It’s Habit Number Two.
It’s what we all should do if we want to be happy and successful.
“Begin with the end in mind.”
That’s what Stephen Covey told us in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
“The most effective way I know to begin with the end in mind,” Covey wrote, “is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy or creed.” Covey said that this “mission statement” should be based “on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.”
That sounds like good advice to me.
It’s practical, wise and grounded.
It makes perfect sense and is undoubtedly “highly effective.”
I wish I had read Covey’s excellent book before I began assembling toys on Christmas Eve. No matter how carefully I laid all the parts out on the floor of our living room; no matter how closely I studied the diagrams and read the instructions – several times – I still ended up with a leftover washer or screw.
They went somewhere, I just didn’t know where. I had made a mistake but didn’t know what it was, how I had made it or how to correct it. Still, if the toy functioned I didn’t worry. Not once did one of our girls ever ask me, “Daddy, where’s the missing washer?”
It wasn’t perfect but it was close and certainly good enough coming from a mechanical klutz like me.
My daughter was happy – she never knew the difference.
I tried to begin with the end in mind but still couldn’t get it all together.
My life seems to have been taken up with its share of unanticipated consequences.
It takes a lifetime to learn how to live and it’s only hindsight that offers the wisdom of clarity.
My dad used to tell me that “if our foresight was as good as our hindsight we’d be a sure sight better off.”
Some are good at predicting the future and making choices based on their intuition and perceptions. It seems always to turn out as they thought it would.
For the rest of us, life holds surprises. It is cooked in crisis, marinated with choices and threaded throughout with irony. But no matter how unexpectedly it turns out, life still tastes pretty good.
Of course, there’s no crystal ball for 2015.
All of us are going to be surprised by something. The future isn’t like a checkbook – it can’t be calculated, managed and neatly balanced each month. The beginning of the year reminds us that the future is enveloped in mystery – coincidence, happenstance, serendipity.
And it is determined and guided by Providence.
“Our God, our help in ages past,” wrote Isaac Watts nearly three centuries ago, “our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.”
The ancient immortal lyrics burst forth upon our human frailty with a majestic and resounding reassurance that has resonated with every generation of Christian pilgrims.
The unchangeableness of God is contrasted with the transitoriness of man. Our mortality is laid out next to his sovereignty.
“Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”
To God, time is an unobtrusive irrelevancy. He lives and moves in what theologian Paul Tillich described as “the eternal now.”
Watts was inspired by the 90th psalm.
“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90: 1-2,NKJV).
God is the premier Highly Effective Person.
He begins with the end in mind.
He always has.
God planned the whole of the future – yours, mine, the world’s – in the very distant past. And in God’s plan, there is no left-over screw and no wayward washer. His assembly of human existence – past, present and future – is perfect and complete, right down to the last detail.
It lacks nothing because its Creator lacks nothing. God never goes back to the drawing board of history. He scraps nothing and he has no “Plan B.”
He doesn’t need one.
As God begins with the end in mind, so too he begins with us in mind.
Paul told the Philippians that they could confidently rejoice in knowing this:
“God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6, NLT, emphasis added).
What a promise as we begin a New Year of living. To know God is working in us, for us and through us.
He will never abandon what he started – he has the end in mind.
Long before you were born, God had you in his mind – and in his heart.
“Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God” (Psalm 139:16, NLT).
This alone gives us confidence and hope as we once again venture into the unknowns of time and circumstance.
God always begins with the end in mind. He’s highly effective.
May God bless you and your family.