Begin with the End in Mind

Begin with the end in mind is the second of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people.
While the first habit, seek first to understand then to be understood, can be considered in the context of  James 1:19-20 what is the Christian context for the second habit?
While I have found all the habits set out by Covey to be helpful is there more to the second habit?
We picture the end product then proceed to take the steps to produce it e.g. a new home begins with ideas, then a plan and then construction. Does the same apply to a person’s life?
Covey uses the illustration of attending one’s own funeral where there are four speakers, one from your family, another a friend, a third speaker is from your workplace or profession and the final speaker is from your church or community organisation. He then poses the question, What would you like each of them to say about you and your life?
While there is merit in the exercise I find I am limited in my capacity, my knowledge, skills, and experience to complete it. In fact I am a work in progress, as Covey states, however I am not self-directed but Christ directed. It is God who sees the future and He is shaping me after the character of His son, Jesus. My task is to submit myself, to be obedient, in faith to God’s shaping. As the Apostle Paul states in 2 Timothy 1:12, Because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
Covey in discussing the second habit proposes adopting a principle-centred life, where our lives are built on correct principles. Again his proposal has merit however, it misses the mark. The foundation for a Christian isn’t principles it is Christ.
God has the end in mind and we can be confident in him to shape us and prepare us for life eternal when we put our trust in Jesus. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father but by me. (John 14:6)


Managing Your Mouth

Christians meeting together in worship is always purposeful. God never rests from achieving his purposes.
If we have decided to become a follower of Jesus then the constant question on our lips needs to be, How then shall I live? When we respond to this question we are cooperating with God in the achievement of his purposes.
James in his letter is clear that what we say and do, our words and our deeds, need to be consistent. They are like the wings of an aeroplane. Both wings are needed for the plane to stay in the air and fly.
There are so many ways to communicate, to get our words out to the world, face-to-face, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, phone, mobile and landline, and snail-mail.
1. JAMES 3:1-12
This is a hard-hitting letter from James’ pen. He doesn’t beat around the bush. Throughout his letter James gets right into the everyday stuff that we need to attend to. He is inclusive at the outset, making it quite clear that it’s not only FAITH and DEEDS it’s FAITH and WORDS as well.
In this passage he speaks specifically about managing our mouth. On this account we don’t measure up. In fact the passage is like a series of test questions where you simply tick the box, YES or NO.
Do you criticise other people? Yes No
Do you complain? Yes No
Are you quick to condemn other people? Yes No
Do you interrupt when other people are speaking? Yes No
In a multi-choice question you often have a final choice, none of the above. In this case it’s all of the above.
So in managing your mouth I want to give you three principles to practice.
Principle One: Express Genuine Praise and Appreciation
Hebrews 10:25
Praise and appreciation is a wonderful way of giving encouragement. Remember the flipside, don’t criticise, condemn nor complain.
GENUINE praise and appreciation occurs when we acknowledge the specific actions of the person in a particular situation.
Write an encouraging note to someone today.
Principle Two: Be Slow to Speak and Quick to Listen
James 1:19
James states, Be quick to listen and slow to speak AND slow to anger. So often we forget to ENGAGE the brain before we speak or in rural terms FOOT IN MOUTH disease takes over. We have one mouth and two ears. Use your ears.
Principle Three: If You are Wrong Admit it Quickly and Emphatically
1 John 1:9
Confidentiality is an area where we often fall short. Our Bible passage emphasises the need to confess, to admit we were wrong. Confession in the first instance is before God and then emphatically before the one we have wronged.
We could stop here but we need to go further to regarding our question, How then shall I live?
Even trying to hold to the three principles outlined above will demonstrate the difficulty of managing our mouths. We are not alone in our quest.
Firstly we are VIP’s, Very Important People. God, the one who loves us, is for us. Refer Romans 5:8
Secondly, we are VPP’s, Very Privileged People. Not only are we made in the image of God we are privileged because we are forgiven, received the gift of eternal life and as a down payment, an assurance, a seal to the promise in the form of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
The Holy Spirit is another Parakletos, translated Comforter, Advocate, Counsellor, Helper or Guide. This then is how we should live in dependence on the Holy Spirit. He helps us manage our mouth.
While this passage recognises the significant and decisive influence of our words and the dangers of inconsiderate words and James urges us to control what we say the broader theme is HUMILITY.
Managing our mouths means we need to submit ourselves to God and allow His Spirit to teach us how to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
This is how we should live!