April 9, 2017

Stewardship Transformation pt. 2: Completing the Past

“Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” So goes the proverb, and it applies to our finances as well as to any area of life. If we’re honest, we probably can think of many financial paths we’ve taken and decisions we’ve made that we would make differently if we had the opportunity.

Most of us probably thought we’d be in a better place than we are today financially. Maybe we had hoped we would be giving more, saving more, or be out of debt. But things came up, opportunities didn’t materialize, the market didn’t do what we had hoped for, we made bad decisions, etc.

One of the keys to greater success in stewardship (or any area of life) in the future is to reckon honestly with the past, a process that Michael Hyatt refers to as “Completing the Past”. This four-step process can prepare us for a more intentional, more focused future. We’ll take a look at one way to apply this process to our stewardship.

 

State where you wanted to be.

This could be in terms of what you wanted to accomplish in the last year (or other period of time), or where you hoped you would be right now. Did you hope to save $10,000 last year? Did you expect to be out of debt at this point? Did you think you would be giving a certain percentage of your income by this point?

Be honest with yourself on this one. Maybe you didn’t actually sit down and write out a budget last year, but you probably had some idea in mind of where you hoped to be financially. Write down what comes to mind, whether they were intentional goals from the previous year or just a picture of where you hoped you would be.

 

Acknowledge what actually happened.

Did you meet your goals? Candidly evaluate where you are against where you hoped to be. Where did you succeed? Where did you fall short? Understanding both of these is key to moving forward.

 

Learn from the experience.

Identify the contributing factors to your successes and failures? Ask some key questions about the previous year (or whatever period), like:

  1. Did you fully understand your goals?
  2. Were these the right goals in the first place?
  3. Did you regularly check in with your goals to monitor progress?
  4. What did you accomplish that you’re most proud of?
  5. What disappointments or regrets do you have?
  6. What was missing?
  7. What mistakes did you make?

 

Adjust your behavior accordingly.

All of these steps should be done prayerfully, of course, but perhaps this one most of all. To the extent that you didn’t meet your goals,

  1. Is there anything you need to confess before God?
  2. Where do you need to ask for wisdom?
  3. Are there areas in which you need God to work in your heart?

And in those areas where you succeeded,

  1. What do you need to thank God for?
  2. How should you respond to God’s provision?

Remember this from our previous newsletter: The past does not determine the future.  If your past hasn’t brought you to where you believe God wants you to be in stewardship, don’t get discouraged – instead, learn and grow from it and trust God for your future!

If this exercise was difficult because you didn’t have any written goals from last year, then that’s a great starting point for the coming year. In fact, that will be the subject of this column in our next newsletter!