan to Improve Your Life

Rick Warren - Making a Plan to Improve Your Life
TOPICS: Building a Better Future, Planing

Two weeks ago, we began a new series of messages through the book of Nehemiah called "Building a Better Future". And it's series to help you prepare and reenter life as this COVID pandemic is winding down and it is winding down finally, thank God. And I told you that God isn't interested after COVID you simply resuming your old life, the way you used to live before the pandemic. Instead, he's giving us all the opportunity of a lifetime to reset our lives, to reboot our lives, to renew, refresh, reenergize our lives in a whole new way. And that's what this series is all about. And I also told you that there are five books in the Bible that specifically give us instructions for how to build a better future after a time of captivity. And those books are Nehemiah, Ezra, Zachariah, Haggai and Malachi. They're all in the old Testament.

Now two weeks ago Pastor Tom shared the first message in this series and the first principle from the book of Nehemiah on "Building a Better Future". And the first principle it's there on your outline if you pull out your app message notes. The first principle is this, principle number one, you got to get dissatisfied with your current situation. If you're gonna build a better future you've got to get dissatisfied with your current situation. That's what happened with Nehemiah. Nehemiah held a very high position in the King's court in Persia and he was the Kings actually steward of the wine, but he got a burden for his hometown in Jerusalem.

And some of the captives had been allowed to return to Jerusalem after 70 years. But when they got home they discovered that the temple, and their homes and the entire city had been destroyed. And there were no walls or Gates around the city anymore so it was defenseless. Now this really concerned Nehemiah and it made him very sad and he became burdened about it. Now Tom talked about this first principle. You have to become dissatisfied with your current situation. Nothing is gonna change until you want to change. And in that first message Tom taught us the four things that Nehemiah did with this first principle. And that is first, you have to grieve. You have to mourn what you've lost. You've lost a lot during COVID and until you learn to grieve what you've lost guess what, you're gonna stay stuck in the past.

Second Tom taught you fast. Fasting helps us focus our heart on where we need to go. Third, you pray and you ask God for help. And fourth you confess and you admit your mistakes that you made. If you missed that message by Tom go back and listen to part one. Those are the first four steps in "Building a Better Future". Then next in our last message that Pastor Buddy taught us. The second principle for "Building a Better Future". And principle number two is, start with what needs changing inside of me. You don't start with all the externals around you. You don't start with changing your circumstance. You start by changing your attitude. You start with changing inside you. And if you missed Buddy's message on "Rebuilding the City of Your Soul," I wanna urge you to go back online and watch that message.

Now, today we're gonna look at the third principle of "Building a Better Future". And this principle is found in the second chapter of Nehemiah, the first nine verses. And here's the third principle. After you become dissatisfied with what you got and you start looking inside at you what needs changed inside of me, point number three is this, you need to make a plan. If you're gonna build a better future you got to have a plan for your life. You have to have a life plan. You need to write down a simple plan and get starting on "Building a Better Future". Now it's not gonna happen without a plan. If you don't have a plan for a better future in your life you're just gonna coast. And you can't coast into a better you, you can't drift into a better future. It takes intention and it takes planning. Now I'm sure you've heard the old cliche "If you're failing to plan, you're planning to fail".

Now that may be a cliche, but you know what? It's still true. Nothing's gonna happen in your life to you first get dissatisfied with what you're doing. Take a good look at what's going on inside your soul and then you come up with a simple plan. But you know what? As followers of Jesus, we don't base our lives on cliches. We base our lives on the foundation of scripture. Everything we do is based on God's word. Fortunately, the book of Nehemiah in chapter two gives us a very practical model for life planning. And that's why I'm calling this message "Making a Plan to Improve Your Life". All right, that's what we're gonna look at today "Making a Plan to Improve Your Life". It's part three in our series of "Building a Better Future".

Now, before I show you Nehemiah's seven step planning model for making a better future in your life. Let me first answer the question, why. Why should I make plants? Well, there are a lot of biblical reasons but let me just mention three they're there on your outline. First, you need to plan your life because God makes plans. Because God makes plans. As Buddy pointed out in his message last time, Jeremiah 29:11 may be one of the most quoted Bible verses at Saddleback Church, we even have a song about it. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future".

Now listen, if God makes plans and he wants us to be like him, then we should make plans too. Do you have any plans for the rest of the year? Do you have any plans for your next year? Do you have any plans for the next 10 years? You're not living you're just drifting if you don't have any plans. You're just existing. You're you're letting circumstances determine the direction of your life. First Corinthians 14:33 says this, "God is not a God of disorder". So if your life has no plans, if your life has no order to it, then guess what your life's out of order. And that's not the kind of life that God created you to live.

So God makes plans. Number two, you ought to plan because God tells me to plan. All through scripture particularly in the book of Proverbs the Bible talks about the value of planning your life. Proverbs 4:26 says this, "Mark out a straight path for your feet". What does that mean? Plan it. "Mark out a straight path for your feet". That's another way of saying, make a plan. It says, "Mark out a straight path for your feet and then stick to that path and stay safe". In the new Testament First Corinthians 14:40 says, "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way".

What's he saying? God doesn't want your life to be a life of chaos. God doesn't want your life to be a life of confusion. Just drifting, muddling through life all mixed up, he wants you to have a plan. God plans, he tells you to plan. And here's the third reason. So I don't waste my life. So I don't waste my life. Planning is a matter of stewardship. Your life is God's gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift back to God. And the Bible says this in Ephesians chapter five verse 15 to 17, 11 the Phillips Translation, "Live life with a due sense of responsibility not as those who don't know the meaning of life, but as those who do. Make the best use of your time," you can't do that without a plan. "Don't be vague, but grasp firmly what you know to be the will of the Lord".

You say okay Rick, I got it. I realize that if I'm gonna build a better future coming out of COVID, I'm gonna have to make some God inspired plans. How do you do that? Well, that's what this message is about today. You just copy what Nehemiah did in chapter two, the seven steps. When Nehemiah got a burden, when he got a vision, when he set up a plan he did seven things in his plan. It's found in Nehemiah chapter one verse 11 to chapter two verse nine.

Now again, the background. Nehemiah desperately wanted to return to his home the land of Israel and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the walls of Jerusalem. But he has a very important and actually a very comfortable, cushy job in Persia serving in the royal court of a King called Artaxerxes. And he couldn't just offhandedly suggest to the king just let him go without a plan. So he comes up with a plan and he gives us a model of seven steps that you need for life planning in your life. I want you to practice these seven steps this week as you think about "Building a Better Future" for your life after COVID, after the COVID captivity of this last year. Okay, you're ready for the steps? All right this is gonna be a very practical message.

All right here's step one in developing a life plan. Step one, pray and ask for God's favor. Pray and ask for God's favor on your life. God's favor is God's grace. This is the first thing that Nehemiah does in his life plan. Nehemiah chapter one verse 11 he says this, he prays, "O Lord, please let hear my prayer and listen to the prayers of all your servants who love to honor you". That's all of us. "Give your servant success today". Is it okay to pray for success? Nehemiah did. "Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the king's presence". And he says, I pray this prayer. He says, "In those days, I was the king's wine steward".

Now that probably wasn't a very stressful job. I mean, you're just serving the king wine, okay? Now you made me thinking I have no idea what I should be doing with my future. I have no idea what I should be doing in the next six months. I don't know what to do with my life. So I don't know. I don't have any idea to what to pray about. Well, you know what? You can pray about that. You can pray that you don't know what you should be doing. James chapter one, verse five says this, "If you want to know what God wants you to do just ask him. And he'll gladly tell you for he's always ready to give a generous supply of wisdom to all who ask".

So you go, I don't even know what my vision, what my dream, what my goal, what my target, what my plan is. Start saying, "God, I don't have a plan. What's your plan for my life". Once you start asking God for wisdom and direction, you know what? He's gonna put eventually an idea in your mind or a burden in your heart. You're gonna look around and you're gonna see something that needs changing. When Nehemiah started praying God gave him a dream, gave him a vision, gave him a burden of seeing his hometown rebuilt and restored.

So let me ask you, what needs to be rebuilt in your life? What needs to be restored in your life, in your family, in your job, around you, in your nation, in your city, in your community. What do you see out there in the world that needs to be changed? Let God give you that burden and keep praying and keep talking with about other mature believers about it. And you know what? Eventually God is going to put something in your heart. That's the first step in life planning. Get a burden for something God wants to do in your life or through your life in the world.

Now here's the next step, ready? Step two, once you start praying and you ask God for his favor in your life and show me what you wanna do. Step two is this, prepare for an opportunity and then wait, okay? Whatever you say, I think God wants me to do something about this problem in society. Or God wants me to do about this problem in my company, or in my home or in my community or in my church. You start preparing for an opportunity to do something and then you wait. You don't just sit around waiting for God to do something you start preparing for that opportunity. Now the Bible says in Nehemiah chapter two verse one, "Four months later," this was after he had prayed this prayer. "Four months later, when King Artaxerxes was dining I took the wine to him".

Then notice when you start praying for a vision, for a dream, for a goal, for a plan it don't come instantly. God is not a vending machine he's waiting to see if you're serious. And he says, "Four months later all of a sudden I get the opportunity". What was he doing during those four months preparing for the opportunity to ask the king could he go do what God had called him to do. Now Nehemiah had gotten this burden four months earlier, and for four months he's been waiting for something to happen, and now something happens. What had been happening between that time of Noah, I mean Nehemiah, got his first idea about rebuilding the wall and rebuilding Jerusalem. And when he asks and gets the opportunity to present the his idea to the king, what he'd been doing? He'd been praying. But he also had been planning, and he had also been preparing.

Now we know that by the way he responded to the king when the king said, "What do you want me to do"? Nehemiah knew exactly what to ask for because he had been preparing for the opportunity. He'd been thinking about it. Howard Hendricks once said, "Nothing's more profitable than serious thinking and nothing is more demanding". If you're gonna be a leader in this world you need time to think. You need think time. You need time to get away. Leaders make time for think time. That's a law of leadership. Proverbs 13:16 says this, "A wise man, thinks ahead". Are you doing that? Are you thinking about the next six months? Are you thinking about the next year of your life? Are you thinking about the next five or 10 years of your life, "A wise man thinks ahead, a fool doesn't and even brags about it"?

See, it's wise to spend time thinking about your life and what do you say, what I think about? Well, ask yourself some questions. Like where am I now? Where do I wanna be? How will I get there? That's what Nehemiah did. He's thinking it through. He's praying for four months, but he's also planning and preparing for an opportunity to present his plan to the king. What happens when you pray and plan? God gives you a vision. But during this time you're also preparing and when opportunity knocks, you'll be ready to open the door. You see all of life's full of opportunities. There are opportunities all around you. You just overlooking them. You are not seeing the opportunities that are all around you, why? You're not praying, you're not preparing. You're not planning. A lot of times we're just not ready for the opportunities and they pass us by and then they're gone.

So pray, all right, start preparing for the opportunity and then wait for the opportunity to come. God had provided right that. Step three, expect fear but don't let it stop me. This is the third thing we see in Nehemiah's plan, expect fear but don't let it stop me. Nehemiah says, after four months I get the opportunity to serve some wine to King Artaxerxes. And in verse one and two of Nehemiah two, it says, "When King Artaxerxes was dining, I took the wine to him. Now he had never seen me look so sad before. So he asked, why are you so sad? Your heart must be troubled. And Nehemiah says, that made me very afraid".

Now this is the moment Nehemiah is waiting for. He's been praying for an opportunity to present his idea to the king. He's got an opportunity now to state his case because he'd been planning, he'd been preparing, he's ready for the answer. But notice he has a sad face. He has a burden he can't hide. He goes, I want to do this, but it's not opening up. I'm not getting the opportunity. He had a burden he couldn't hide. He's getting a little discouraged by now. It's been four months. God, aren't you gonna do anything about this wall? I've been praying for the opportunity to go home and help restore and rebuild my city. Finally the king says, "What's wrong Nehemiah"?

And notice it says, Nehemiah says, "I was afraid". He literally scared to death, why? Because in those days, listen, it was a capital crime to be sad before the king. Kings were very fickle in those days, they didn't want any downers around them. They didn't want anybody raining on their parade. If you frown in the presence of the king you could get your head cut off. If you were depressed in the presence of the king, that was it. And notice this, this is the first time I had ever appeared sad. He'd always been upbeat around his boss. It's a real gamble to show his true emotions not only that Nehemiah is gonna ask permission for leave of absence. Down in those days if the king doesn't like your request it means he doesn't like you.

So no wonder Nehemiah is frightened and on top of that he's gonna ask permission to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And the king himself had said the walls could not be rebuild. He'd said that earlier. So he's standing before a king who has the power of life and death. He's got a reason to be afraid. Here's the principle. If you're gonna be used by God you're gonna have to move ahead in spite of your fear. All right? Leaders move ahead in spite of their fear, there's a myth that people who are walking with the Lord are never afraid. That's nonsense. I've said many times that every major decision in Saddleback's 42 year history that I had to make I was scared to death to do it. I just did it anyway 'cause I was not gonna let fear dominate me. We're gonna do the right thing, never let fear stop you.

Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is moving ahead in spite of your fear. If you're not afraid, you don't need courage. You'll only have courage when you're scared to death and you do it anyway. Now notice what Nehemiah did with his fears, he did two things. And when you start going after your plan that God gives you, it's gonna be so big it'll scare you to death. And so what do you do with your fear? Number one first he admitted his feelings. Verse three, he says, "I was scared," okay he's admitting, "I was scared, I was scared to death". Because I could lose my head making this request to the king. I could lose my head just being sad around the king. But he says, "I replied," and here's what he replied, "Long live the King".

Good idea Nehemiah, start with a compliment. "God live... Long live the King". Then he says, "Why shouldn't I be sad for the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and all its gates have been burned down". Why should my face not look sad? The cities where my fathers are buried lies in ruins. The gates have been destroyed by fire. He chooses his words very carefully. First he assures the king of his loyalty, may the King live forever. Remember this guy is also a bodyguard 'cause he's like testing the wine so he can't get poisoned. If he's sad, maybe also know some assassination plot king is asking why is my number one guy upset? So he admits his feelings. You're never gonna get anywhere if you stuff your feelings, you got to admit what you're feeling. If you're discouraged admit it, if you're sad admit it, if you're grieving admit it. That's how you grow. But the second thing he did is he prayed quickly before speaking.

Now this is the second time he prays. There are actually 11 prayers in the book of Nehemiah and here's the second one. He prays before he meets the king he said, God give me this opportunity to present my plan. And then when the king says, "Hey, what's the problem with you"? He stops and he prays what I call a lightening prayer where it's really one word help, help me Lord. Nehemiah 4:2 he says, "The King replied to me well, what is it you want"? And it says, "Then I prayed again to the God of heaven".

Sometimes a prayer can just be one word, help. And the king says, "What do you want you're obviously upset," and Nehemiah again prays a second time. Now this isn't the four months of prayer he's already done. This is the quick prayer. It's the silent quick on the spot prayer "I got the opportunity, God give me the wisdom, helping to know what to do help me know what to say right now". It's interesting that Nehemiah appeals to the his stern respect for ancestors. He says my father's graves are in ruin because Eastern guys went to take care of their ancestors graves. And the king's response was, "What do you want"?

And that leads us to step four in establishing a life plan. Step four is this, establish a clear target. That's the next verse, verse five. Nehemiah 2:5, you establish a clear target. Nehemiah 2:5 says, "After praying I answered, if it pleases your majesty, and if your servant has found favor in your sight then send me to the city in Judah, that's Jerusalem, where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it". Now notice Nehemiah gets very specific here, he wants to establish a goal. He wants to rebuild the wall. He says, I want you to send me to my hometown and he's very specific, I wanna rebuild the wall. I wanna rebuild the city.

This is the next step in life planning, you set a goal. You got to have a target. You've all heard. If you aim at nothing, you're gonna hit it. So you ask yourself some simple questions in the next year what do I wanna be? In the next year what do I wanna do? In the next year what do I wanna have? In the rest of my life what do I wanna be? What do I wanna do? What I wanna have? These are the questions you have to ask in establishing a goal. Now, let me tell you something. I've done a lot of goal setting in my life and there are two common errors that people make in goal setting. We set them too low and we try to accomplish them too quickly. Most people set little teeny tiny goals and then try to do them immediately.

I wanna challenge you to set a big goal so big you're bound to fail unless God bails you out. But spend the rest of your life going after it. That's what I did with Saddleback. Inch by inch, anything's a cinch. How do you eat an elephant one bite at a time, you set big goals, you make big plans so big that God has to bail you out. You let the size of your God determine the size of your goal. You see, God loves big planning, why? It honors him. It honors God to be a big planner. It's what you're expecting God to do. And saying God I'm trusting you to help me to do this. This is what I want God to do in my life. So Nehemiah says, okay, I'll tell you what I want. I wanna go rebuild a wall around the whole city of my hometown. Had he ever built a wall? No, was he a builder? No, he's a wine steward. And he's gonna go home and do a rebuilding project for an entire city. He never built anything, he's a cup bearer, but he has a big goal. As I said, we set our goals too low and we try to accomplish them too quickly.

So your first is to get the prayer behind you. Then you think it through and you prepare for the opportunity so that when God opens up the opportunities, you're ready for it. And then when it's there, you're ready to say what you need. People say, well that guy has all the luck. He gets all the breaks. You know what I've found? The more I plan, and the more I prepare the luckier I get. Okay it's not about luck, it's about preparation. The opportunities are always there all around you you just have to be ready for them. You got to see him, how will you see him? By praying, by preparing, by waiting.

And then you establish a goal, and then you come to the next step, step five in life planning is this, set a deadline. Set a deadline. Nehemiah 2:6, "Then the King with the queen sitting beside him". Why Nehemiah I mentioned that I don't know, but maybe it's because she had a little impact or a little input on her husband. "The King with the queen sitting beside him asked how long will your work take? And when will you get back"? This is a legitimate question. Yeah I'm gonna loan my top guy to go to a project. "Now the King was willing to send me," Nehemiah says, "so," underline this, circle it. "I set a time".

That's the next step, step five is set a deadline. A goal has to have a deadline. If your goal doesn't have a deadline, that's not a goal. This is the scheduling part of life planning. You know what you wanna do, And then you know when you wanna do it, you schedule it, you put it in your calendar. And you ask the question, how long is it gonna take? Probably longer than you think. Nehemiah 5:14 Nehemiah actually tells us he actually came back to the Persian Empire 12 years later. Because he was popular with this king, king didn't want him to leave. And so the king says, "How long are you gonna be gone"?

It showed that the king really did like Nehemiah but why did Nehemiah throw in the queen is sitting beside him? I might guess that she had an influence over the king's receptivity, probably Nehemiah and the queen were pretty good friends. And he's the king right-hand man and she's sitting there and he's pouring the wine and everybody's happy. And Nehemiah says, "I'd really like to go back home and rebuild the wall around my hometown, where my father's graves are". And probably the queen said to her husband, "Honey let him go, let him go". And maybe Nehemiah timed it this way, but God had a time in it and you have to have timing. Nehemiah establishes a deadline, he puts it on his calendar. Remember this a dream without a deadline is just an empty wish. A dream without a deadline is just an empty wish, it won't go anywhere.

Now here's the sixth step in life planning. Anticipate the barriers that I'll face. Anticipate the barriers that I'll face. Nehemiah 2:7 and 8. He says, "Then I asked the king to give me," listen to this 'cause he's already thought through what the barriers are gonna be. Nehemiah says, "Then I asked the king to give me letters for the governors of all the territories west of the Euphrates River". That's stuff he's gonna have to travel through to get back there to Israel. "Give me letters of passage for the governors of the territories west of the Euphrates River, giving me safe, travel to Judah". He says, "I also ask for a letter to the keeper of the king's royal forest". Get this, "Instructing him to supply me with the timber that I would need to rebuild the gates of the city and the city walls. And by the way, for a house for me to live in".

Now he's already asked permission to go. Now he's asking for protection. And then he's asking for provision. He says if it pleases the king, give me these letters to these governors so I can have safe travel. It's about 800 to a 1,000 miles journey between Iraq and Israel, and he's got to go through a lot of provinces. You didn't travel freely in those days, you had to go through proper procedures. You had to show your papers and he goes, Please give me the letters of authority so I'll have clear sailing, so that when I get over there, there's no problem. I just need the traveling permits. So he's already thought through what he's gonna need. He's asked for permission.

Now he's asking for protection. It's implied that he thought it out. Remember he's asked, he's just been put on the spot. What do you want? Well, you'd already thought it through. If somebody asked you right now, what do you want in the next year of your life? Have you already thought it through? Or would you go I don't know I don't know what I want. It's a clear example of planning. He's not just praying, he's not just preparing during those four months he's planning for the opportunity. So he knows to say what he needs. So the questions you wanna ask yourself in your own planning is when you're anticipating problems ask some stuff like this, What could hold me back? What could hold me back? You're planning some goal, some projects, some dreaming. Ask yourself why don't I have it all ready? What could hold me back? What are the problems or potential problems? What are the barriers? What couldn't go wrong?

If anything could go wrong, it probably will. Nehemiah again is thinking ahead in his life plan he's already thought through what he wants. He's already thought ahead about where he wants to go. Now he's anticipating the problems. Part of the planning process of your life is to anticipate problems in advance. I have to do this all the time as a leader at Saddleback to see the problems before they actually get there, and plan for them in advance. Proverbs 27:2 says this, "A sensible man looks for the problems ahead and prepares to meet them". These all important steps you might wanna listen to this message again a second time, you see another part of anticipating the barriers is to calculate the cost in advance. Because there's always a price tag for every dream and for every goal. Nehemiah actually gives the king, he's asked for permission to go. Then he's asked for protection now he gives the king a shopping list. He says as much you let me go, and I want you to give me protection.

And by the way, I want you pay for it too. And notice what he asked for. He asked for the lumber. He says, I need you to give me a letter to the head of all your royal lumber to give me what I need to build the beams for the city gates. Okay, he'd thought that out then he says and I'm gonna need the lumber for the city walls. That second thing, he said by the way I'm gonna need a lumber for my own house. Now is Nehemiah a contractor? No, he's never built anything. He's never built anything in his life. He's a cup bearer, yet when he has the opportunity he rattles off exactly what's needed, why? He has a plan. Now, how did Nehemiah know what to ask for? Well he evidently calculated the cost. How in the world did he know there was a royal forest near Jerusalem? Evidently had to do advanced planning.

So this whole chapter indicates he knows what he's doing when he gets into the situation. He even knows the name of the foreman, he's already figured it out way in advance, so that when the opportunity arose he's prepared for the opportunity. Now, what am I saying through about all this? It's this step? It took a lot of faith because Nehemiah has taken an enormous risk. Just look what he's asking for. He's asking a pagan king to let him do something the king had already said, will never be done, build walls around Jerusalem. He asked for permission to go build a wall if he didn't like your request, it's off with your head, he's scared to death. And if most of us had gotten the okay right there, we probably would have breathed the sigh of relief and beat a hasty retreat. We wouldn't have even dared to ask for anything else but Nehemiah just keeps asking the king and he even says I want you to pay for it all.

So, as I said he asked for permission, then protection, then provision. I want you to pay for it all. Some people schedule their plan and they think of their plan, but they forget to budget for it. Jesus pointed this out. Look at this verse on your outline, Luke 14:27-28 Jesus said, "You will never be my disciple if you're not willing to carry your cross and follow me". So don't, look at this, don't begin until you count the cost. Who would begin building without first figuring the costs and seeing if they had enough money to complete it all? All right? So there's a budgeting part to your life plan. Not thinking through what energy it's gonna take, what connections it's gonna take. What money it's gonna take.

Now, there is a sub point here that I want you to understand leaders and people that are used by God, are willing to ask others for assistance. You're never gonna be fully used by God until you learn how to ask other people for help. 'Cause nobody can do what God's called them to do on their own. James 4:2 says, "You don't have 'cause you don't ask". How many people have you said no to for many times and well she really wouldn't wanna do this. You said no on their behalf, "Well, nobody would wanna help me with this". You don't know that you don't know what people will say. Don't ever say no for other people. Let people say no for themselves.

Now that again, that takes faith. It takes incredible boldness to do what Nehemiah does. He asks a king, a pagan king who has death and life in the power of his hand, it's risky business, but because he's prayed and he's playing and he's prepared, he's ready. Then he strong enough that even though he's standing there with his knees shaken to death, he keeps pushing it. Now the wisest risks, listen to me, are those that are taken after prayer and planning. To take a risk before prayer, before planning is presumptuous. Proverbs 21:1, it's not on your outline says this, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord and he directs it like watercourse, wherever he pleases". If God wants to move somebody in any direction he can, and here's a clear example that proverb where God took a pagan king and moved his heart all around. The point is God is a specialist in changing hearts.

Now listen, some of you have dreams in your life that you wanna get done. You've dreamed about it in your business but you're not the CEO of your company. And maybe you're in middle management. And I wanna say to you the heart of the executive is in the hand of the Lord and he'll turn it whichever way he wishes. The company's president is in the hand of the Lord. You need to remember that God is in the business of changing hearts, it's up to him. He's sovereign, okay? So don't tell me that other people won't let you do what God has called you to do. Just start believing and trusting and watch what happens.

Now let me ask you, do you really wanna grow spiritually? The very fact that you're here listening to this message means you wanna grow. What plans have you made for that. in the next year? We plan everything else in our life, why don't we plan our spiritual growth? Do you have a plan to read through the Bible? Do you have a plan to set aside a certain time every day for prayer? Do you have a plan to talk to that person at work about the Lord? Do you have a plan to invite him over for dinner, to your house to get to know him and then invite them to church? Have you planned it? Are you just letting it hoping it'll happen someday?

Very few things happen spontaneously you need a plan, a plan for Bible reading, a plan for witnessing, a plan for prayer. A plan for all the things that are important in your life and the plans you have that you just think up and then ask God to bless that's not what we're talking about. What we're talking about is saying God not help me not do what I'm blessing... Bless what I'm doing we instead of we pray God help me to do what you're blessing. What's your plan? If you're getting your plans from the Lord there'll be big enough for him to fit in. And that's how you know they're from God.

Now let me point out here. Nehemiah didn't try to manipulate the king. When the king asked what's wrong, he was totally honest. My home's in shambles, my hometown. He didn't make up some phony story, he didn't make up a story about going back to Jerusalem under false pretenses. He didn't manipulate the king, he didn't trick him. He didn't play games with him. He didn't use any deceit. He just, he had already talked to God about it. When you have a boss who's unsympathetic to a project or a goal that you wanna do, don't manipulate them, don't play games with them. Just talk to God about them. You don't have to know the key men in life. If you know the man who holds the keys because the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord he didn't turn in any way. Now, when you try to change somebody that's manipulation, let God change the heart.

And that leaves us to the last step. And the last step number seven is this, trust God to meet all my needs. When you're writing out this life plan trust God to meet all the needs. You think I don't have that? How could I ever do this plan I don't have what I need. Nehemiah 2:7 and 8 says this, Nehemiah says, "Because God's gracious favor was on me. The king gave me everything I asked for". Notice he gives God the credit. And Nehemiah gives God all the credit, remember this is autobiographical. This part we're looking at in the series on Nehemiah is not in the first person, but it does talk about Nehemiah. And it does say he doesn't... Nehemiah doesn't say, look at what my planning did, but he says is look at what God did. God was behind it all. He knew that it wasn't his cleverness, a mark a spiritual maturity is when you recognize that God's hand is behind the people who are helping you or may be delaying the project.

"God was with me," he says. If Nehemiah hadn't prayed and hadn't planned setting this thing up nothing would have happened. Now let me close with a couple of reminders. As we've been talking about planning your life for "Building a Better Future". Two things you need to keep in mind, Proverbs 16:1 says this, "We may make our plans, but God has the last word". Have I ever had plans that didn't turn out the way I planned? Yeah over and over and over, why? 'Cause I missed it. We're human beings we don't always get the right plan. Your plan isn't infallible. My plan isn't infallible. We can make our plans and God tells us to make our plans, but God has the last word. And so if my plan don't happen in my time or in my way I just go, God, I trust your plan better than mine.

And James chapter four verse 15 says this, "When you plan, you ought to always say 'if it's the Lord's will'". James 4:15, "What you ought to say is if it is the Lord's will we will live long enough to do this or that". That's godly goal setting. Now let me just close by applying this to your personal life. What would you like God to do in your life? In the next six months, in the next year, in the next five years, what would you like to change? What do you want to be better in your future? We're talking about "Building a Better Future". It all starts with these seven principles. When God finds a person willing to do it his way in his timing, based on his power, he will always provide the resources. I have found that to be and true in my life for 50 years.

Now, the summary of this chapter is a beautiful example of the harmony that takes place between God's part and my part in accomplishing what God wants done on earth. God's part is the sovereignty part, and I'm trusting him in the timing in the location in the resources and all those things that are out of my control. My part is in the praying and in the planning and doing what I can control. You see, we pray for God to set up circumstances that are out of our control, but then we plan for all the things that are under our control. God has a part and you have a part in "Building a Better Future" in your life. God won't do what he's given you the brains to do and you can't do, what only God will do. Now if you've never opened your life to Jesus Christ, you need his power and presence in your life first.

So let's just close with a prayer. And if you've never opened your life to Jesus Christ and had the power and the presence of God come into your life, follow me in this prayer. Let's bow our heads say:

Dear Jesus Christ. I know you've put me on this planet for a purpose and I wanna fulfill your purpose for my life. I want the life plan that you have planned for me. So I'm first of all, asking you to come into my life. I want to have a relationship with you. I wanna have a relationship with you. I want to get to know you and learn to trust you. And I ask you to guide me, and I ask you to give me wisdom in building a better future. I surrender myself to your purpose for my life in your name I pray, amen.

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