“Complete what you started to do.”—2 COR. 8:11.
SONG 35 “Make Sure of the More Important Things”
1. What does Jehovah allow us to do?
JEHOVAH allows us to choose our course in life. He teaches us how to make good choices, and he helps us to succeed when we make decisions that please him. (Ps. 119:173) The more we apply the wisdom found in God’s Word, the better we become at making good decisions.—Heb. 5:14.
2. What struggle may we face after we make a decision?
2 Even when we make a wise decision, however, we may struggle to complete what we started. Consider some examples: A young brother decides to read the entire Bible. He does well for a few weeks but then stops for some reason. A sister decides to serve as a regular pioneer but keeps pushing back the date when she will begin. A body of elders makes a unanimous decision to be more involved in shepherding those in the congregation but after many months has not acted on it. These situations differ, but they have something in common. Those decisions were not fully implemented. First-century Christians in Corinth faced a similar challenge. Note what we can learn from them.
3. What decision did the Corinthians make, but what happened?
3 About 55 C.E., the Corinthians made an important decision. They learned that their brothers in Jerusalem and Judea were suffering hardships and poverty and that other congregations were collecting money to help them. Out of kindness and generosity, the Corinthians resolved to donate to this effort and asked the apostle Paul how they could help. He sent instructions to the congregation and appointed Titus to assist in the collection. (1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8:6) A few months later, though, Paul learned that the Corinthians had not followed through. As a result, their gift would not likely be ready in time for it to be taken to Jerusalem along with the contributions from the other congregations.—2 Cor. 9:4, 5.
4 The Corinthians had made a good decision, and Paul commended them for their outstanding faith and their earnest desire to be generous. But he also had to encourage them to complete what they had started. (Read 2 Corinthians 8:7, 10, 11.) Their experience teaches us that even faithful Christians may struggle to implement a good decision.
5. What questions will we answer?
5 Like the Corinthians, we may find it difficult to carry out our decisions. Why? Because of imperfection, we may simply procrastinate. Or unforeseen events might make it impossible for us to follow through on what we had decided to do. (Eccl. 9:11; Rom. 7:18) How can we review a decision and discern if we should adjust it? And how can we be more effective at completing what we start?
BEFORE MAKING A DECISION
6. When might we need to adjust a decision?
6 Some important decisions we would never change. For example, we stick to our decision to serve Jehovah, and we are determined to be faithful to our marriage mate. (Matt. 16:24; 19:6) Other decisions, though, may need to be adjusted. Why? Because circumstances change. What steps can help us to make the best decisions possible?
7. What should we pray for, and why?
7 Pray for wisdom. Jehovah inspired James to write: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all.” (Jas. 1:5) In some respects, we are all “lacking in wisdom.” So rely on Jehovah both when making a decision and when reviewing that decision. Jehovah will then help you to make wise choices.
8. What research should we do before making a decision?
8 Do thorough research. Consult God’s Word, read the publications of Jehovah’s organization, and talk to people whom you can trust. (Prov. 20:18) Such research is vital before making a decision to change jobs, to move, or to choose appropriate education to help you support your ministry.
9. How will we benefit if we are honest with ourselves?
9 Analyze your motives. Our motives matter to Jehovah. (Prov. 16:2) He wants us to be honest in all things. So when we make decisions, we too want to be honest with ourselves and with others about our motives. If we were not completely honest, we would likely have difficulty sticking to the decision. For example, a young brother may decide to become a regular pioneer. After some time, however, he struggles to fulfill the hour requirement and he finds little joy in his ministry. He may have thought that his main motive for pioneering was his desire to please Jehovah. Could it be, though, that he was primarily motivated by a desire to please his parents or some person he admired?
10. What is needed to make changes?
10 Consider the situation of a Bible student who decides to give up smoking. At first, he struggles, doing well for a week or two, but then he gives in to the urge to smoke. Finally, though, he is successful! His love for Jehovah and his desire to please Him have helped him to conquer the habit.—Col. 1:10; 3:23.
11. Why must you have specific goals?
11 Be specific. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to complete what you start. For example, you may have decided to read the Bible more often. But if you do not have a specific schedule in mind, you may not achieve your objective.* Or the elders in a congregation may decide to shepherd the flock more often, but after some time, they have not followed through on that decision. To be successful, they could ask such questions as these: “Have we identified the brothers and sisters who could especially benefit from more shepherding? Have we set a specific time to visit them?”
12. What might we need to do, and why?
12 Be realistic. None of us have the time, resources, or energy to do everything that we would like to do. So be realistic and reasonable. When necessary, you may need to change a decision that was beyond your ability to accomplish. (Eccl. 3:6) Suppose, though, that you reviewed your decision, adjusted it as needed, and feel that you can implement it. Consider five steps that can help you to finish what you start.
STEPS TO IMPLEMENT YOUR DECISIONS
13. How can you gain the strength you need to carry out a decision?
13 Pray for the strength to act. God can give you “the power to act” and carry out your decision. (Phil. 2:13) So ask Jehovah for his holy spirit to give you the power you need. Continue praying even if an answer to your request seems to be delayed. As Jesus said: “Keep on asking, and it [holy spirit] will be given you.”—Luke 11:9, 13.
14. How can the principle stated at Proverbs 21:5 help you to implement your decision?
14 Create a plan. (Read Proverbs 21:5.) To complete any project you start, you need a plan. Then you need to work according to that plan. Likewise, when you make a decision, list the specific steps you intend to follow to implement that decision. Breaking larger jobs into smaller tasks can help you track your progress more easily. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to set something aside for their contribution “on the first day of every week” rather than wait and try to collect funds when he arrived. (1 Cor. 16:2) Breaking large jobs into small tasks can also keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
15. After making a plan, what can be done?
15 A clear plan that you put in writing can help you turn your decisions into action. (1 Cor. 14:40) For instance, bodies of elders are directed to assign an elder to record each decision of the body of elders, including who is assigned to follow through and the suggested date for completion. Elders who follow this direction are more likely to carry out their decisions. (1 Cor. 9:26) You could try to do something similar with your personal affairs. For example, you could prepare a daily to-do list and arrange the items in the order you intend to handle them. This can help you not only to complete what you start but also to get more done in less time.
16. What is essential in order to implement your decision, and how does Romans 12:11 support this?
16 Exert yourself. It takes effort to follow your plan and complete what you start. (Read Romans 12:11.) Paul told Timothy to “continue applying” himself and to “persevere” in becoming a better teacher. That advice applies equally to other spiritual goals.—1 Tim. 4:13, 16.
17. How can we apply Ephesians 5:15, 16 in carrying out a decision?
17 Manage your time wisely. (Read Ephesians 5:15, 16.) Choose a time to implement your decision and stick to it. Avoid waiting for the perfect time to act; the perfect time is not likely to come. (Eccl. 11:4) Be careful not to allow less important things to consume your time and rob you of the energy you need for the more important things. (Phil. 1:10) If possible, set aside time during which you have few interruptions. Let others know that you need time to concentrate. Consider turning off your phone and checking your e-mail or social media at a later time.*
18-19. What can keep you from giving up on a good decision when you encounter setbacks?
18 Focus on the outcome. The result, or outcome, of your decision is like the destination of a journey. If you really want to reach that destination, you will keep going even if a road is closed and you thus must change your route. In the same way, if we focus on the outcome of our decisions, we will not give up easily when we encounter setbacks or detours.—Gal. 6:9.
19 Making good decisions is difficult, and implementing them can be a challenge. But with Jehovah’s help, you can gain the wisdom and strength you need to complete what you start.
SONG 65 Move Ahead!
Do you regret some of the decisions you have made? Or do you sometimes struggle to make and implement good decisions? This article will help you to deal with those challenges and finish what you start.
To help you plan your personal Bible reading, you could use the “Schedule for Bible Reading” that is available on jw.org®.
For more suggestions on managing your time, see the article “20 Ways to Create More Time” in the April 2010 issue of Awake!