Remember that old saying – “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” (Benjamin Franklin) It seems ‘ol Ben was onto something. This statement is true of almost everything in life. Just like failing to plan equals planning to fail – so developing a plan to become more like Jesus means succeeding. So why do followers of Jesus fail sometimes?
Why Followers of Jesus Fail
I’ll get right to the point. You and I have seen followers of Jesus who succeed and others who fail. What is different between them? Does a Christian have any control over failure? Or is each person’s life sort of already scripted out for you – or “written in stone,” and you just need to live out your life?
I’d like to propose every person has control over whether they succeed or fail in becoming more like Jesus. It all depends on whether they have a good plan in place and where their heart is. I’ve heard some folks say that freedom for them means living by the seat of their pants. Doing whatever they want or like. Having control over their destiny.
I think that’s not true. Freedom is doing what needs to be done for the greater good while enjoying the life God has given. Freedom takes both sacrifice and work. Having freedom intuitively means having and carrying out responsibilities. Being able to make choices (of your own free will) to pursue what is good and to be the best you can be – the person God designed you to be – now, that’s freedom! It’s in this place of freedom you start to notice success in becoming more like Jesus.
Sacrifice and work bear fruit when a good plan is in place. Living for self and not having any plan is a shortcut to failure.
A Plan To Become More Like Jesus
You’ve heard of good business plans, effective education plans, successful political plans, war-winning strategy plans, and even plans to be a healthy person. It takes a good plan to lose weight and get in shape, to have a positive marriage, to maintain a good friendship, to raise kids, to be a valued and trusted employee, and even to experience a great vacation. In fact, everything in life involves planning at some level. Even Strategies Of Rest require a plan.
So why not include your emotional and spiritual life in the effort of planning? And what about the condition of your inner heart and soul? Do those things need a plan, too? I think “yes.”
Plans can be good – and not-so-good. Good plans include a number of qualities.
People need a practical, modern-day plan to be an effective follower of Jesus. This plan needs the right kind of power to succeed. And it needs to be a personal plan – one just for you. Finally, the plan needs to be progressive, which includes direct action steps from God’s Word.
The best plans are also flexible. The world has become so challenging and is changing so fast. You need to bend and flex with your strategies to build a solid spiritual framework in these difficult times.
Those are the qualities that make up a good plan to become more like Jesus. Let’s look at each one.
Believers need to make their faith practical. If it doesn’t work in daily life, it’s no good. You need solid directives that help you “work out your salvation.” (Phil. 2:12) So, drilling down into Scripture every day is critical in developing a successful plan to become more like Jesus. Spend time reading, memorizing, meditating on, and journaling God’s Word. Practical means – “where the rubber meets the road.” There are hundreds of incredible action steps, directives, and change points in Scripture. Go on a treasure hunt and find them. You can log them in your journal or device.
Whatever you intend to carry out directly affects who you become. Plans have power. If you start with God’s Word, you will simultaneously be creating action points that are pleasing to God. And you will be activating His power in your efforts. In fact, there is no other place you can start to become more like Jesus. The Spirit of God is the power a Christian needs to succeed. And that power is only engaged through a concept called “living sacrifice.” By giving yourself up completely to Jesus, you actually find who you were designed to be. It’s a fabulous trade. As you lose yourself for Christ’s sake, you find your true self as you plug into God’s power. (Mt. 10:39; 1 Pet.1:5; Rom.12:1)
Having a fresh personal approach is a path you walk to become the person God created you to be. By discovering the person God designed you to be and what He intends to accomplish through your life, you discover your life purpose. This is incredible freedom – to be yourself completely!
God did not make a rubber stamp when He created people. Each person is uniquely different by His design. You are intended to be uniquely different. That means adhering to the basics and principles of Scripture (which never change) while custom-designing their application in creative, fresh ways. To do this consistently and effectively, you need to:
- Identify details you intend/need to work on to better develop your life.
- Lay out how you will carry out your plan. A plan that is complicated becomes discouraging. Simple is best.
- Have target deadlines to reach for and make progress by. Make sure they are reasonable so you don’t get discouraged.
- Track your action steps, successes, and failures.
- Address how you will tackle failures so you don’t repeat them.
- Celebrate your successes in your personal plan.
Build your simple plan by prayer. Make sure all your action steps agree with God. Yield to Him in all issues (living sacrifice). And then get busy!
There are thirteen action steps given in Rom.12:9-13 to help you carry out a progressive plan:
- Love sincerely. No empty pretty words. Be authentic.
- Hate evil in every modern and ancient form.
- Cling to everything good in the world.
- Be devoted to others, and prove it by your actions.
- Honor each other by lifting one another up. Don’t fret about yourself. Jesus will care for you.
- Live with passion even if your feelings don’t match what you need to do. Your feelings are not dependable enough to use as a launch pad. Use your will and knowledge of God’s Word, instead. Let your passion be to please God.
- Keep your spiritual drive fresh, alive, and active by making decisions that exemplify God’s principles. God doesn’t make “stale,” He is all about “fresh, creative, new.”
- Serve the Lord every day in all details of your life and with all your heart.
- Practice hope with joy: hope is a well-informed position, not a feeling. Joy renews your heart.
- Choose to be patient when you suffer. Those are hard words. Yet, if you practice this discipline with a spirit of cheer, you will literally become a different person.
- Pray without stopping. You can’t do life by yourself. You need a greater power every moment. So, call on God, and invite His help. Praise Him. Remember who He is.
- Give to people who have needs in practical ways.
- Have an attitude and atmosphere of “welcoming” in your life and home.
We already reflected on the state of our world. These are troubled times. So you need to be flexible. The character of Christ never compromises God’s principles, but it is always flexible. Jesus is flexible.
Here’s an example of flexible. If you’ve ever seen pictures of a tropical storm, you may have noticed certain tall, strong, mature trees bending almost to the ground as the storm whips them out of their natural, more comfortable position. Yet they don’t break or uproot. They take a beating, but they are so flexible, they literally beat the storm.
This is the kind of flexibility needed to beat life’s storms. Plus, flexibility helps you bend in your relationships. It helps you better meet the needs of others. And it helps you maneuver through obstacles you don’t know are in front of you. Flexibility is what every good athlete goes after.
Stable and Credible
A good plan builds a stable and credible example of Christ’s character. When you match all your thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions to God’s Word, you will become more like Jesus. Keep in mind that you can only do this successfully by faith to believe and faithfulness to obey.
Application Thoughts and Questions
- Would you say you are failing or succeeding in your plan to become more like Jesus?
- Do you have a plan?
- Is your plan practical?
- Would you say it’s powerful?
- Does your plan reflect you – a personal plan?
- Is your plan progressive – in the way Scripture defines progressive?
- Is your plan flexible?
- Would you say your heart is in the right place of absolute surrender to God? Do you agree with Him in all your life issues?
- Are you a stable and credible example to others of who Jesus is? You do not need to be an amazing, famous person to do this. You just need to be YOU – the person God created you to be!
Article developed from Rom.12:9-13.