In his blog entry, “Starting Something New?,” Mr. Joel Meeker says the following :
“Are you starting something new?
- Leaving home?
- New school?
- New job?
- New relationship?
- New church?
The Bible offers this advice (among much more):
Ecclesiastes 7:8: “The end of a thing is better than its beginning.” This means that one should give careful consideration to any proposed project so the outcome will be good. Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the end before you start anything new. Set a clear goal first. Imagine what it will look like and the steps needed to get there, and only then start to work toward it.
Isaiah 46:10: God declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done.” This is partly about prophecies in the Bible, but it also means God can see in advance the end results of decisions we make. That’s why the Bible gives practical advice on making wise decisions in most areas of life. Follow His advice and you get a head start toward your chosen destination. Ignore His advice and you start the road trip without a map, GPS or even a destination street address.
Proverbs 4:26-27: “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.” In general, this means we should live honestly and with integrity. But it also applies to achieving good results at school, on the job, in your relationships and in your church. Once you’ve set your goals and started toward them, do a progress check each week or month to make sure you’re still on task, still progressing, and are not distracted by anything that would prevent you from achieving the results you want.
Matthew 6:33: Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” If we have right spiritual values and goals, God says He’ll make a lot of other things in life work out well for us. The “things” He promises are all our material needs (needs—not wants). Knowing that truth gives us confidence and peace as we work toward our goals.”
Truly this is wise advice. Though I haven’t started any new churches recently, some of the others make more sense as my goals, and the principles involved in new ventures is fairly similar. Let us take each of the verses he cites and examine them as they apply to the new ventures engaged in in turn.
In examining Ecclesiastes 7:8, Mr. Meeker makes some very interesting comments. He states that people should already have a clear idea of what they want to achieve before they start something new, like a new church for example, and that they should have clear goals and steps needed to get there. What sort of planning, for example, went into the building of Cogwa, while the people planning were themselves paid employees of another church? What kind of “steps” were taken to seek to ensure whether there was sufficient funds to pay for a ministry ? What sort of recruiting efforts did these people engage in purposefully, and ethically, in their previous employment ?
When one takes the comments to broader contexts, the lessons are wise and well put. For example, I am hoping to start a Ph.D program in 2011 (in summer if at all possible), and to do so has required planning, steps to achieve, and setting goals. I already know what research I would like to accomplish, have already sounded out potential dissertation advisers, and so on. In short, this is the sort of groundwork that one does while planning a new venture. The goal is to do it in an ethical fashion rather than an unethical one.
Mr. Meeker brings out an excellent point in Isaiah that it is God who knows the end from the beginning and not men. When mankind makes plans in vain, the results are often disappointing . It is God’s will that will prevail, and not the will of man, whether that will is ruling over churches or building elaborate campuses or any other sort of plan. It is God who decides whether the ventures will succeed or not. “The lot is cast in the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord,” as it says in Proverbs 16:33. What God allows us to do may in fact be a test of our character, to see if we will be bent on evil, or if we will obey and follow Him. We are responsible for knowing what God says and for following it, or for accepting personal responsibility for our errors.
In examining Proverbs 4:26-27, Mr. Meeker neglects the most important part of the verses he references, remove your foot from evil. Those who act wickedly–through lies, false accusations, unethical behavior (including seditious and rebellious plotting against one’s employer, or seeking to advertise for your cause at church events hosted by another organization against the hosts)–are not doing the work of God. This ought to be straightforward enough. Not turning aside to the right or to the left means holding tight to the standard of God (Deuteronomy 17:11, 20), and walking according to His footsteps. We are to be resolute–but above all to make sure we are resolute in the cause of righteousness. If our cause is not right, our resolution and swiftness to follow our own inclinations will fail, regardless of how many “progress checks” we undertake.
Finally, Mr. Meeker ends up with a very useful scripture. Truly we ought to seek first the kingdom of God and not be consumed with worry about what we shall eat or what we shall wear, as the Gentiles do . This is wise advice. All things work together for those who called by God (Romans 8:28). As long as we are serving God’s will, He will provide for us for our ultimate benefit. We must therefore make sure to be acting according to God’s will and not our own selfish will. That is the first thing we must determine, before we invoke the promises of God’s help. God will not be bound to support an unrighteous cause.
The advice provided by Mr. Meeker in his blog entry is sound, even if his application is a bit questionable. That said, let us put first things first. Let us hold ourselves to the standard of God, before which we are all lacking (Romans 3:23; fortunately, God is merciful). It is our awareness of our own sins that allows us to be merciful towards others, calling out for those who are walking astray to repent and turn around, and cease running towards evil. The start of something new is a good thing only if one is walking along the paths of righteousness. Otherwise, the end is worse than the beginning (2 Peter 2:20). Let us strive to avoid that sad fate, whatever our ventures are, by making sure that we are acting in accordance with the will of God before we start something new.