Thursday, February 16, 2012

Start With the End in Mind

"And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant has found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it" - Nehemiah 2:5

I recently interviewed a friend of mine who builds custom homes for a living. I asked him a real softball question, "In construction how important is it to have the vision in mind before you start any phase of the construction project?" It was one of those "Duh!" kind of questions, I know. You know what I'm talking about. It's like the reporter who asks the Super Bowl Champion quarterback who just won MVP for his outstanding performance, "How does it feel to win the Super Bowl?" What's he going to say? "It feels terrible?" Of course not. I knew the answer when I asked the question. Everyone knows you have to have the vision before you start to build. In his answer he shared one of the common sayings in the construction industry, "Start with the end in mind." So profound. So simple. So difficult.

Nehemiah was a man that received devastating news about his people and his city- your people "are in great affliction and reproach" and "the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire" (Neh. 1:3). Nehemiah faced reality but God placed in his heart a vision of what should be. That vision is found in the last five words of Neh. 2:5- "that I may build it." God wanted Nehemiah to rebuild the wall. That's the end Nehemiah had in mind.

It is such a simple principle, but "simple" doesn't mean "easy." Many of us try to start rebuild the broken areas of our lives with other things in mind.

We start with our past failures in mind. We acknowledge areas of our lives that are broken down and we even accept our responsibility for those failures. However, we can't forgive ourselves and others in order to rebuild. As we try to rebuild we don't have the end in mind, our past failures are there. This keeps us from building what God wants. We can only build as far as our forgiveness reaches. Nehemiah acknowledged his failures, but those failures did not keep him from rebuilding. God wanted the walls rebuilt, so Nehemiah accepted the forgiveness of God and moved forward.

We start with our guarded hearts in mind. This is especially true in relationships. Once we have been burned by someone, we have a hard time trusting again. We try to rebuild and we try to repair the broken relationships, but rather than a clean slate and new relationship in mind, we start with our guarded hearts in mind. We say things like, "Yes, our relationship can be repaired, but I'll never trust you again. Yes, we should rebuild this relationship, but you have to understand our relationship will never be the same."

Take a moment and think about the broken areas of your life. What relationship needs to be repaired? Does your church need to be rebuilt? Do you need your financial life to be rebuilt? If so, start with the end in mind. Not your end in mind, but God's end in mind. God's vision is always as things should be. Here are a few steps you can take:

1. Confess. Acknowledge your part in creating the mess you're in and take it to God in honest confession.

2. Capture God's vision. Nehemiah got a clear picture of the goal: the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt and the gates restored. To get a clear picture of God's vision for the broken down areas of your life, imagine a blank canvas. In your heart, paint a picture of what that broken down area would look like if it was built by God. That's the vision you need: how things would look if God built it.

3. Start. You can't change the past. You can't undo the mistakes you've made. God doesn't expect that. Confession frees you to move forward. So grab a brush and start painting that picture. The first brush stroke may be a phone call. You might need to send an email. You may need to make a visit. It might be an "I'm sorry." It might be cutting up a credit card. It might mean putting an end to a poisonous relationship. Whatever it is, you have to start rebuilding.

However, as you start, don't keep the past mistakes in mind. Leave out the guarded heart. Step out in great faith and courage. Build what God leads you to build. Start with the end in mind and build for His glory.

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