The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5 NIV
The chapter that this verse is a part of asks us “How do we live with purpose and on purpose in our homes, with our possessions, and as we prepare for battle?” The writer says that if we want to do all of this, we have to offer to God surrendered planning. If we want to live our lives happily, purposefully, and ethically, we have to have a plan—a plan that is combined with diligent work.
If we don’t have plans for our lives as we walk with God, our lives may produce something, but it may not lead to profit or prosperity. The writer of this Proverb invites us to understand what God’s more perfect will is. His will for our lives is to enjoy a harvest of plenty, but whether or not we have a plan can separate us from that.
There are many ways that living life without a plan can lead us to devastation, but when we are living a diligent life we will feel secure, and we will have a purpose. We will wake up every day knowing that our steps are intentional and ordered. We will find fulfillment in what we do because we will know our plans are connected to God’s purpose for our lives.
This is what the writer intends for us to consider, but this Godly profit only applies when we surrender to the well thought out plan that God has for our lives. Many of us think that we deserve to live light, unplanned lives, but we still want to reap from a heavy harvest. God honors our planning far more than he honors our excitement to reap a harvest. We cannot go around sowing no seeds and then blame God that there isn’t a harvest.
Living happy is a result of a plan. Living with purpose is a result of a plan. Changing our circumstances requires a plan. Living healthy requires a plan. Growing spiritually requires a plan. None of these things come by accident; they are a result of intentionality. We cannot let our lives drift because we are managing them without a plan. We walk by faith and not by sight, so we must exercise our ability to plan to ensure that we don’t stumble.
When we are surrendered to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to help us plan our lives, He creates a capacity in us to anticipate the action steps that we need to take to achieve the goals that God has revealed to us.
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
John 4:23-24 MSG
The woman at the well was a Samaritan, but as we know Jesus was a Jew. There is both a cultural and gender tension as they encounter each other. However, the woman understands that Jesus is a prophet. He knew her deep and painful past—the reason she was at a well alone.
She takes advantage of this situation to raise one of the cultural tensions between the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus responds to her and redefines the meaning, practice, place, and priority of worship. God is always more interested in the worshipper than in the place where one worships.
Mountain or temple, the place is not the issue. God defines the worship of a person by who is courageous enough to worship with their true and whole self. The sound, style, space—none of these mean anything unless the worshipper is being authentic.
This is the power of worship. It is the honest offering of the authentic self before God. Unfortunately, far too many people bring to God their perceived self or even their invented self. However, true worshippers are the people that God is looking for. He is looking for those who honestly present themselves.
When Jesus says that God is looking for “those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship,” He opened a connection between himself and the woman and between the Jews and the Samaritans. He gives her the beauty of acceptance, the privilege of connection, the affirmation of identity, the strength of human bonding, and the liberation of spiritual connectivity.
This all means that not only do we belong to God, but He belongs to us. This is what Jesus means in John 14 when He says, “I am in the Father and My Father is in Me.” This bonding creates undeniable proof of spiritual connection. There is no style, space, sound or space that makes us worshippers.
To be true worshippers, we must bring our honest selves. When we do this, God accepts the honest worship that we bring, not the perceived worship that we fashion.
Job 2:2-8 (AMP)
Have you ever been the victim of circumstances out of your control? Anger that comes from nowhere against you. A crime. A breach of trust. That’s what happened to Job. He did not know he would be a sacrifice to show the goodness and power of his God.
Satan is on a mission to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He wants to steal your life, kill your spirit, and destroy your faith. He’s convinced that if a righteous man like Job is hit hard enough, he would curse God to his face.
But God called Satan’s bluff. He knew Job trusted Him and that His love can’t be manipulated.
So, Satan kills off all of Job’s children, all of his livestock perishes, and his entire body is covered with boils and sores.
Our main character goes to sit on a rubbish heap (a pile of ashes and dung) and begins to scrape his sores with a broken piece of pottery. He’s trying to absorb it all. An important point here is that Job is not thinking about next steps. He’s not cursing God.
Stuck at the Top of the Ash Heap
He’s in a place many of us get stuck—pain and unforgiveness. He is the portrait of spiritual unforgiveness. He’s stuck trying to decide to not feel the pain or to move forward. This may be the hardest decision you’ll ever have to make.
But there’s a secret you need to know about Job and about you. If you are one of God’s special treasures, one of His children, you can’t sit on that ash heap. You can’t decide not to feel. Job hasn’t done that. He’s still scraping. He’s still got some fight in him.
How to Get Off the Ash Heap
The key to getting up from the ash heap is forgiveness. You have to make the choice to forgive. Forgiveness is not a spiritual gift. It’s the ultimate gift and it was given to you when Jesus died on that cross. God wants you to wake up in the morning and exercise forgiveness. We live with His undeserved forgiveness.
That’s the truth that brings all Christians together - we all carry the revelation that the only reason you’re alive today is because a good God forgave you of your sins.
Did you hear that? You’re alive. Satan attacked Job. Satan attacked you. But he didn’t take you out. You’re still alive.
That’s why I’m inching up next to you on that ash heap, to share some good news. You have no business on this heap. You’re allowing your unforgiveness to steal precious time from an otherwise blessed life. You’ve got too much to live for.
The Grace of the Ash Heap
Pain is real. Job’s pain is real. We have to acknowledge that. The grace on the ash heap is Job scraping his sores. He still wants to feel. That’s the grace. He decides not to check out. And if you’re there—angry and stuck—know that you can come back. Own the grace that you still have fight in you. If you have passion enough to be angry, you can make the choice to forgive. And remember, pain is a season. You will not be here forever. God wins.
It is easy to miss what opens the environment of this scripture. Just before John the Baptist is going to be arrested and killed, the scene is Jesus praying after He was baptized. Before Jesus prayed, it was just another baptism. Many people were being submerged in the waters of conversion to a life of chasing God. However, when Jesus prayed, this baptism turned into God’s expressed presence, showing up in a form like a dove. A voice called out, announcing Jesus as God’s presence on the earth.
The voice did not come while the people were being baptized. Instead, it came when Jesus started praying. The heavens were opened. The spirit descended and said, “You are my beloved son. In you I am well pleased.” What opened the heavens was not the baptism—it was the prayer.
Prayer is being forgotten for many of us. When facing life and fighting challenges, it is easy to forget that one prayer can open a heaven full of options. Prayer gives us strength, clarity, and power, so it is important to focus on the power and efficacy of prayer. We are only as strong as our prayer lives.
Our prayers stand us under an open heaven. When we pray, we access the eternal, which addresses all of our temporal needs. Life throws a lot at us, with its stressors and demands. In Jesus, we exist in a perpetually open heaven. Our prayers are never bouncing off the ceiling. When we pray, our prayers go straight to the throne of God.
The stronger our relationship with Christ is, the easier it is to access the openness of heaven. We must govern our lives as if we live in an open heaven. We should live our lives, pay our bills, go to church, have family time, enjoy a meal, but we must remember that we live under an open heaven. This heaven is not blocked by human demands and cannot be manipulated by mankind’s wiles. We don’t need to be perfect to access this open heaven; we just have to believe in Jesus and believe in prayer.
Whenever and however we need God, He is always available for us if we trust Him in prayer. We don’t just have access to the power of God through prayer, we live in that open heaven. We live in a place of power. We live with access to God. We live in heaven while walking through earth.
Luke 2:25-35 (NIV)
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
God makes a promise to Simeon, so he appears in the temple to behold Christ’s manifestation. Luke tells us that Simeon is a devout and religious man, living with the promise from God that he would not see death until his eyes were cast upon the Messiah Himself.
While God’s promise is awesome to receive, it is frustrating to endure. There is a reason that Aristotle said patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. The time a promise is first articulated to you and the time it comes to fruition could be a mighty long time as we can see was the case for Simeon. But no matter how long Simeon had to wait, he knew that God hadn’t forgotten.
It’s hard to wait for our dreams and exercise patience in this instant, everything world. It’s hard enough waiting for a website to load or our lunch to finish heating up in the microwave. We want instant spirituality. Instant faith maturation. Instant spiritual manifestation.
Maybe you aren’t passively waiting, either—maybe you’re praying, attending church, forgiving your enemies, waking up and giving God praise. God owes you, right? But still, He is making you wait. The text shows us that God is powerful enough to do some things immediately, so why hasn’t He given you what you want? Evidence shows us He can. We see it when our neighbors have their desires fulfilled. We see it when our friends receive all that they asked from God—even when we asked the same of God at the same time and we’re still waiting.
If God makes you wait, you have to offer patience and endurance, knowing that He hasn’t forgotten. You might struggle not to shout when you see Him fulfilling your same desire in another person. Instead, you need to shout because He is working it out. He is lining everything up, just as He lined everything up for Jesus’ arrival. Don’t deny your feelings of anger, frustration, nervousness, and jealously. God knows you’re struggling. Open up to Him. Go to church anyway. Pray anyway. Be kind anyway. Be patient anyway. Keep believing God and keep making an effort.
You might think you can wait a little longer if God would just tell you why you’re waiting. Let me ask you this: did God tell Simeon why he was waiting? No, He didn’t. When patience can’t feed on confirmation, it has to rest on God’s providence.
We don’t know why God makes us wait, but patience is an offering we give God as an expression of gratitude. Simeon remained faithful while anticipating the coming Messiah. He felt blessed to be trusted with a vision and a promise that required patience. We would all do well to do the same.
Sometimes the waiting ends up being more important than the outcome. Sometimes we grow more by the waiting than we do by the receiving. Perhaps waiting is the gift He gives you.