In his book, When ‘Want To’ Becomes ‘Have To!’ my friend Gary Highfield observes if you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready when opportunity presents itself. A simple statement, yes, but profound at the same time. The best way to ensure success is to always be prepared.
Abraham Lincoln reputedly said, “If I had nine hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six hours sharpening my ax.” Just as a dull blade would greatly slow the process of cutting wood, failure to make ample preparation can thwart our best efforts to achieve intended goals.
I remember one morning while working as an assistant editor for a daily newspaper and I was up against a tight schedule. My best-laid plans had gone up in smoke when a major news story broke over the wire service, leaving me in a panic, knowing the deadline for completing the pages I was working on was less than 30 minutes away.
Thankfully, the managing editor arrived and came to my rescue. Applying his years of experience and wisdom, he quickly rearranged the pages I had been laboring over and got them to the pressmen with minutes to spare. As I recovered from the near disaster, he offered advice I’ve never forgotten: “Always have a plan B.” In other words, be prepared for the unexpected.
We hear a lot about the importance of being prepared – for college, for having children, for making a presentation at work, for retiring. There’s even Preparation H…although I think that’s something totally different, right?
Despite the warnings, most of us delay, thinking we’ll start preparing tomorrow, next week, or next year. The reality is if you’re not in the process of getting prepared now for whatever you’re anticipating, you probably won’t be sufficiently prepared when the time comes.
The Bible speaks a lot about living in the present, but it also teaches much about preparing for the future. In fact, preparation was a key element in the exodus of the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt. Before their hasty departure, the Israelites asked the Egyptians for silver and gold, as well as articles of clothing – which the besieged Egyptians willingly agreed to do, along with a hearty “Good riddance!”
So when the time came for Moses and the Israelites to construct a tabernacle for worship and fixtures for the sacrifices, necessary materials were readily available. It was certainly better than rummaging around in the wilderness in search of supplies.
Proverbs 24:27 admonishes, “Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that build your house.” In other words, unlike today’s common practice of buying costly items with the presumption there will be money later to pay for them, God advises that making preparations to ensure sufficient income should be a top priority.
Jesus cautioned His followers not to embark on an ambitious enterprise without confidence in their ability to see the work to completion. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and it not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to work and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28).
Do you ever have conversations with people about God and your faith? We could just wait until someone appears on our doorstep and challenges our beliefs, or we could do as the apostle Peter advised: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). If they ask a good question, we owe them a reasonable reply.
In another passage, the apostle Paul states, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5). We are able to maximize opportunities when we’re ready to respond appropriately. Can you clearly articulate the basis for your faith in Christ, other than because it’s what someone you respect told you? If not, you need to get prepared. When are you going to start?
Biblical exhortations about preparation are not limited to this life alone. Followers of Jesus are given assurance of eternal life, but the Scriptures teach the quality of our heavenly experience will depend in part on how we’ve used and invested our time on earth, how we’ve prepared for the life to come.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That’s a pretty sobering admonition – and I’m sure that’s as He intended.
And clearly, the Lord practices what He preaches. He’s a “preparer” and is actively preparing for our arrival: “…as it is written, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
God is getting ready for us. The question is, are we ready for Him?
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.