By Bruce Goettsche, Reverend, Union Church of LaHarpe, LaHarpe, Illinois

Summary: A Review of Joseph’s ?SAM? planning strategy—A plan must be specific, attainable, and measurable.

Scripture Reading

Genesis 41:33-57

Suggested Hymn

When We All Get to Heaven (Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #634)


Political campaign candidates make all kinds of noble promises--lower taxes, more spendable income, affordable health care, a stronger defense, a renewal of character. All this sounds good, but the question I always ask is: How? How do you plan to do these things?

Without a plan, the noblest words are virtually meaningless. You can dream all you want, but if you don’t have any direction for making dreams come true, you are just dreaming the impossible dream.

When Joseph told the pharaoh to prepare for the coming famine, it was good advice. But the pharaoh needed more than good advice--he needed a plan. From the story of Joseph there are two lessons to learn: First, you need a plan. Second, God helps implement the plan by giving you peace with your past.

A plan

Joseph had a plan to prepare for the coming famine. The plan was probably something God revealed to him, but we aren’t told this. The wisdom of the plan was great--the government would collect 20% of everyone’s produce to store as a surplus for the lean years.

You may resist planning, but if you don’t plan your course schedule, you will not graduate on time; if you don’t save your money, you will never buy a home; if you don’t put money away early, you won’t be able to afford your child’s education; if you don’t plan your route, you may get lost; if you don’t have a realistic budget, you will not have the money to pay your bills.

Of the ten bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom to arrive (Matt 25), five had an ample supply of oil--they planned for a possible delay. The other five who did not bring extra oil, had to run out to get oil. They missed out on the festivities because they were not prepared.

The obstacles

Before we make plans, we need to have a realistic view of the obstacles. Joseph knew that in seven years famine would strike. He knew what his deadline was. He knew the enemy. In a similar way, we need to identify the obstacles we face.

Our own nature. Laziness comes naturally to many. Some have the problem of procrastination. Others prefer to live disconnected with the stark reality of life. Therefore, we need to plan with our own resistance in mind. As the comic strip POGO declared, We have met the enemy and he is us.

The devil. Satan will use anything he can to turn us from a biblically sound plan. He will use discouragement and will seek to overwhelm us with the task.

Our contemporary culture. Not only are we facing a time when Christianity is resisted by our society, but we also face a media that constantly seeks to undermine our faith.

Our lifestyle. We are so busy. We spend all our time on the treadmill of life and soon are left with little or no time for the God from whom all blessings flow.

We need to confront these obstacles and break them down. Then, we need to develop specific strategies. One such strategy is the SAM method. We should set goals that are Specific, Attainable, and Measurable.

Goals that are specific, attainable, and measurable are valuable because they not only give us direction but they also help us keep on track.


Specific. Joseph didn’t just say, We need to store some grain. Joseph had a specific plan: 20% each year for seven years.

Attainable. It was a realistic plan. Joseph could have suggested 30, 40 or 50%, but Joseph knew that 20% was a reasonable amount that people could sacrifice. Any more than that may have been a burden and could have had serious consequences--maybe even a revolt!

Measurable. This was a plan that could be evaluated. As each granary was filled to the maximum, it could be sealed and counted as being done. Measurable tasks are indicators of progress.

The action

The SAM strategy is applicable not just to the practical things in our everyday lives. It can be applied to our spiritual lives as well. It’s not enough to say, I want to grow spiritually. You need to develop your desire into a plan that is specific, attainable and measurable. For example, if you feel you need to get better acquainted with God’s Word, you need to set a specific goal to read through the entire Bible in one year’s time. Then you must ask yourself if it is attainable. If it isn’t, then you need to make the necessary adjustments. Finally, you need to measure your progress.

The past

One thing that hinders many people in their growth is the baggage of their past. Notice that Joseph not only had a focus for the future, but he also had made peace with his past (vv 50-52).

Joseph named his son Manasseh. Manasseh means to forget and Ephraim means twice fruitful. Joseph had made peace with his past. Every time he saw his son, every time he called his name, he was reminded that God had freed him from the hurts of the past--the hatred of his brothers; being stripped and left to die by those same brothers; serving as a slave; the false charges of Potiphar’s wife; being shackled in prison.

The scars were deep, but God’s healing was even deeper. Did Joseph literally forget the events? Of course not! But God got him past the hurt. He was no longer haunted by it.

You can’t change the past. Yes, sometimes you need to confront the past. Sometimes you need to try to understand what happened. But you can’t, and you must not live there. Remember the great words of the Apostle Paul, This one thing I do, Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13,14).

When we become anchored to the past, we lose our ability to function productively in the present. The past is one of the devil’s most powerful tools. He uses it to haunt us, to paralyze us, to make us fearful, and to rob us of peace in the present. But the past can hurt us only if we give it permission to hurt us. Joseph let the past go free. He found that God helped him to forget the hurts of the past and live in the fullness and joy of the present. He moved from being despised and rejected to become twice blessed.

Begin today

On the back of your bulletin today jot down a few goals. Put the bulletin in a prominent place and then look at it often. Make sure your goals are specific, attainable and measurable. And then, with a new focus, move forward.

Today, take action against the past that haunts you. Some people seek to bury their past by denying it. Others relive it in their minds over and over again. Still others analyze it to death. But you can leave your past (the hurts, the sin, the pain, the resentment) in God’s hands. He will bring justice, healing, vindication. He has promised . . . and we must trust Him.

Put a sign up somewhere that says Manasseh! Put this sign up where you can see it often, and every time you see it, be reminded to turn from the past hurts to the One who blesses your present and guides your future.