Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever said to yourself, “This time is going to be different!” Sound familiar? Whether it is this time or this year, I believe that we have all tried to inspire ourselves with this resolution. “This time…” the outcome will be different than all of the times before. Something is going to change. Right?
And in some cases, this becomes a recurring theme. Nothing really changes despite our plans. Despite our intentions. Despite our efforts. We fall short. This has happened to me more times than I want to imagine.
I don’t like to let people down. Yet my role as pastor puts me in a lot of situations where I feel that I have done just that. “This year is going to be different,” I declare. This year I am not committing to do things that I cannot do,” is one approach I’ve tried that doesn’t work very well. When I remember that I serve a God who expects me to declare the impossible on His behalf, I remember that I am committed to being a conduit for God’s love. And God does the impossible every day. But only when God decides. Meanwhile, people are disappointed in me.
What about you? Do you have significant changes that you hope can happen in your life? Keep in mind, the focus of my question is on you. I have learned the hard way that we cannot change other people. Nor can we always improve our circumstances all that much. At least, not on our own.
But what about your health? Would you like to be healthier? Would you like to wake up each morning with more energy, think more clearly, be less dependent on prescriptions, or other ways you use to take the edge off?
I love Jeremiah, chapter 29. The prophet’s letter to the exiles in Babylonia is priceless. This week we reference one of my favorite parts of this chapter — one of my favorite scriptures. God lets us know that only God knows the divine plans that are in store for us, and they are for our prosperity. God’s plans offer us the future that we hope for, and not the future that the world offers us.
I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and …plans to bring about the future you hope for.
But God alone knows how to get us there. If we trust God with our future, then we will seek God with all of our hearts. We are genuinely all in.
The Daniel Plan offers us guidance, but not a fixed pathway with a precise destination.1 Instead, this plan is a plan to add the spiritual disciplines back into our life that the world has conspired to take away. The gods of this world demand our allegiance, and they are cleverly disguised as having our best interest in mind. But when another human tells us that they know what is best for us, we need to be careful. Even the suggestions found in the Daniel Plan should not take precedence over what God puts on our hearts.
The Daniel Plan is a guide book based on prayerful discernment. Thankfully, the developers used medical research, experience, and a God-driven desire to help people become aligned with God’s plan. God’s Word is still the foundation. And God’s daily guidance is the secret ingredient that makes it all come together. But we should interpret scripture using experience, tradition, and reason.
But as humans, we have limitations. Our first limitation is that we have a choice to make. The decision is ours to make, postpone, or turn the other way. Freewill is a divine gift that can only come from the God of Creation. “You decide,” is the theme of scripture. And if your answer is yes, the Bible is the best user manual available. All other guides are interpretations. Mine included.
So learning what the Bible has to say is an essential discipline that God offers us to help us find peace and joy in our life. It is sad how many people look elsewhere first. And even more disturbing is how many of us are more willing to listen to someone selling us something. Even though, in the end, only delays our success of achieving, “this time will be different.”
I am not criticizing books, articles, papers, advice, or even Wikipedia. I am not criticizing salespeople or marketing teams. Well, maybe a little, when their sales goal is harmful to our health. I am a reader. And I am a lifelong learner. I’m blessed not to be so smart that I can’t learn something every day. Also, I tend to forget a lot of things that I learned, sometimes things I learned in kindergarten, that I wished I hadn’t forgotten. I am talking here about which sources should take priority for us.
For example, the Daniel Plan book and some of the associated references emphasize the need for us to set goals regarding our health. The Bible doesn’t go into some of the details that help us structure our goals. Books and experts on setting goals, emphasize the idea of SMART goals. SMART is a memory aid for writing a goal that is simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Then track your goals using your personal Daniel Plan Journal.2
Also, one of the essential parts of interpreting scripture is our collective experience. And experience has proven that if we don’t write down our goals, we are much less likely to achieve them. For example, experience has taught us that unless we set a goal where progress can be measured, we are unlikely to reach our goal. The specifics of writing down our goals are not found in scripture, but the Bible has a lot to say about how to go about setting life-giving goals.
This week, we are going to talk about Holy goals. A play on the word, Holy Ghost, because without God in the loop, our goals are more likely to take us further away from our real goal of peace and joy. On the other hand, there is something that many of us have learned from experience that is worth sharing.
Let’s face it, most of us are not all that clear on the idea of God telling us what our goals should be for our health. Some of us simply take the stance that if we are sick, God should heal us. And when this doesn’t happen, we blame God. We don’t blame ourselves. But God gave us the free will to choose how we make choices regarding taking care of our bodies. And most illness is preventable if we take care of our bodies. Ouch!
The Daniel Plan puts it on the line. You choose. If you want better health, refocus your prayers towards the prayer request, “Lord, help me to take better care of my body.” Learn about what this means from others, from reading the Daniel Plan resources, and from your own experiences. And prayerfully write down your goals for making the lifestyle changes that you learn are required for you to meet your goals.
So I pray to God to show me the way. Instead of clarity, God puts this Daniel Plan thing in my path. Now what? Here is some advice that I hope can work for you. Do something. Worry less about whether you clearly heard God’s voice with a well-defined SMART goal. Instead, focus more on staying connected to God to help with discerning your day to day progress and challenges. God will answer. In my experience, God answers prayer as you go forward rather than while you are sitting around waiting for a bush to catch on fire.
Trust that God has a plan in mind for you. But God is infinitely wiser and more powerful than we are. If you make a mistake, God still has your well-being in mind. God can work with whatever you give Him. But only when you are all in. It really is a trust thing. Trust that God will help you adjust as you move forward. But first, the decision is yours.
If you haven’t yet signed up for the Daniel Plan, be sure to do so. Each person living in our community who signs up receives your very own copy of The Daniel Plan Journal. If you are not a part of the Asbury Community, we still invite you to participate with us, but we ask that you purchase a copy on your own. These journals can be purchased on Amazon or other vendors. You can also go to the DanielPlan.com store to buy this and other resources.
Trust that God has a plan that is good for you
Here at Asbury, we worship each Sunday at 10:30 am, and I believe that God is calling you to join us. Come and participate in worship, not as a spectator, but as someone who belongs to God. I lead a short Bible study in the Asbury Café at 9:30 am. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
1 Warren, Rick, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman. The Daniel Plan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
2 Warren, Rick, and the Daniel Plan Team. The Daniel Plan Journal – 40 Days to a Healthier Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.