Monday, October 6, 2014

6 essentials for those who don't want to quit

Quitting sometimes looks attractive. It sounds attractive to me to NOT do anything, not go to church, not read my Bible, not pray, just vegetate, act like a plant, veg. I forget that there is something else plants regularly do- they die and decay. Vegetating for me turns into death and decay. In fact I don't do Nothing, rather I do the wrong things, I sin.  I turn into the worst version of myself. Well maybe not the worst, but definitely in that direction.

So how can I NOT QUIT. Sounds like a stupid question doesn't - just don't quit. Paul in the letter he wrote to the Philippians shares his secret to "keeping on". Here is what he says,

"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,  but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example." 

  1.  Adopt the attitude of a learner, a student. Don't think you know it all. Often I'm asked by an employer to talk to their employee about some part of their work where they are not up to standard. Most of the time people humbly receive the feedback but every so often there is someone who interrupts and says "I know, I know!" I want to shout at them and say "If you know, then why are you here? Why don't you do what you know you should do?" "Can you please just shut up and listen?" I don't say that, because I need to be more polite, but on the insides I'm shouting. If I have the attitude of a student, then it is OK not to know something, it is OK not to know how to do something. It is OK to be ignorant, but it's NOT OK to stay ignorant. Learn, grow, progress. Accept imperfection in yourself and others. Just keep growing.
  2. Focus. The finish line is a lot closer for some of us than for others. It is probably closer for my parents than for me and closer for me than for my children and grandson. I can finish the race. There is a prize waiting for me at the end that is worth the struggle and pain of the race. Paul says the key is "one thing" then he says that one thing includes 2 things: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. Science has proven that the idea of multi-tasking is a lie. Human beings cannot multi-task. We need to focus. How many times a day do I nearly run over some dummy who has stopped walking and is standing in the middle of the busy sidewalk staring at his phone? This is how we are wired. I can't focus on the past and the future at the same time. I need to choose one. If I am going to live in my past failures or successes then I am like the dummy standing on the sidewalk. I'm not moving. I need to focus on the next few steps ahead of me. What do I need to do NOW? I raise my eyes frequently to the top of the mountain, but then I focus on the path ahead.
  3. Believe you can and will finish. This is a long race. It's a tough uphill race. This is more of an ironman than a marathon. This is scrabbling over rocks on the side of a mountain, moving upward against the pull of gravity. This race is too difficult for me. But then I realize that Jesus put me in this race. I sometimes think he made a mistake. I'm not built to run or climb. Lord don't put your money on this horse! Scripture says he "took hold of me" for this purpose. He intends that I will finish the race, so who am I to say "I can't do it"? By God's grace I can and will finish.
  4. Press on. Move! Keep moving one leg in front of the other. Physics is our friend. An object in motion tends to remain in motion. Keep moving. Some translations say "I strain forward toward the finish line". When you are leaning forward your body wants to move forward. Lean forward into the Lord - Have a heart attitude that is leaning forward, pressing on, off balance in a good way - if you don't move your foot you are going to fall on your face - kind of off balance posture. What can I do to lean forward? Set my Bible next to my bed? Put pictures up of those I want to remember and pray for? Make pictures of my goals and dreams?
  5. Hold on to progress achieved. When you're climbing a mountain it is easy to go downhill. Gravity drags at you. Even when you stop to rest it is easy to slide downhill. You have to find a good flat rock to rest on. If you are not careful where you put your backpack it will start sliding and rolling back down the mountain. When you pause for a breath, you have to be careful. What progress have I achieved in my walk with the Lord toward the goal he has for me? How can I hold onto that progress?
  6. Don't climb alone. When I search google images for "mountain climbing" the first page fills with images of the solo climber. The only solo climbers on Mt. Everest are dead climbers. Mountain climbers assault the great peaks of the world together in teams, lashed together, in case one of them loses his/her footing and starts to plunge toward the bottom of the mountain. Other translations says "walk together with those who follow our pattern of living". Surround yourself with good people who have the same focus and goal. If you want to lose weight, join weightwatchers, stop drinking attend AA. If you want to learn to follow Jesus get into close relationship with those who have the same goal. This is probably my biggest struggle - I'm a natural loner who needs the community of other men. My biggest prayer request is to find or form such a community.