Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This adage applies to all areas of our lives: our families (What kind of marriage do I want to have? How do I want my kids to turn out?); our finances (How much do I need to save to retire at a certain age?); our work (What title or rank do I want to achieve?). In many ways, life is like a road trip: We need a destination, directions, a map, snacks, money, etc. Otherwise we are lost, wandering and hungry.
So it’s crucial to have a plan. I know that is how the U.S. armed forces work. I have spent time around many military officers who explained to me that the military plans on three levels: the strategic (the desired goal or outcome of a war); the operational (management: how to execute the war); and the tactical (the boots on the ground fighting the battles). The leaders of our armed forces are constantly reviewing and evaluating all three levels. What a high level of focus and planning!
Believe it or not, Jesus taught his followers to approach their “spiritual” lives with a similar level of concentration and planning. In Matthew 10, Jesus sent out his 12 disciples to proclaim the good news of God’s love. As he released them, Jesus prepared them as to what they would encounter and how they should behave: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16 NIV). Jesus told his followers, “You are going to face some tough people and tough circumstances so be wise, clever and prepared while remaining pure and innocent in your conduct.”
Furthermore, Jesus taught that the entire Christian life is one of solemn preparation and assessment: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27-33).
Therefore, to live is to plan and to plan is to live … if we want to do so rightly. This cannot be overstated. Why? Because thus far I have endeavored to demonstrate that you and I are caught in the midst of a great battle between good and evil, lightness and darkness. According to the Bible, in the heavenly realm, God Almighty and his angels fight for us. On earth, we have the power of Christian community to strengthen us and push us forward.
Yet even though we know of this battle and our allies, the fact remains that we must create a battle plan. We must know our enemies, how to effectively attack them and the desired goal or outcome of each battle.
In my next post, I hope to identify our enemies and propose a sound battle plan. Until then, keep fighting alongside God, his angels and the Christian community.