New beginnings or same old story?

As a new year has begun, change is in the air. Times of resolutions, new days, breaking old habits, and begin again’s has come. Researchers say that we decide to change something in our lives at the beginning of things. Whether it be Monday’s, the 1st of the month, or the start of the year, each is a time we make conscious changes.

Some set easily attainable goals. While others stretch themselves to reach to the moon, yet, no matter where we fall on the easy vs. hard spectrum of “new year, new us,” many will fail to reach the mark.

Goals/resolutions must be three things.
1. Clear (we must know exactly what it is)
2. They must be attainable (can you realistically achieve it)
3. Must be time-sensitive (When is it going to be done by)

There’s a saying my father always says, “Having no plan is a plan to fail.” As much as I hate to say this, my dad is right. We fail with the “new us” because we have no plan!

If we want to change something about our life, a plan is only the starting point. We also need, in the words of the Beatles, “A little help from our friends.” We all need community and accountability. As the old Italian saying points out,

“The one who drinks alone, chokes.”

If we want to reach our goals and not have a repeat of all the years before, it is a must. Jobs had Wozniak; Bill Gates had Paul Allen; Jesus had the disciples; Apostle Paul had Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy. We need people—people who will support us, people who challenge us, and people who love us no matter if we reach our goal or not.

Most importantly, what we need to kick our new beginning off is discipline. You need to want the new more than the old. Jordan Peterson points out,

You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored.”

More acturate words haven’t been spoken. When life gets hard, maybe your progress seems stalled. When you feel like there isn’t a point to continuing, you do. Why? Because of discipline.

Discipline says that despite the adversity you continue on. Discipline says that you push away distractions so that you focus on what is essential.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about being disciplined in our pursuit of Christ.

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

1 Cor 9:26-27

While I believe that the pursuit of a life in Christ is most important, this passage conveys the essence of what it means to be disciplined. Intention, discipline, integrity are just a few things we can take away.

New beginnings or the same old story? That’s what we need to ask ourselves, and it’s what we need to decide between. Are we going to accept the comfortable—settle into what we know and have lived thus far? Or are we going to push, push toward the prize? Sure, we might not see the goal happen the way we think, or at all, but in the worlds of Coldplay, “if you never try, you’ll never know…”

As you seek to become new you this year, let’s do so with clarity of what we want to be. Let’s be realistic with what we can attain, deciding when we want it done. Let’s invite others along for the journey and let’s be disciplined knowing that nothing that is worth it comes easy.

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When is the race finished?

Each morning I have a reading ritual. One of those readings is from a daily devotional. This year I want to increase my leadership capacity, so I decided to pick that for my study. For this, I turned to, who else, John C. Maxwell. 

Monday I struck by a story of a marathon runner from Tanzania. It relates to many of the decisions, I am wrestling with and probably many other leaders.

John tells of how in 1968 during the Mexico City Olympics there were a few die-hard fans who stayed in the stadium to watch the conclusion of the marathon. The Ethiopian runner had won the race over an hour earlier as the fans resolved that all the racers were done they began to leave. As some made their way to the exits, there was a sudden sound of sirens and police whistles. There was one last runner.

John Akhwari from Tanzania ran into the stadium for his final 400-meter lap. Observers could tell that he was injured. John had a bandage on his leg from where he had fallen. Yet, it didn’t stop him.

He was asked why, though he was injured, though there was no hope of winning the race, why did he finish?

“My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race,” He said. “They sent me to finish the race.”

John’s story left me with two observations. 

1) When things are hard, it’s easy to quit.

If Mr. Akhwari had quit, no one would tell his story. It certainly wouldn’t be an illustration of perseverance, character, and keeping your eye on the prize. Did he win? Certainly not gold. Still, John Akhwari’s story stands out to use because he continued.

We all face big decisions. When they encompass your dreams, and it seems like unbreakable obstacles stand against you, do you continue or fold? 

We can often be so focused on the pain that we miss the joy of accomplishment. We can allow our tenacity to be diluted with troubles so much that we don’t see our character growing through perseverance (Romans 5:3).

You started what you are doing to finish, not to give up.

2) We must stay focused on the goal.

Because we start to finish, it means quitting is not an option, no matter how hard it may seem. Bill Hybels tells the story of two prisoners in the same cell. Their surroundings overcame one of them. They are oppressed by the cold dark metallic bars. The other turn their sites to the window, looking past the bars, to see the stars and allowed hope to arise of a better future. 

What is the goal? That is what we are to set our sights on!

Imagine if the apostle Paul quit the mission of starting churches and raising leaders. While there is a plethora of adversity from local authorities (2 Cor 11), Paul faced incredible adversity working with the dysfunctional people of the Roman Empire and Judaism. Let’s be honest, if Paul were a church planter today, there wouldn’t be articles written about him regarding the exceptional disciples he produced, though he did. Think about some of the issues IN THE CHURCH. Corinth had some severe problems with promiscuity. Like, if you have to say stop sleeping with your step-mom, your church got some issues son. How about dealing with female sex cults in Ephesus or people insisting on being circumcised or un-circumcising yourself (don’t ask) in Crete and Galatia.

We must keep going. If we focus on the pain, trouble, hinderances, we never will.

We may finish bandaged up. We may have to take a route that we never imagined, do things differently than we thought. The question is, did you finish? Were you faithful to what God has called you to do? Did you serve and love him with all that you are? Did you love and serve?

Keep running. Why? 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Co 9:24

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