Focus On People Who Want To Help

James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers.” Galatians 2:9

Not everyone will want to be part of your God-given plans and that’s okay. Continue to love everyone, but only invest in the willing.

In other words, focus on those who want to help you. That was Jesus’ strategy. He loved everyone; he fed the 5,000 and preached to the crowd. But he only trained 70, discipled 12, and mentored three. His focus grew stronger with fewer people.

The three people Jesus mentored were Peter, James, and John. Only Peter, James, and John went up on the Mount of Transfiguration. Only Peter, James, and John were brought into the Garden of Gethsemane “a little farther” (Matthew 26:39) to pray with Jesus. And only Peter, James, and John witnessed Peter’s mother-in-law being healed.

Was Jesus playing favorites? Yes. He was investing the maximum amount of time with those who would bear the maximum responsibility. And his strategy worked. Later in the Bible in the book of Galatians Paul calls Peter, James, and John the “pillars of the church” (Galatians 2:9).

But not everyone wanted to be part of Jesus’ mission. He had a defector named Judas, one of his 12 disciples. Even though Judas’ betrayal caused enormous damage, Jesus kept his focus on the 11 faithful men, not the unfaithful one. 

Some people in your life will disappoint or betray you. When this happens, remember: Don’t waste time judging them. The Bible says, “Why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10). They are accountable to God, not to you.

Nehemiah didn’t waste time judging the people who let him down. When nobles from the town of Tekoa didn’t help rebuild their section of Jerusalem’s walls, Nehemiah said, “Their leaders refused to work with the construction supervisors” (Nehemiah 3:5). That’s all he said. Nehemiah didn’t speculate or try to guess their motivation. He knew time spent judging them would be wasted time.

When someone refuses to help you accomplish what God has called you to do, don’t fret about it. Just let God be God and keep your focus on the people who want to help.

Jesus Had A Team Spirit. How About You?

Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better. If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble. And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12

God never meant for you to go through life isolated, trying to do everything by yourself. Success happens when you work alongside others. 

One reason Nehemiah succeeded in rebuilding Jerusalem is because he broke the work down into manageable tasks among many different people. In Nehemiah 3, 18 teams helped to make repairs, and you see the phrase “next to him” or “next to them” 21 times. 

Nehemiah wanted the people to understand something. He gave them a pep talk that went something like this: “If you get tired and discouraged, just look to your left and look to your right, and you’ll see people working next to you. You’ll realize you’re not alone. You’re part of a team.” 

He helped people feel part of something bigger than themselves. He did this by creating a spirit of teamwork among the people.

The New Testament uses the phrase “one another” 58 times. The Bible says we’re to love one another, help one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, and so on. This is how you develop a team spirit.

Why is a team spirit essential to reaching your goals? 

The Bible says, “Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better. If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble. And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12).

The Apostle Paul understood this principle of developing a team spirit. He never did any of his ministry alone. He always took a team with him. The same is true with Jesus. His entire ministry was done with a group of 12 people. In fact, the first thing Jesus did in his ministry was build a small group. 

Maybe you’re struggling to accomplish your goal because you’ve been going at it alone. Remember, you were never meant to live without community. The work God has for you will always be accomplished in partnership with others.

Wise Words Help Build Community

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

If you want to create change in your home, marriage, school, work, or relationships, the way you talk to others will make all the difference in the world.

When Nehemiah left his position as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes and traveled to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls, he knew he needed to identify with the people there. If he was going to get them on board with his plans, he needed to talk like an insider, not an outsider. 

The Bible says, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17).

Notice Nehemiah said “us,” not “I.” He said “we,” not “me.” What was he doing with his words? He was building community. He didn’t point fingers and say, “I’m here to save the day and fix everything for you because you guys don’t even seem to care that you’re living in a heap of rubble.” No, he said, “This is our problem. And, together, I know that we can succeed because God is with us.”

When great leaders have a dream, they build a team. That’s what leadership is all about. Great leaders don’t show up and start blaming people. They accept part of the responsibility.

At times in your life, you’ll see a problem and have to choose between fixing the blame or fixing the problem. Anytime you blame others, you lower their motivation. Anytime you focus on a solution instead, you increase the motivation. 

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”.

Great things happen when you unite people with your words and offer to help them succeed in something they’ve always wanted to accomplish together.

Why Your Dreams Need The Right Timing

There is a right time and a right way to do everything.” Ecclesiastes 8:6

When God puts a dream in your heart, you don’t necessarily have to act on it right away. The Bible says, “There is a right time and a right way to do everything” (Ecclesiastes 8:6).

Pitchers understand the importance of timing in baseball. Every pitcher throws the same 5 ¼-ounce ball and stands the same 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. But the difference between a pro pitcher and an amateur is timing. A pitcher’s timing can make or break them.

Another good example of timing is found in Nehemiah 2. Nehemiah knew timing could make or break his dream to rebuild Jerusalem. He could have made a grand entrance into town with trumpets and flags, announcing the reason for his arrival: “I’m here to save the day!” 

Instead, Nehemiah stayed quiet for three days after arriving in Jerusalem. What was he doing those first three days? Since he was a man of prayer, there’s no doubt he was praying. He was also a planner, so he likely spent time watching, observing, listening, and learning.

The best example of timing is seen in the life of Jesus. His timing was perfect. He would often say things like, “It’s not my time yet.” He said this to his mother when she looked to him to do a miracle at a wedding. And he said this to his brothers when they wanted him to show himself to the world through the works he was doing. 

And God waited thousands of years for just the right time to send his Son. The Bible says, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5).

We don’t know why God sent Jesus when he did, but we know it was the right time to do what he wanted to do.

The same is true with the dreams God gives you. Trust in his timing. You may not see or understand his timing right now, but you can trust that his plan is perfect.

Four Steps To Enlist Support For Your Dream

“They replied at once, ‘Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!’ So they began the good work.” Nehemiah 2:18

Learning how to enlist the support of others is an important part of following your God-given dream.

But how do you get others to help you with your dream? Nehemiah 2 offers four steps for bringing others on board to accomplish your dream.

Step 1: Do your research. Before you announce your dream to your family and friends, make sure you have all the information you need. You don’t want someone to ask a question you can’t answer because you didn’t get all the facts first. 

Nehemiah knew this as he arrived in Jerusalem to begin working on his dream. He said, “I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart . . . I went . . . to inspect the broken walls and burned gates” (Nehemiah 2:12-13). Nehemiah didn’t depend on secondhand knowledge. He conducted his own research.

Step 2: Paint a picture of what needs to change. Before someone can see in their mind how something could be better, you have to create some discontent with the current situation. Why? Because when people live with a problem long enough, they often become apathetic and are okay to settle for less than the best.

When Nehemiah presented his plan to the people, he didn’t minimize their current living conditions. He said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 2:17). He painted a picture of their current reality.

Step 3: Appeal to people’s hearts. We often assume that people base their choices on logic and reason, but most decisions are based on feelings. That’s why it’s important to use internal motivation when enlisting the support of others. 

Nehemiah appealed to the people’s hearts when he said, “Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” (Nehemiah 2:17). This also appealed to their dignity, reminding them that they were God’s people and that, with God’s help, they didn’t have to live in disgrace and shame any longer. Nehemiah showed he had genuine concern for the people.

Step 4: Share your story to inspire others. People want to know what your dream means to you. They want to know what God is doing in your life. And when you tell people that you’re trusting in God, it motivates them to live by faith also.  

Nehemiah shared a powerful story about how God was working in his life and in the plan he was sharing with them. He told the people “about how the gracious hand of God had been on [him]”(Nehemiah 2:18). Their response? The Bible says, “They replied at once, ‘Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!’ So they began the good work” (Nehemiah 2:18).

Open your eyes and see how God’s hand is already at work. Trust him to surround you with the support you need to fulfill your dream as you take these steps of faith.

How To Build A Dream For Your Life

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

As you look to God to do great things in your life, there are two facts you need to understand about the dreams he gives you.

First, no dream is built without the support of others. Just like a building needs support, your dream needs support. True success is never a one-man show. Anything significant you do in life will require help from others. God intentionally wired us to need each other so we will learn how to work together.

The Bible says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Why can’t you go after your dream by yourself? Here are three reasons:

  • You don’t know everything you need to know.
  • You don’t have enough time or energy to do everything by yourself.
  • You don’t have every talent you’re going to need to accomplish your dream.

The bottom line is this: It takes a team to fulfill a dream.

Second, no dream is ever built without opposition. The moment you decide to go after the dream God gives you, someone will try to discourage you. The moment you say, “Let’s do this,” they’ll say, “Let’s not!” Dream busters are literally everywhere. They are often resistant to change and feel it’s their job to bring you down.

When Nehemiah made plans to rebuild Jerusalem, Sanballat and Tobiah, two critics of Nehemiah’s plan, “became very angry, because they didn’t want anyone to help the people of Israel” (Nehemiah 2:10). They mocked and ridiculed Nehemiah and the people’s desire to rebuild.

But Nehemiah didn’t spend much time responding to his critics—and you shouldn’t either. If all you did was respond to what other people think of you, you’d never get anything done. Instead, like Nehemiah, reply simply and move on. Nehemiah said, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding” (Nehemiah 2:20).

Remember, to fulfill a dream you need a team, and when you pursue a dream, you’ll always find opposition. When you understand these two facts about dream-building, you’ll be better equipped to fulfill God’s plan for your life.

Seven Steps For Godly Planning

If the Lord wants us to, we will live and carry out our plans.” James 4:15

We’ve been looking at Nehemiah’s model for making God-inspired plans. So far, we’ve learned five steps:

Step 1: Ask God for favor on your life.
Step 2: Prepare for an opportunity, and then wait.
Step 3: Expect fear, but don’t let it stop you.
Step 4: Establish a clear target.
Step 5: Set a deadline.

Here are Nehemiah’s final two steps in developing a life plan.

Step 6: Anticipate barriers.

Part of the planning process involves anticipating problems. Proverbs 27:12 says, “A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them”.

Nehemiah thought through all the problems he might face. Then he said to the king, “Would you be willing to give me letters to the governors of the provinces west of the Euphrates River, so that I can travel safely to Judah? I will need timber to rebuild the gates of the fortress near the temple and more timber to construct the city wall and to build a place for me to live. And so, I would appreciate a letter to Asaph, who is in charge of the royal forest” (Nehemiah 2:7-8).

First, Nehemiah asked the king for permission to go to Jerusalem. Then he asked for protection and provision. Nehemiah was a cupbearer, not a professional builder, yet because he had spent four months praying and planning, he was able to anticipate the barriers, determine his needs, and calculate the cost.

Step 7: Trust God to meet all your needs.

Even when things don’t turn out the way you hoped, you can still trust God. A mark of spiritual maturity is when you recognize that God’s hand is behind the plans that go your way and the plans that don’t go your way. Godly goal setting says, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and carry out our plans” (James 4:15).

The king ended up giving Nehemiah everything he had asked for—and Nehemiah gave God all the credit: “And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me”(Nehemiah 2:8). Nehemiah didn’t say, “Look at what my planning did.” He said, “Look at what God did.”

What would you like God to do in the next six months, the next year, or the next five years in your life? A great plan starts with these seven steps that Nehemiah followed. Try following them in your own life and see how God works in your life.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Making Plans

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.”Proverbs 16:3

God’s plans and your plans can work together to accomplish the purpose he has for you. Nehemiah is a great example of this. Yesterday we talked about the first two steps Nehemiah took when he made plans toward his goals that would honor God.

Here are three more steps that Nehemiah modeled in developing a life plan.

Step 3: Expect fear, but don’t let it stop you. 

When the king saw Nehemiah approaching, he asked him why he looked so sad. In those days, it was a crime to be sad before the king, yet Nehemiah was about to ask for a leave of absence to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. 

Nehemiah did two things with his fear: 

  • He expressed his feelings. Nehemiah replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins” (Nehemiah 2:3). Admitting how you feel is how you grow.
  • He prayed quickly before speaking. “The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4). Sometimes prayer can just be quickly and silently saying, “Help!”

There is a myth that godly people are never afraid. That’s nonsense! Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is moving ahead in spite of your fear. 

Step 4: Establish a clear target. 

Nehemiah got specific in his request to the king: “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city” (Nehemiah 2:5).

To establish a specific goal, you need to ask yourself three questions: What do I want to be? What do I want to do? What do I want to have? 

Make sure you let the size of your God determine the size of your goal. A God-sized goal honors God and shows him that you trust him to help you. 

Step 5: Set a deadline. 

Nehemiah 2:6 says, “Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, ‘How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?’ It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time”. Even though it was ultimately God who orchestrated the timing, Nehemiah still “set a time”so that he had a clear plan.

If your goal doesn’t have a deadline, then it’s not a goal. Ask, “How long is it going to take?” Then put it in your calendar. Remember, a dream without a deadline is an empty wish. It won’t go anywhere.

Tomorrow we will look at the final two steps Nehemiah took in developing a life plan. Don’t miss it!

How To Develop A Life Plan

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”Proverbs 16:9

When you make your life plan, God’s contribution toward its success is far greater than your own but your contribution is still vital. In the Old Testament, Nehemiah offers a good example of someone who knew that his plan depended on God.

When Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, he heard his hometown of Jerusalem had been destroyed and lay defenseless. This troubled Nehemiah, so he decided to go home to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls. But he knew he wouldn’t get very far without a plan.

The Bible says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9.

Nehemiah’s plan for how he would get to Jerusalem gives you sevens steps in developing a life plan. Here are the first two:

Step 1: Ask God for favor on your life.

Nehemiah knew he couldn’t just impulsively suggest that the king let him go home to rebuild. So he prayed, asking for God’s favor: “O Lord, please hear my prayer! . . . Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me” (Nehemiah 1:11).

God’s favor is God’s grace, and you need it to make and fulfill your plans. Notice Nehemiah also prayed, “Please grant me success.” Sometimes you might think you shouldn’t ask God for success. But there’s nothing wrong with praying for success when you’re trusting God to do the work.

Step 2: Prepare for an opportunity, and then wait. 

Nehemiah had to wait before he was given an opportunity to present his plan to the king. Then one day, “four months later, when Emperor Artaxerxes was dining, [Nehemiah] took the wine to him” (Nehemiah 2:1). Because Nehemiah had plenty of time to prepare, he knew exactly what he wanted to say to the king.

When you begin praying about a plan, vision, or dream God has given you, he usually doesn’t answer right away. God often waits to see how serious you are about it. Are you going to keep praying and planning while you wait? If so, you’ll be prepared to open the door when opportunity knocks.

Tomorrow we’ll look at three more steps Nehemiah took in developing his plan, all steps that you can use as you make a life plan.

Planning Helps You Live With Purpose

Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.”Proverbs 4:26

God has a plan for your life but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make plans too. He doesn’t want you to drift along, letting circumstances determine the direction of your life. He wants you to be intentional about the path you choose.

Although the Bible gives many reasons for planning, here are three reasons that are foundational.

God makes plans.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”.

God wants you to be like him. So, if God makes plans, then you should make plans too. 

But there’s one thing God is not: “God is not a God of disorder” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Do you have any plans for the rest of the year? The next 10 years? If you haven’t made any plans for your life, then it’s likely your life is out of order and that’s not how God created you to live.

God expects you to plan because it is beneficial to your life. 

Throughout Scripture, particularly in the book of Proverbs, the Bible talks about the value of planning your life. Proverbs 4:26 says, “Mark out a straight path for your feet”. That’s just another way of saying, “Make a plan.”

God tells you to plan because he doesn’t want you to live a life of confusion as you muddle through each day. The Bible says, “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

God doesn’t want you to waste your life.

Planning is a matter of stewardship. Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God. Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as [those] who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God”.

The old cliché is true: If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail. 

Take steps today toward building a better future by writing down a simple plan. Then ask God for help every day to move forward in faith.

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