Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
So I do not run aimlessly;
I do not box as one beating the air.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Welcome to mile-marker 9 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)
Someone out there is feeling aimless today. It might even be you.
Sometimes in this race of life we become distracted by our pain, the ugliness or beauty around us, the other runners and sundry temptations. We forget why we started running in the first place and drift aimlessly down the road. It’s time to get back on track and start running with discipline.
I’m still hammering out the next post in our Comparison Cure series, but as it is the end of the month, I thought it might be a good time for an accountability post.
Resolutions are a standing joke. People make them and then they break them. Usually within a week…
Tomorrow is the last day of January. One month down, eleven to go. How are you coming on your goals? You may be shifting uncomfortably in your seat, but there’s no need! I’m here to encourage you to pick up the pieces and keep going! If you’re on track, bravo! If you’re way behind, it’s time to lace up those shoes, dust off that bible, break out those knee pads and get crackin!
There are three things we need to do in order to reach our goals:
1) Keep the goal visible.
This year, instead of putting my goals in a journal tucked comfortably away between pages of random notes and assorted thoughts, I put them on my bathroom mirror as a daily reminder. It’s really helped. Some goals haven’t even been touched yet, but I know that I need to get a game plan in place to start working towards them. Ultimately, this is about building good habits.
2) Pace yourself.
There is a vast difference between sprinters and long-distance runners. A sprint requires a burst of energy exceeding our normal output. A long-distance run requires a steady, disciplined pace. It takes endurance.
Hebrews 12 uses the words endure/endured/endurance in the first seven verses. There is a reason the word “endure” is used repetitively. The Hebrew writer is telling us not to give up; we need to press on.
Life is heavy and the race isn’t over until we die. Some people spend the entire race running on treadmills, lounging, running in the wrong direction or alternating between sprints and walks. We have to pace ourselves for the goals—glorifying God and reaching heaven. It’s easy to get worn out, especially on those long, uphill grades.
So it is with our more menial goals. Set a reasonable pace: you may have to sprint on occasion, but do not wear yourself out with a reckless pace and be on the look out for sluggishness. If you have set for yourself a goal that will burn you out before you get anywhere, you may need to adjust it.
3) Check your progress.
As I mentioned in my post, “Setting Goals That Last,” it’s important to have a method of measuring or tracking your progress. If you are wanting to lose weight, how much? How often do you track it? One of the most helpful things I did when I lost 25 pounds was to weigh in once a week and take body measurements. There were days I’d feel as though I was making no progress, but once I checked my measurements—even if the scale told a different tale—I saw progress (even if it was minute at times).
Lest you think I’m some organized superhero, I’d like to share a brief progress report on a few of my own goals. I have a long way to go!
Elihu’s Progress Report
Read the bible every day to grow closer to God. 29 days out of 30. Outstanding! I’ve missed one day this month.
Pray alone daily. 21/30. Needs improvement.
Walk a minimum of 3 times per week. (Results unavailable due to poor tracking) Needs improvement. This one started off well, but between sickness, inclement weather, travel, etcetera it just hasn’t happened. So I went for a walk yesterday and I’m planning three good walks this coming week! I started tracking my activity with my Fitbit last week and monitoring my food intake. have been trying to keep moving during the day so that even if I don’t get a walk in, I still burned calories. I can still make this happen!
Memorize 6 Bible chapters (1 chapter every two months). 2 verses out of 29. Needs improvement. For January and February, I’ve been working on Hebrews 12. In thirty days, I’ve only memorized two verses. Two! There are 29 verses! So, I know what needs to happen. I need to either adjust my target or ramp up the effort. I have 31 days left to memorize 27 verses. It’s time to recruit help from the family. I need people to quiz me and hold me accountable.
I don’t know how it is for everyone, but January has always been an odd month for me. It’s like a warm-up period. Don’t allow it to suspend your momentum.
How are you doing on your goals?
Leave a note in the comment Section!
If your goals include bible study, memorization or prayer, check out these old posts:
One of my goals for 2016 is to develop regular, quality prayer time alone with God.
How do we get in the habit of praying daily like Jesus?
Step 1: Set up a regular time.
If you do not pray regularly at all and are trying to get into the habit, I suggest that you start by praying at meal times because meals are regular. If you are already doing that, it’s time to advance to the next level.
Pray in the morning before going about your daily routine and in the evening before you sleep. This level is particularly challenging because we don’t always hop out of bed. Sometimes we fall back asleep and hit the snooze button a few times. Set your alarm ahead by 15-20 minutes and get out of bed. I know it’s hard, especially when it’s so cold this time of year, but get on your knees and pray next to your bed. If you think you’ll be undisturbed, make yourself a cup of coffee first, have a few sips and then pray. In the evening, try to pray before you lay down so that you don’t fall asleep mid-prayer. Again, this might be challenging. Find a routine that works for you.
Step 2: Setup a prayer minder
The scriptures say nothing about Jesus carrying around a scroll of prayer requests, but we are not Jesus. He had divine insight and power. We are far weaker and constantly inundated with distractions. We need reminders.
When I took Speech 101, the class was encouraged to write the highlights of our speech on a notecard and then give our speech from memory using the note card as a reference. Certain specificities—like statistics—that would be difficult to remember were also written on this card. While prayer isn’t exactly a speech, it is a time when we approach the throne of grace to lay our petitions before the Lord. Imagine if you were to stand before the Queen of England or the President of the United States and bring them a request. You wouldn’t just wing it, would you? You might, depending on the circumstance, but if you had a formal audience with them, I’d bet you’d take time to write it down.
Bring your 3×5 or 4×6 card or prayer journal with your specific requests so you don’t forget to talk to God about them. Sometimes you might be reading your prayer from the cards, but I prefer to think of these lists as the critical points I need to address so I don’t leave them out. I’m going to pour forth what’s in my heart with or without it, but I don’t want to forget that person or two relying on me and other brethren to make petition on their behalf.
Here are 3 types of Prayer minders:
A Prayer Box. My good friend Sheena shared this with me several months ago. This is a regular old index card box with a prayer request on each card and two dividers: Requests and Answered. As the cards pile up behind the answered tab, you’ll see more and more what the Lord has done.
A Prayer Journal. This is similar to the prayer box. Writing down requests, the date you began your requests and writing the date those requests were answered.
A War Room. I absolutely loved the concept laid out in the movie War Room of having a small, quiet space to pray with specific prayer requests pinned to the wall. I, unfortunately, do not have a closet that large, so I will be using one of the other two options this year.
No matter which method you prefer, get one that fits your personality and run with it. The idea is to help you be more effective in your prayers to God.
Step 3: Fight
You may have noticed that this is a step I referred to in my post on Setting Goals that Last. There is a reason I use such a violent word. When we start taking steps to draw closer to God, Satan is going to do whatever he can to stop us. He might bring random distractions, tempt us to sleep, tantalize us with entertainment or, worse still, tickle our pride and cause us to start thinking that we are oh-so-righteous because we pray regularly.
Fight. Fight with all your might.
Fight your weakness, fight your sleepiness, fight the inertia and fight Satan. Prayer is so critical to drawing close to God. Don’t neglect it.
In your Bible study, take time to notice how important it was to God for people to ask Him about things. When the Gibeonites tried to deceive the Israelites, they succeeded not because of their cleverness, but because the Israelities failed to consult with God! In my reading this year in Chronicles this passage jumped off the page: “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” 1 Chronicles 10.13-14, ESV He had ample opportunity to turn back to God, but instead he consulted a phony—a spiritualist! Why didn’t he ask God??
Prayer is not to be taken lightly. Take your decisions to the Lord and ask for his guidance.
Jesus—God’s own Son—prayed regularly and for hours at a time. Take note of that also. God’s own son spent hours in prayer. Do you think there is a reason that such a thing is recorded for us? It tells me that making time for prayer is vital.
Do you think prayer is important? If something is important, make time for it.
How do you plan to make time for prayer in 2016? I’d love to hear your suggestions about what works for you in the comments below. Let’s help each other grow closer to God.
For more guidance on how to pray, here are some older posts for reference:
Reader question: Would you be interested in an e-book on prayer? I was thinking about putting one together in 2016 that used material from the above posts as well as 52 weeks of printable prayer focus sheets (like my effective prayer posts in 2015). Thanks for the feedback!
Debbie Lees – Thank you for your encouragement over the past several months!
This blog began as an outlet for my thoughts about Bible reading and has grown into a mutually encouraging corner of the web. Through this medium I have “met” so many people who desire to draw near to God. Deepest thanks to you all for helping me in my walk with the Lord and the encouragement to press on.
Today is the day we start taking our goals from ideation to reality.
Priority 1: Post your goals. If you haven’t posted your goals somewhere that you frequently look, that ought to be your primary task today. Write down your specific, measurable goals and post them on the fridge, your bathroom mirror, the lock screen on your phone or the dash of your car. If you’re still having trouble formulating your goals, I recommend these two posts from Michael Hyatt’s blog:
If your goal is daily Bible reading, start today! Stop reading this post if you haven’t done that and go do that first.
Priority 2: Take 1 small step toward one or more of your goals. Today. If your goal is to pray daily, grab an index card, write down your prayer requests and put it at the table where you’ll be eating. Before you start eating, read your card and then pray. The card will remind you to pray regularly. (More on prayer to come shortly!)
Priority 3: Before you go to sleep this evening, set yourself up for tomorrow’s action. For example, if your goal is to walk 3 times this week and today was only walk #2, set your walking clothes, shoes, socks, earbuds etc in an accessible place and figure out a realistic time to go tomorrow. If you are working towards paying off debt, get your budget done today and setup your first payment toward that debt. Set up a bucket to collect excess change. At the end of the month, see how much you have to go toward that debt. Even if you only collect 3-4 dollars in change, after 12 months you would be $48 closer to paying off that debt. Set yourself up for success!
Its day 1. Start strong and build momentum. The days of inertia are going to come, but if you’re momentum is strong, they won’t stop you from getting close to your goals.
What small step are you going to take today toward your goal? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!