I started this year with a list of goals and associated deadlines. I haven’t fared particularly well in accomplishing them and in evaluating my progress, it would be easy to dwell on the failures. In fact, with just 27 days left of this year, it’s been really hard accepting that some of my plans simply won’t happen this year (or at all). I really haven’t prospered in the way I’d hoped.
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5, NLT)
Prosperity and poverty are primarily used to refer to finances, and I completely agree that this verse applies in that context. In fact, many of us, despite hard work, aren’t as financially prosperous as we could be due to poor financial literacy i.e. bad planning. However, in a broader sense, prosperity and poverty can apply in many areas as they’re simply words to describe an abundance or a lack. For example, in 3 John 1:2 we see John’s desire that Gaius’ soul would prosper in addition to his health.
Prosperity in any area is predicated by good planning and hard work.
I made progress with all of my goals for this year, but the ones I failed to achieve were mainly due to either a lack of good planning or hard work. My goals were split into the following categories: spiritual, personal, work, and discipline. It would have been wonderful to see each of those areas prosper in the way I had envisaged, but if I’m honest, I didn’t exert the hard work required to match my planning. As I make plans for next year, I’m mindful of three things that this year has taught me in relation to planning and, by extension, prosperity.
1. Prosperity Requires Communication
“Is this right for us?” I dropped my pen in amazement that I’d never consciously considered the impact of my 2021 plans on my marriage. By marriage, I mean spiritual marriage (see God Is Your Husband). That simple question is something that I hadn’t paid attention to as I ploughed ahead with plans that seemed good. I’d assumed that I didn’t necessarily need God’s input since there was no ambiguity surrounding the efficacy of said goals. I was wrong.
Good planning has communication with God at the centre.
With an earthly marriage, I’d expect there to be communication regarding which goals we are going to pursue regardless of whether they directly impact one person more than the other. My oversight in considering the impact of my goals on the time available to spend with God meant that my spiritual marriage was languishing. In essence, my efforts to pursue prosperity in other areas directly led to experiencing poverty in my relationship with God.
Communication with God ensures that your plans are aligned.
I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t want you to pursue good things, but I am suggesting that you need to communicate with Him to know the order in which you ought to pursue those things. My reflection would later lead me to ask a more nuanced question, “Is this right for us, right now?” As I thought about it, I realised that some goals could and should have been delayed for the sake of allowing my marriage to continue to thrive. The goals you pursue, or the timing in which you pursue them, should never leave your spiritual marriage in poverty.
2. Prosperity Requires Realism
The verse doesn’t say that planning + hard work = prosperity. It highlights that the quality of the planning ought to be ‘good.’ As much as I’d like to think of myself as a good planner, one thing this year has taught me is that I don’t give myself room to breathe. I either have several things on the go at once, or I have things that are back-to-back. In most cases, both! In the haze of being goal-oriented, I forgot to be realistic. I forgot that not everything can be scheduled. Whether it was illness, sadness, or procrastination, each of these played a part in throwing off my perfectly curated schedule.
It’s ok to revise plans.
If you’re anything like me, getting behind schedule is anxiety inducing at worst and annoying at best. I derive a real sense of accomplishment from knowing that I was able to do everything on my to-do list; that I was able to move closer to reaching a goal. What happens if this doesn’t go to plan, you ask? Well… I take it personally. As I continue to drown in internal and external deadlines, I question whether I’m as capable as others think I am because clearly someone ‘better’/more capable wouldn’t be finding it hard to stick to their plans.
The moments matter more than the minutes.
The truth is, I’m often behind schedule because my plan is bad. It’s got too much going on, or no ‘buffer’ time between activities. The beauty of communicating with God about your plans and agreeing on which ones should be pursued and when, is knowing that your hard work is being channelled in the right place. In other words, you’re exerting your effort where it’s needed and when it’s needed rather than overloading your schedule. Consequently, you can focus on enjoying the moment instead of being anxious about not working on other goals simultaneously. It’s important to remember that not being realistic in your plans leads to hasty shortcuts which the verse advises is the cause of poverty.
3. Prosperity Requires Consistency
How long it’ll take for you to become prosperous isn’t specified, only that your good planning and hard work will eventually lead to prosperity. Nevertheless, in order to maintain this prosperity you need to continue the good planning and hard work it took initially. For me, some of my goals were one off things and others were lifestyle changes i.e. ongoing. Whilst consistency doesn’t necessarily apply to one-off things, it’s crucial for lifestyles changes.
God desires that you have permanent prosperity.
God’s intention from the beginning was that you’d be prosperous in every area of your life. Sin changed that. In a sin-stricken world, prosperity can sometimes feel absent or fleeting. Yes, you can be content in whichever situation you find yourself in (Philippians 4:12); however, it’s important that your poverty isn’t prolonged or reoccurs as a consequence of your actions. Paul found himself in less than ideal circumstances in spite of good planning and hard work, not because of a lack of consistency.
Spiritual prosperity is foundational.
Are you struggling with consistency in X, Y, or Z? Examine your spiritual life. You might be surprised by what you find. When you’re in a good place spiritually, that’s often a catalyst for prosperity in other areas simply because the Bible has principles and guidance for every area of your life. Therefore, the more closely you walk with God, the more He steers you into pursuing prosperity in all areas of your life as per His original intent. Put simply, spiritual prosperity is the key to sustained prosperity in other areas.
- How regularly do you take the time to pause and reflect on the impact of your plans on your relationship with God? Are you choosing to live the single life despite being married to Him?
- Think of the one goal you’re most excited to achieve in the near future. How would you feel if God said ‘not now’?
- Are your plans realistic or do you have an overwhelmed schedule?
- Hasty shortcuts are bad, but what are some thought through/sensible shortcuts that would actually be good in your life? i.e. shortcuts that aren’t likely to cause poverty in other areas.
- Have you stopped to consider the link between your spiritual life and seemingly ‘non-spiritual’ issues?
- Be honest, are you genuinely a hard worker or do you like to think you’re a hard worker?
- How do you respond when you’ve planned appropriately and put the hard work in, but the expected prosperity hasn’t materialised? Or maybe hasn’t materialised in the way you’d hoped.
Whether this year was everything you hoped it would be or not, think about how you can apply these tips to ensure you prosper in every area.