ACTION DRIVEN FAITH
HOW TO GAIN PROSPERITY USING AGILE METHODOLOGY
Most Christians pray and wait for a BIG miracle to happen overnight. When they do not see it manifested in a big way, they get discouraged. This is because oftentimes as Christians we expect things to happen a certain way and when things don’t go as expected, we automatically assume that God has not answered our prayers.
In the story of Naaman the leper, the prophet Elisha had given him instructions to go and wash in the Jordan seven times so that his flesh would be made clean and he would be cured of his leprosy. But Naaman refused to go and went away angry saying “Behold, I thought he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spake unto him, and said, my father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? (2 Kings 5: 10 -13).
When Naaman eventually heeded to the advice of Elisha and went and dipped in the Jordan, his skin was renewed like that of a little child.
Sometimes God gives us simple instructions and because of the simplicity we refuse to heed those instructions. Then we conclude that God has not answered our prayers when we have not followed his instructions but instead have chosen to lean on our own understanding.
According to a survey by BELIEFNET, more than 70% of Christians (more than 80% of Jews) feel their prayers are not always answered.
The same survey revealed that prosperity (personal finance and job)is one of the most common prayer requests that Christians make to God.
What if God had already answered the Christians surveyed but they missed seeing it because of some preconceived ideas or because they were not open to receiving the answer that God gave?
What if God were actually waiting for these Christians to take possession of the Promised Land but because they failed to see it, they remained at the other side of the Jordan lamenting?
Before the parting of the Red Sea, the Lord spoke to the Israelites through Moses.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on “(Exo. 14:15 NIV).
Some Christians, myself included, are always crying to the Lord and forget that we need to make a move, to take action and to take control of our lives, under God’s guidance, of course.
The bible declares that faith without action is dead. Yet millions of faithful, well-meaning Christians live a sedentary life. They go to church, hear the good news (the gospel) but nothing changes in their lives because they refuse to act upon their faith.
Does it mean that God is not answering our prayers or that we are simply not hearing His answers, His call to action?
What if we took a step back to see what could be missing in the equation of our Christian walk?
Some of the problems we bring to God are big problems which only BIG miracles like the parting of the Red Sea miracle could solve in one day.
A few examples of those BIG requests made to God include:
“Heal me from xyz disease;
“Restore my family ” or “Give me prosperity” just to name a few. Of course, God is capable of doing all of these things for us but maybe He already spoke them into existence and all HE wants us to do is to make a move and to take possession of the promise; take possession of the blessings.
After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea into the wilderness, they had to cross the Jordan riverbefore accessing the promised land. This was another “water parting” moment.
God instructed Joshua to have the Israelites dip their feet in the water first. They obeyed and walked into the crest over the raging Jordan waters. They kept walking but nothing happened. It was only when they got to the middle of the river that the Jordan river parted.
Imagine if you were the Israelite. You did what God told you to do, you got into the water, nothing happened, you felt like you were about to drown. Would you keep going or would you stop?
The Israelites, the bearers of the arc, kept walking into the deeper and deeper water and God made it happen for them. The water parted for them. If all Christians should hear the Lord, and act, follow HIS instructions, we would see big changes in our lives.Joshua 3-4.
Now those examples are from the Old Testament,but do those apply to the 21st Century Christians?
From time immemorial, mankind has had a strong desire and love for prosperity.
Based on its importance in the lives of Christians, we will use prosperity for our illustration.
Prosperity is one of the key and most frequently requested blessings we ask of God.
It comes only second to personal safety and health.
We know that Biblical Prosperity does not equate to only a healthy bank account. It is more than money, but for the purpose of this message, we will equate prosperity to financial security.
One cannot become rich overnight. To increase one’s wealth, it requires discipline and hard work overtime. To design a roadmap toachieve prosperity, we will borrow a technique from the business world called “Agile” methodology. Even though this technique is widely used in software development, the principles are also applicable and useful for business and even in real life. The concept is based on the need for businesses to quickly respond to changing needs by using iterative, flexible, well-structured and continuous improvement processes.
Even though we believe that Christians should continue praying for financial blessings, there are specific actions we can take to help with the realization of this prayer request.
First and foremost you need to define your objectives.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO SEE YOURSELF FINANCIALLY?
Carl Richards, a financial planner and author of “The One-Page Financial Plan: A Simple Way to be Smart About Your Money,” is known for boiling down essential money advice into a simple sketch that could fit on a napkin.
Richards looks at the question that should guide your savings goals: Where do you want to go?
“When you plan a trip, you decide where to go first”.
Richards is right, if you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there.Yet this is what most of us, especially Christians, do. We do not have clearly defined goals but we have big desires and aspirations.
We do not know what God wants or what plans God has for our life, yet we want HIM to bless us.
To be successful and content, we need to follow a simple methodology as follows:
1-Pray for guidance, direction and purpose for your life. The Bible says in James 1:5 (NIV) “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” If we ask God for wisdom, He will surely give it to us. When King Solomon asked God for wisdom, God made him the wisest man who ever lived. Likewise, God will give us direction and guidance if we ask of him.
2- Once you have the direction, you need to formulate your goals clearly. God spoke to Joseph through dreams and through the dreams of others. When Joseph interpreted King Pharaoh’s dream, he realized that God was telling him that Egypt would undergo 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. Based on this revelation, after King Pharoah had appointed him as overseer over the land of Egypt, Joseph immediately put plans into place to manage the country’s resources during the 14 years that God had called to his attention. According to Genesis 41:47-49, the bible says “And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.”
3-Break those goals down into smaller actionable steps – Joseph divided his plan into 2 distinct phases – the time of plenty and the time of famine. Then he decided that during the time of plenty, he would save grain and food from all the crops so that there would be sufficient left over for the seven years of famine that would follow. During the seven years of plenty, Joseph devised a strategy that would allow for the wise allocation of grain and food so that it would last for the entire seven years.
4- Execute them iteratively (stop starting -start finishing)– Even though Joseph’s plans were long term (14 years), he followed through with them for the entire 14 years. He didn’t change his mind or jump from one plan to the next. He executed to the end.
5-Define how your results will be measured (your acceptance criteria)– Joseph’s success was to be determined based on how well Egypt was able to function during the seven years of famine.
6-Identify accountability partners– Since Joseph was accountable to Pharoah, Pharoah naturally became his accountability partner. “And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharoah for bread: and Pharoah said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph: what he saith to you, do” (Gen. 41:55)
7-Measure your results
8-Celebrate your successes
9-Learn from your mistakes (retrospective)
10-Declare a win– “And the famine was over all the face of the earth; and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (Gen 41:56-57). Because Joseph had put plans in place, he was able to supply not only Egypt but even other countries with food during the severe famine.
11-Move on to the next task by order of priority and relevance to your objectives.
12-Be flexible and adapt to changes and have fun
In the business world, we often need to solve big problems for customers. Just as in real life or Christian life, these problems are complex and often too large to tackle at once. So Agile methodologies instruct us to break those complex problems into what are called “user stories ” which are smaller manageable parts.
In the example of a Christian praying for prosperity, there is a need for action to become prosperous as money does not grow on trees and winning the lottery is not an option either. These actions could include:
1-Giving money and time biblically to Godly causes, charity and those in need. This is the first and most important step. If you miss it, all other steps may be an exercise in futility.
2-Getting out of debt. Christians should be lenders not borrowers, this should be our ideal goal.
3-Earning more money by getting a better-paying job, not by getting a second job. If required, Improve your skills in order to qualify for better paying jobs
4-Saving for the future
6- Spending wisely
These goals also called “user stories” in agile methodology are big and difficult to take on all at once. So we will use the agile concept of iterative accomplishments called sprints.
The assumption is that SPENDING WISELY is the first objective you want to focus on because it is the highest priority and will have the most relevancetoyour overall goal of financial soundness.
The Agile methodologydoes not prevent people from working on more than one thing at the time but it forces them to be organized, disciplined and helps in attaining tangible results early.
1-SPENDING WISELY as an objective could be further broken down into the following smaller tasks:
2-Reducing Cable bills
3-Saving on Food /Eating Out
4-Saving on entertainment spending /going to the movies etc.
5-Saving on Energy and car gas
6-Minimizing credit card charges
7-Developing a need-based shopping as opposed to shopping at will.
This list could be individualized for each family depending on their specific needs.
YOUR GOAL TO SPEND WISELY could be further divided into the following tangible action steps:
Your goal could be to save money from shopping. Maybe you noticed that one reason why you are getting in the red (getting behind financially)is that you have been shopping too much on your credit card. So your first order of business would be to get your shopping habits under control.
To be successful, you first need to define what success will look like to you.
Your definition of success also called“acceptance criteria” in Lean Agile Methodology would be very key to measuring your progress. It could be defined as follows:
I WANT TO SAVE $100 EVERY MONTH FROM SHOPPING SO THAT I CAN PAYOFF MY CREDIT CARD DEBT FASTER.
This definition clarifies your strategic objectives.
This clearly defined goal will guide you when you need to evaluate your results at the end of each month.
How do you know you are making progress?
Measure your results against your initial objectives or requirements:
- Did you save the $100?
- Did you use the money saved toward your credit card bill?
- Is your credit card balance going down?
- If yes to all the above questions, your objectives (acceptance criteria ) are met. Well done good and faithful servant! Keep moving to the next priorities until the ultimate goal of living a more prosperous life is met.
- If not, you need to find out what went wrong and correct the mishaps for next month. This could be achieved through retrospective techniques.
At the end of the first month, you need to have a retrospective session.
Basically, the Retrospective session will give you the opportunity to honestly evaluate your past performance and to find ways to do better next time.
This is the tool par excellence for continuous improvement.
What if Christians or everyday person apply this quest for continuous improvement to their real life? We would see marked improvements in our lives.
If you were not able to save the $100, you should ask yourself why.
- Maybe your goal was not realistic or was not attainable
- Maybe you were not disciplined.
- Maybe an extenuating circumstance happened that prevented you from reaching your goals.
Whatever the case may be, you can learn from the situation and make proper corrections.
This concept of taking a retrospective look is so helpful that it could have far reaching results in our lives if done right.
It could help improve our everyday life regardless of our belief system.
Annually, Christians and non-Christians alike go through some regular rituals of making new resolutions, starting life with a new purpose.
Whether it is from an annual religious convention or revival, Easter resurrection resolution or new year resolution, people are always eager to start over, to do better and to improve their performance in life. The goal could be to be a better parent, better spouse, better employee, better boss or a better citizen.
The reason why most people fail is because they do notknow what they were doing wrong so despite their resolutions and good intentions, they start the New Year with the same old bad habits while expecting different results.
You cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect better results. Using retrospective techniques allows us to ask some key questions about the past performance period. Questions such as:
- What went well?
- What went wrong?
- How could we improve? What can we do differently?
These questions would allow us to identify blind spots in our lives. Honestly addressing those blind spots would greatly improve our performance overtime.
Simply put, you will be learning from your past mistakes in order to improve your future performance.
In addition to retrospective techniques, one additional key principle I have learned and quickly espoused in the Agile Methodology is to ” STOP STARTING START FINISHING”.
How many times have we started something, never finished it and jumped to the next thing? This is not a Christian problem. This is a problem for all of us who profess to be busy but often time don’t have anything to show for our “busyness”.
By limiting the number of WIP (Work In Progress),the leanagile methodologyis actually forcing us to start finishing the project at hand before jumping to the next one.
This principle, as simple as it sounds, actually works in business and in real life. By working on only one project at a time, you will begin to see real results, rather than being busy with too many things which never get completed. With this principle, you could actually do more with less.
God does not need our authorization or input to bless us financially. HE will do what pleases Him because He is God. Our role in this partnership is to:
- Know HIS will
- Understand what HE requires us to do in order to please HIM and
- Just do it with agility.