Peninsula Community Church
Small Steps Big Dividends
October 1, 2017
Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Have you ever found that following the will of God can be confusing, frustrating, and seemingly unknowable? How many times are we frustrated with the knowing the will of God because we do not get the whole plan or purpose of God at one time? If you are like me, I want to know the beginning, the middle, and the end of what God is doing. To be obedient to His will, I tend to want to have all of my ducks in a row. But, the fact is, most often when obeying God, I do not have the whole story or the whole plan. The result is that sometimes I can be confused and frustrated. This is even more confusing because there are times where He has detailed what He wanted but that is a rare occasion. So I have to obey what I know. I must take the small steps I know in order to move toward the destination of God’s purposes.
With that in mind by using our text as a baseline, we can make a couple of observations about making decisions that result in obedience to God’s will. Note the simplicity and profoundness of this statement. We make plans in our heart, but God directs our steps. As confirmed by the words of Solomon, we make plans in our heart. The fact is we all have an idea or a vision of what could be or at least of what we hope could be. You see without plans, hopes, and dreams we live a miserable life. In fact, the Bible says that without a vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). To prevent perishing, we must have the right kind of vision and the right kind of goals. We must have vision, but it must be God’s vision. We must have hope for something better, but it must be a hope in God and who He is as our creator.
Notice that Solomon addresses the heart first. We all make decisions in the heart. Decisions in the heart can be good, but they can also be nonproductive. The reason for this is that the heart is the seat of our emotions. While we make decisions from the heart there is a problem. Our heart is not always the best source for making decisions because as Jeremiah says our heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart by itself is not a good decision maker.
Let me ask you a question. How many times have you made an emotional decision that did not work as well as you would like or you thought it would? How many times have we made decisions based on the emotion of the heart which resulted in more problems than was resolved. Let me illustrate. If I am angry at someone, I can make choices in that moment that may not be aligned with God’s will. I can be convinced that I am doing the right thing. I can even convince myself that it is God’s will. Unfortunately, our emotions can affect our decisions and can affect us in a way that derail what God is trying to do in our life and in the life of others. We must understand that our emotions, by themselves, are a poor guide to decision making. Today, much of the craziness in our society is a direct result of misplaced emotions.
Too often we hear people say “follow your heart” but that can be bad advice when we depend only upon an emotional erratic deceptive heart as a resource for decision making. Remember Jesus words. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be” (Matthew 6:21 & Luke 12:34). You see it is so easy for us to follow the emotions of the heart that can be deceptive and can lead us to the wrong destination. If our treasure is misplaced or our values are misguided this can lead us to make bad decisions that do not honor God’s purposes for us. We can easily be emotionally driven to make decisions which down the road do not have an eternal positive affect.
A number of years ago Michelle and I had taken a trip to upstate New York with friends of ours to look at some property. The plans were to build chalets on the property which was near some of the beautiful ski resorts in the Adirondack mountains. The salesman was quite convincing and he began to tug on our emotional heart strings to buy this property and all the advantages that would come with the property. He was really convincing and almost had us. Emotionally, we were about to give in, but we had promised each other that before we made a major financial decision we would spend 24 hours considering the purchase. We are so glad that we took that action. As we considered the purchase, we prayed and looked at all of our options. After doing so, we made the decision not to purchase the property. We are so glad we did because the whole project went bankrupt and the property was devalued to the degree that no one was able to recover their cost. If we had made the decision solely on our emotions, which we were close to doing, we would have lost our investment because we would not have been able to sell the property. In fact, we understand that the property sat there for years and those who made an investment lost it all.
Now don’t get me wrong, plans born of the heart are not altogether wrong, but it is wrong when that is the only motivation or factor used to determine God’s will. When the heart is the only motivating factor, we can get ourselves in trouble. In fact, Solomon recognized there were plans made in the heart, but those plans must be submitted to God, who will direct our steps to fulfill His purposes. We make plans in the heart, but He directs our steps.
That brings us to the second part of this passage. God directs our steps. Remember we stated that so often we do not always get the full benefit of knowing what God wants us to do. The problem is that too often we have a great vision, but we get frustrated when the details of the vision are not revealed or accomplished immediately. Over the last couple of weeks, our guys have been studying the book “Greater.” One of the points Steve makes in the book is that we need to have a large vision and a greater view of what God wants for us, but we must take small steps to see God’s will accomplished.
So how does this idea of taking small steps work. Because He directs our steps the first step we must take is to pray. To ascertain God’s will, the best first step for us is to pray. Sometimes, if we are not careful, we can minimize this vital step. Without prayer, we can miss even the most simple steps that can lead to obedience. Without prayer, our focus can be misguided. Through prayer, we will have God’s direction to what steps we can and should take. I can tell you from a personal experience that when you pray God will direct your steps, He will change your mind, He will redirect your attitudes, and refocus your thoughts.
Beyond prayer, fulfilling God’s will always begins with small steps of obedience. We step where we know to step. We step where God shows us. As we take the small, known steps of obedience, we will see God begin to unfold and reveal His ultimate purpose. We must understand that God wants us to dream big and have a large vision of what He can do in us. But every dream and vision, no matter how large, must begin with smaller steps.
Perhaps you have a vision of being a better student of God’s word. How much are you reading now? Are you reading at all? Let’s say that you are not reading the word at all, but you know that it is critical that you read the word and allow the word to direct you. So if you are not reading at all, take a small step and begin reading for 5 minutes. Perhaps you want to become a faithful giver/tither which is an act of obedience to God. Perhaps, financially it scares you to start with 10%. So why not start with a small step and give 5%, and then grow your giving to 10% or more. We know that tithing is a biblical principle and one that we are called to do. So start somewhere.
Do you have a relationship where you need to see healing and restoration? Perhaps the small step you can take is to write a letter that is bathed in pray, love, and grace so that you express your need and issue in love. Perhaps a step you can take is to forgive the other person that has wounded you before they move toward you in forgiveness. Perhaps God has called to lead a ministry or teach a class. Perhaps the small step you can take is to talk with people to see if there is an interest in your subject or the ministry you want to start. Perhaps the small step is to sit in on current classes or assist someone with teaching a class. Small steps.
Small steps centered in God’s will brings huge dividends. We may not know the full extent of what God is calling us to, but we can be obedient to take the small steps that point us in the direction of God’s will, and brings us closer to the fulfillment of His plan. We make plans in our hearts, but God direct our steps. So, start somewhere. Do what you know to do that honors God. Sometimes God will take our small steps and do something amazing, something that is beyond our imagination or belief. That is why things do not always turn out the way we think when we obey God.
A number of years ago I was asked if I would visit a family member of someone in our church. I agreed to do so and headed off to the hospital. Small steps. I had no clue how this would turn out. I stopped at the information desk. Small step. I went to the room and met with the individual. Small steps. I spent several minutes with him. Small step. During the conversation we spoke about the need for him to accept Christ. Small step. By the end of our conversation we prayed and he accepted Christ as his personal savior. Small steps, but huge dividends for eternity. I wish that was the end of the story but it is not. As I left his room, I was on cloud nine. As I turned the corner, I ran into the family who was there to visit their uncle. I noticed however that they were headed in the opposite direction from where I just had been. I asked them what they were doing and they said they were going to visit their uncle, but I said his room was in the opposite direction. To my amazement the information desk had given me the wrong room number because they had two patients with the same first and last name. You see I made plans. I took some small steps. But, God directed my steps and that day a man who I did not know came to Christ and eternity was impacted.
So what about you? What are some of the small steps you need to take? Small steps, big dividends. Maybe you don’t know what to do. Begin with prayer. Ask God to give you a large vision but then pray for God to direct your individual steps. If we will, He will.
As we close, I ask that you take a piece of paper and do this. Write a couple of words that would define what you need or where you believe God is calling you. Then under that write down one or two small steps you can take now in obedience to God.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom