For many years, Chicago was my home, and even though I don’t live there anymore, I will always love that great city. I love its grit and its beauty, the juxtaposition of historic, detail-rich buildings and sleek new ones, the many ethnic neighborhoods, and the city’s crown jewel — it’s stunning, park-lined lakefront. City planner and architect Daniel Burnham deserves much of the credit for keeping the lakefront open.
Burnham was prolific, designing some of Chicago’s most famous buildings and managing development of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago that drew a record 21 million paid visitors. Fittingly, he was fond of saying, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.” I love that.
As we begin a new year, I wonder what “no little plans” God has for each of us. I wonder if we’ll be attentive enough to discern those plans, and I wonder if we’ll be courageous enough to follow them.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, we find examples of God calling people to big plans — plans that probably seemed unreasonable, and yet plans that radically altered the lives of those who followed them, and as a result, the lives of many others.
When Jesus called some fishermen to follow him, they literally dropped everything and did so. Without understanding what they had just signed up for, they obeyed, and God used them to help shape countless people’s eternities.
When God called Abraham to leave all that he knew, he was an old man, perhaps believing his best days were behind him. Any thought that he and his wife, Sarah, would ever become parents was probably long forgotten. Without understanding the plan, he obeyed God, and as a result became the patriarch of as many descendants as there are stars in the sky.
What about you? What unreasonable adventure do you sense God calling you to this year? Here are three areas to consider.
- Your Marriage
According to a recent Pew Research study, only 58% of married people say things are going “very well” in their marriage. If you’re married, what would you say? Are there festering issues you’ve learned to put up with? Are there topics that have become off-limits? Have you accepted that things will never change? Is that really God’s best for you?
Maybe God is calling you to make an investment in the vitality of your marriage. Maybe part of your vacation planning should include a Family Life Weekend to Remember retreat. Maybe paying for some sessions with a well-trained Christian counselor would be money well spent.
There’s much at stake here, including the joy that you and your spouse experience, the example you set for your kids, and the effectiveness of your witness and ministry.
- Your Generosity
God calls us to a level of generosity that very few Christians live up to. The result isn’t about ministries going unfunded. God doesn’t need our money to bring about the impact that he intends. The result is that too many Christ-followers miss out on the joy of being part of God’s work in the world, and who knows how many other blessings. The Bible says, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).
This isn’t give in order to get; it’s give because you were made in God’s image and God is endlessly generous. This isn’t give out of a sense of duty or obligation; it’s give because to live generously is to live in synch with your design, and there are countless blessings that come from that.
What next step in your journey of generosity do you sense God calling you to take this year?
- Your Work
The most-quoted verse about work is surely Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” If someone you don’t know observed you at work, would they say you do your job with all your heart?
If not, what’s missing? Has your job become just a means to an end? Are you under-challenged? Maybe the most impactful investment you could make this year is an investment of time (and perhaps money) to take courses that would prepare you for a job that would allow you to more fully use your God-given talents and passions.
To be sure, there are other areas where God may be calling you to make an investment this year — your health, your parenting, or elsewhere. As you seek his direction in 2020, remember that God has good plans for you — indeed, no little plans. Will they be realized? That has much to do with your willingness to be obedient, even if you don’t fully understand his plans.