Read: Daniel 1:1-8; Philippians 2:12-13; Galatians 5:16-26
Have you ever had a phrase from a commercial or the catchy lyric from a song continue to bounce to the surface of your mind? That is exactly what happened to me this week. It was almost as if someone programmed a circuit of my brain with the command "repeat jingle". The message that was playing over and over? What was it? It was an announcement for a fund raiser coming up for our youth in church, and last Sunday we were invited to purchase tickets for the dinner and entertainment. The little often repeated phrase to help us remember to do so was:
“Gotta Make A Plan, Gotta Make A Plan,
Gotta Make A Plan To See Nick About a Ticket!”
What a good way to jar our memories so that we remember to bring money and make a point to see Pastor Nick about purchasing a ticket for the upcoming dinner theater. We're more likely to do something if we think ahead and make an effort to accomplish a goal. The words ‘gotta make a plan’ made me think of more than buying a ticket. They made me think of Daniel whom we read about in the Bible in the book that bears his name.
Let's remind ourselves a bit about the circumstances in which he found himself and how his life teaches us about the importance of having a plan. Josephus, a Jewish scholar, wrote that Daniel was related to King Zedekiah of Judah. When he was in his teens, while Jehoiachin was the king, Daniel 1 tells us that this young man, as well as many others, was taken away to Babylon. Imagine if a young teen whom we know was brought into a completely different culture, far away from all those who know and care for him. Now imagine that he can't contact those who love him. That's exactly what happened to Daniel. This young man's mind was saturated with teachings that opposed the Lord, including gods and goddesses, rather than the Living God about Whom he had been taught. What was it like for him to see beautiful sights and the opulence of the king's court? In Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar had overseen the building of impressive temples to false gods, and Daniel would have walked through the blue Ishtar Gate with its lions, bulls and dragons. The bricks out of which the Ishtar Gate were constructed shone and sparkled with a blue color like lapis lazuli.
No doubt, there were temptations to forsake his upbringing and his God all around Daniel. How could this youth stand strong? We learn Daniel's secret in Daniel 1:8.
Daniel had made a plan. Something he had decided ahead of time. To put it simply, this young man was not going to dishonor God by the choices he made. He purposed to do the right thing according to what God had said in His Word. For him, that meant being careful about what he ate and drank, which was spelled out in the regulations in the Mosaic Law. Daniel's plan was a picture of Psalm 119:11. God's Word which Daniel had treasured in his heart was what kept him from disobeying the Lord.
Like Daniel, we ‘gotta make a plan’. This holds true whether we are young people living far from those who love us or folks at any other stage of life. Galatians 5:16-26 is a reminder that those of us who belong to Jesus still battle with the pull of sin. Praise God that we are new creations, 2 Corinthians 5:17. How wonderful it is that even though old ways of living call out to us, Jesus is at work in us, giving us both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him. We can make the plan to honor Him because He has already given us the resources to walk according to a much greater plan. What is His plan? We will, one day, be like Him, Romans 8:29. His plan that won't be thwarted is that the good work He has begun in us will be completed, Philippians 1:6, and that work began when we surrendered our lives to the Savior. Because of that truth, each day we ‘gotta make a plan’ to keep in step with His Spirit Who indwells us, Galatians 5:25-26;1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
Perhaps someone will have the thought that I often have. I fall so short even when I make a plan. Even though I have the Lord's resources. I don't say this flippantly, but this is why we need Jesus' blood to continually cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:7. Because He continues to strengthen us and renew us, we can continue to yield to the Holy Spirit, thereby changing from glory to glory, 2 Corinthians 3:18.