Leaders from every industry—business or non-profit, secular or sacred—share some common traits including the ability to evaluate, reflect, and plan for the future. Under-shepherds must regularly come before God with a simple but powerful prayer request: “Lord, what next?”
Moses in Psalm 90:12 gives us a framework to help address this question and press us into the new year. He writes,
Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. (HCSB)
First there is calling here to count your days. In other words, it is to take stock in the number of days that you have had and the number of days, by grace, you may have and what they might bring.
Just recently a man in my church needed to preg-check his cattle to count how many calves will be born this next February through April. I will not bore you( nor disgust you) in the manner and method this is done but simply say there were many shoulder length gloves used that day. The point is that he needed to engage in the difficult and laborious task of taking an account to clarify and project what will be occurring in the near future. He needed to take count.
Counting our days is getting a picture of where our days are heading. The key question then is not how many days will there be but rather what are the significant moments that can be anticipated this next year?
Moments such as:
- Teaching your children to ride on two wheels or drive in four.
- The number of years that you will have been married.
- Those in your family who will be engaging in major life changes such as graduating, getting married, having a baby, or retiring.
Counting your days asks “What is happening this next year that I need to be preparing for?”
Second, there is the command to number your days. If counting your days is anticipating what future days may bring, numbering your days creates a picture what your days could be.
Leaders, whether in the church they serve or the organizations and people they influence, dream of not only what could be but also what should be. To number your days then is to create a picture of what could be.
Two key questions to reflect upon in numbering your days are:
- What roles have I been appointed, called and committed to?
- How should I, to the best of my ability, live out those roles to the glory of God?
For example, if you are man who blessed to have a wife and even more blessed to have children you have been appointed not to two roles but to three. The roles of self and your own soul care, the role of husband and the role of father. Each of these roles has different requirements and demands.
Once you have identified your roles engage in the exercise of writing down how best you can live out those roles. How best can you develop your own soul? How best can you love your wife as Christ loved the church? How best can you father your children?
Too many in pastoral ministry passively embrace their God-ordained roles causing great suffering to themselves, their families, and the church they have been called to serve. When a pastor passively embraces whom they have been called to be, so will their church.
Number your days; create picture of what could be.
Third, you need to develop wisdom. That is, you need to make a specific plan of action.
This is the step where many leaders fall short. They have an idea of what is coming, they have a dream of what could be, but they have not taken the time to write out a specific plan to best number their days.
For example, you have taken stock that your daughter will be old enough to drive this year. You have embraced the ordained role as her father to prepare her to drive. Now, what is the plan to teach her how to drive?
Do you just give her the keys and let her go? Or, do you take her step-by-step in both caring for and operating a vehicle? You know the deadline, it’s been fixed, so when do you start?
Taking the time to draft a specific plan with deadlines to begin, end, and evaluate along the way is an incredible leap to developing a heart of wisdom.
A recent Internet search found that at present the average life expectancy in the United States is 79.8 years. That is 29,127 days. Each one of them needs to be counted, each must be numbered, each needs to grow and present a heart of wisdom. Perhaps then our request of what’s next will shift to praise thanking Him for revealing what’s next.