Good thoughts are great. Good actions are better.
One thing I don’t want this site to become is a breeding ground for useless philosophical ideas or long winded intellectual debates, that at the end of the day amount to no more than ego stroking (sorry if that hurt). The reason I want to make this clear up-front is because what the world needs is not just another bright idea (I’m referring here not to inventions but to ideas with moral or social implications). Don’t get me wrong: things always start with an idea (hopefully a moral one, we’ll not argue the virtues of immoral ideas), but it’s not just about that – it must lead to change of the heart and mind, which should lead to useful action (or changes in behaviour). The other key thing in this sequence though is the need to saturate our thoughts, plans and actions with prayer to ensure they are connected to God, who is the source and giver of all life. The reason for this is that we need ideas and actions which are not bound by the fallen state of this world, but which originate in heaven and thus have the power to transform this world positively because they are life-giving. What we need is a model for action that is subservient to the plans of God, rather than to our own. I’ll call it simply: “(pray) think (pray) plan (pray) act (pray)“.
There’s is a scripture that states, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). There is so much said in these few words, so let’s linger here a minute. While some will argue that this implies that plans are useless, I think quite the opposite. I do think that God not only desires, but expects us, to plan and this is something we should do prayerfully rather than presumptuously. Not doing so leads to what I would call ignorant or blind acts of faith and usually great pain (at best) or untimely death (at worst). What is the basis of my argument? The farmer. If he didn’t plan, he wouldn’t plant. If he didn’t plant, he wouldn’t eat and if he didn’t eat, he would most likely die. Sadly, I know of many people who think that not planning somehow gives God the opportunity to intervene greatly in our lives so that he (supposedly) will be glorified. In reality, I think that if he does intervene greatly under such circumstances (and what follows is my opinion), it’s more likely because he prefers not to be embarrassed by his followers. Sigh.
The next point to note is that the Lord directs our footsteps. Now this one is a little more tricky. For one, I don’t think this scripture applies to everyone, but to those who have sought the Lord (through prayer) in the planning cycle. For example, God does not direct the footsteps of a murderer. I’d say the murderer was directed by his own evil (sinful) desires. This scripture clearly applies to a godly person that has prayerfully made plans and submitted those to God, and God has in turn directed that man to take the “correct” path so to speak. It may even be that this man gets it wrong at times (almost certainly he will take wrong turns along the way), but God as the “Über-manager” will ultimately direct him back to “paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (refer to Psalm 23).
So what is my point in all of this? Simply that God expects us to think, then on the basis of those thoughts, to formulate plans prayerfully (now, it will take wisdom to get consistently good at making such plans – hence this site!). God will then direct our footsteps (on the basis of the submitted plans) into right action (righteousness). Let me interject a good analogy: if you want to build a house, you need to submit plans to your local council for approval. Failure to do so will lead you to (foolishly) build illegally and eventually get told to tear it down and start again. It’s like this with our life plans too: if you “make a plan” and just go stumbling into acting on it without first submitting it to the master architect/planner (God), then you are likely to set to work on a “building” that will likely be an illegal screw-up (at worst) or an illegal masterpiece (at best). Neither extreme is really desirable (and we’ll discuss more about this under the topic of how God will one day judge our works).
Wise thoughts and plans should always lead to decisive actions, otherwise we risk sinking into the pool of great philosophies that have done little but occupy the time and mental cycles of the writers and tickle the minds of the readers without producing anything of lasting worth in terms of redeeming actions. I know that sounds harsh, but to me it’s like finding a cure for cancer and then stuffing it into your top drawer without doing anything about it. History will not judge you kindly. On a personal level, intellectualizing about the topics on this site can lead to all kinds of moralizing and judgmentalism over the actions of others instead of taking action ourselves in sweeping our own doorsteps and then taking further steps to help “clean” the world. It is my earnest desire to avoid falling into this trap and hence I always seek to balance my words/stance on a particular subject with corresponding action in that regard, even if only to support concretely organisations that are involved in the business of keeping the world a “cleaner” place, morally, socially and physically.
Lastly, just taking action based on the above principals is not enough – certainly not for a follower of Christ. Much like the farmer who has planted his seed in the ground, he now relies on various external factors i.e. rain in order for his crop to bear fruit. This is where we should again seek the Lord in prayer because He has the ability to manage these factors (while He has the ability to override and control, I do not think that He intervenes in that regard more than the minimum necessary because of the principal of human free will). This doesn’t preclude God from managing all situations to the advantage of those who seek Him – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). This is where faith comes into play again – praying to God to release the rain in due course is not only sensible but a necessary part of a believer’s life – acknowledging the work of God in every area of our lives and seeking His involvement in making these things work together for good.
I pray that you would be blessed in your journey through life as a seeker of God and follower of Christ!