A new plan for success
Are you a person who sets goals? I believe in one way or another, we all do. Sometimes goals are vague and set only in our mind. “I want to go for a walk this week.” Other times they are more strategic, possibly even written goals with a “how to” plan. “I want to save $___ within the next year.”
Everyday, the choices we make are either moving us toward our goals or away from them. What goals do you have in your life currently? Now is a good time to ask yourself: When I REALLY set my mind to something, what kind of effort do I put in? Am I like a train that keeps moving forward no matter what, or do I start off strong and fizzle out quickly?
Let’s consider an example most of us can identify with that requires effort to accomplish: Weight Loss.
Let’s say you set a goal to lose 15 lbs. Does it look something like this…
“I AM GOING TO LOSE 15 LBS!” I am going to drink more water. I am going to walk 3 miles every day. I am going to limit my snacking and be more mindful as to what I eat. You join an online support group, you log into an app to track your food intake and you even throw away all the junk food in your house. With your scale standing by, you are READY TO ROCK!
The first week is done and look at that... you lost 3 lbs! Awesome!! But then you have a birthday party to go to, so you “cut yourself some slack” and enjoy the party and all the mindless, sugary grazing that goes along with it. Obviously, you skip your walk for the day and just relax at the party. After all… “I’ve done good, I’ve earned it.” The next day as your body is desperately trying to recover from the sugar spike and ultimate plunge, you don’t feel well so you cut back your walk to 1 mile or skip it all together. “It’s hot anyways,” you reason, “I’ll make it up tomorrow.”
Before you know it, a week has passed and you’re sitting on the couch, binging Netflix, arm buried elbow deep into a Doritos bag, when the sudden realization of what’s happening hits you like a ton of bricks. “What have I done?” Negative self talk takes over your mind, sadness and embarrassment ravages you, frustration and hopelessness settles deep into your soul. You may regroup and try again but you might end up going through this cycle a few times before inevitably the day comes when you say to yourself, “Why am I even trying to lose weight anyways? People should just love me the way I am.” Your false sense of ego takes over, along with its nasty attitude. But deep down, you know...your inability to follow through hasn’t just disappointed you, it’s broken you. With that hopelessness in tow, even worse health choices are going to be made.
When things get tough, we reason our way back into the Doritos bag. We forgot that we made the decision to lose weight because we didn’t feel good in our daily lives and wanted to improve our chances of living a longer, healthier life. But somehow, in the midst of it all, we lost focus of that.
I use weight as an example because most of us can identify with this to some degree. But our spiritual health can absolutely go through the same roller coaster ride if we are not careful. I remember what it was like to live without Jesus. IT DIDN’T FEEL GOOD! I could mask it with my ego and attitude, I could keep myself busy with all kinds of activities that temporarily felt good but inside I was broken and hollow.
The truth is, living every aspect of our lives following Jesus is not always easy. Sometimes our sinful flesh desires to compromise the boundaries God sets for us. Following the world's ways may seem easier but the consequences are always bigger. It can NEVER end well. Please hear me. It will NEVER end well when we follow the world and separate from the Lord in even one decision.
So, how do we stay strong? We must have a plan (daily goals) and we must not leave them as an option. Is it always easy? NO. But it is always worth it! What we are gaining is WAY better than a few shed pounds or whatever other goals you may have in your life. We are gaining eternal life! We are securing our FOREVER.
Putting our hands back into the Doritos bag (the world) takes us away from the goodness of God. No amount of cheesy crunch is worth it!
Might I suggest that you set intentional goals for yourself. Get out some paper or use the notes in your phone. Put stickies up around the house or in your car. Do whatever you have to do, to keep your new routine fresh in your mind until it comes naturally. Even mature Christians can sometimes start to function on autopilot. That's a dangerous place to be. Engaging a plan and setting goals will help get you back on track every single time.
Here are some things you will want to include:
1. READ THE BIBLE EVERYDAY. Please don’t let that scare you. You can read one verse, one chapter or ten chapters a day. God isn’t measuring the quantity of what you read, he is looking at your hearts willingness to seek him first. He WILL show up if you do. May I suggest you start in John?
(Joshua 1:8, Matthew 4:4, John 1:1, John 15:7, Job 23:12, 2 Timothy 3:16)
2. PRAY CONTINUALLY. When I was getting into this habit initially, I started with 3 prayers a day. One when I woke up, another when my phone alerted me at 3:00 pm and again before I went to bed. Now, I also pray before meals and many other times throughout the day, but the initial 3x a day that I set as a routine was a great way to get me in His presence and create a habit that changed my life.
(Romans 12:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philipians 4:6, Matthew 6:6, Ephesians 6:18)
3. WORSHIP IN SONG. Use iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, radio stations in your car or whatever you can but don’t let a day go by without praise and worship in song. It will set your mood and I believe it will make the Lord smile, which gives me butterflies to even think about... imagine WE are singing HIM a melody!
(Psalm 100:1-2, Colossians 3:16, Psalm 95:1-2, Ephesians 5:19, James 5:13)
4. START A PRAYER BOX. I have an adorable little wicker box that I use. I cut up some paper and set it beside the basket with a pen. When I have an issue on my mind, or someone around me has a need, I write the prayer and drop it in the basket. It goes from being my problem to God’s problem and takes the burden off my shoulders.
(1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 37:5, Luke 12:22, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 46:10)
5. SAY THANK YOU. Gratitude makes ALL the difference in a quality, well lived life. Find a minimum of 3 things (although I would stretch it to 5-10) every single day that you can thank God for. Say them out loud. This honors God and when we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for making us feel good. I’d call that a win/win!
(Acts 24:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 118:24, Colossians 3:15 & 17, Psalm 136:1, Ephesians 1:16, James 1:17, Psalm 107:1, Ephesians 5:20)
Let me end today’s post by saying this:
First, excuse my excessive Doritos example, they are clearly my guilty pleasure. LOL
But seriously, I hope you find success with these tips to become more intentional with your spiritual life. I am speaking from experience when I say to you, IT WORKS. It’s said that it takes 21 days to set a new habit. Maybe you can commit yourself to 21 days of trying these out. I would love to hear from you about how it’s going.
Always remember to give yourself grace. When you fall or when you fail, DON’T GIVE UP! Hopelessness produces worse decisions. Don’t let a stumble become something that completely hobbles you. Just stand back up, repent and try again. We may expect perfection from ourselves but God does not. He has new mercy for you every single day. Step into that and keep your head held high.
Stay encouraged and God bless you all!