Here in America we are too comfortable. Of course, we as a country have pressed hard for the American Dream, which was loosely defined as having money, at least enough to not have to worry about it, having cars, a house, and 2.5 kids (usually two kids and a dog). When the World War II veterans returned from the war, the young generation of men who were fighting and women who were keeping the country together seemed to click that life is too short to fight. That was a correct conclusion to a degree. The problem was they gave and gave their kids to the point where the kids did not learn much on the maturity and responsibility front.
Those kids became the free-love propagators of the 1970's. With that generation, they started to open up to sex, drugs, and pragmatic pleasures much to the decline of the society. That generation eventually had babies and gained some maturity from the table-scraps of their parents. But the generation that came after that became so devoid of responsibility and working for the things they have that a culture of entitlement was born. With entitlement, all remnant of working for what we want has been eroded from our youth.
An old fitness adage is true: “No pain, no gain”. I know that my workout tonight was great because I feel stretched, tired, used. That is true for our physical body and also for our mental body, our spiritual body, and also our emotions. It is true for ministry and goals. It is universally true. I thought about this concept at a Bible study the other day when a student was announcing that they received all A’s on a report card. As a former teacher, I said that she needs to get into the topic a little more advanced, and she insisted that she wants to stay where it is easy to get good grades to make it into a good college. That attitude will kill her motivation and her education in the long run. Below I will detail why from the book of John.
In the 15th chapter of the book of John, we read about our relationship to Christ and our relationship to each other, and then finally, about our relationship with the world. The latter will not discuss here. The first portion, John 15:1-11, talks about how we are to stay in Christ. Jesus talks about how we are already clean because of the word, he talks about the fact that if we are in Him, we will bear fruit, and of significance here if we bear fruit, God the father will prune us so that we bear more. This is a picture from gardening or farming. If you have a plant that is producing fruit, you cut off the branches as they are starting to flower. The plant will then produce two more branching the leaf-stem of that cut branch and each of those two will bear flowers, so cutting the fruit (pain) increases the fruit (gain). The rest of the first section talks about bearing much fruit, obeying the Word, and those are evidence of Christ. God as the vine-desser (gardener) does the pruning on your spiritual life.
The second part, John 15:12-17, Jesus is talking about the command to love one another. He talks of the believers to love each other as Christ has loved them, and He concludes this section with the command to go and bear more fruit. I have come to the conclusion that bearing much fruit with love to your fellow Christian is to serve together and create deep friendships around loving other people and helping those around you grow in Christ.
From these first two parts of John 15 we see that we are commanded to do good works, to work, to stretch ourselves (loving your brother is more of a spiritual discipline than an inherent emotion). It is only through the process of pruning and stretching that God grows us, but I believe that we can also contribute to that pruning. If we sit around and do nothing with our Bible, we become spiritually dead. We can talk about a lot of Bible terms and argue over doctrine, but we are not actually growing. If we sit around and do not exercise, we become obese, if we do not map out our future, we end up in the same place we are now just with more wrinkles and more convinced that the rich just get richer and the poor get poorer. My encouragement to you is to set goals in all areas of your life, serve people through church or parachurch ministries. Get exercising, and challenge yourself in your education. You will be surprised at where you are in just a few years of consistently doing these things. Here are some resources to help. Some of these resources I am familiar with, others I am not as familiar with, but I wanted to give some diverse options.
I have studied goals from every angle that I can find. I want to know how successful people have done it, so here are some ideas that will help you out. First, my top pick book on goal setting is The Power of Focus. I also like the time management organization of First Things First by Stephen Covey. Dave Ramsey also has some great tips on his website. In his method, there is a five step process:
- Your goals should be specific
- Your goals should be measurable
- Your goals should be your goals
- Your goals should have a time limit on them
- Your goals should be written down.
I personally follow a system that is like this one. I have set goals in the area of fitness, personal, spiritual, business goals, and goals to develop new business ideas. Each of my goals is written down specifically, with a time line and a way to measure them. The goals also list a reward for achieving various levels complete with pictures of what I want as a reward for the goal. The goals and the measurement logs for the goals are in the same place and they have a master dream plan for my life, all assembled as a booklet. This booklet took about a week to type it all up and make it very nice to look at. Other than my Bible, it is the only book that I go to every single day and focus on. Here are some other resources that I have found on goal setting. Note that my system is a hybrid of various methods that I have read. I created the one that works for me. What will work for you?
As I have mentioned before, we should focus on several methods of growth spiritually. I believe that we will grow best if we do the following:
- Read the Bible quickly as an overview one or two times a year
- Do an in-depth study of specific books
- Make prayer a regular part of the day
- Listen to what other people have said about the Bible in the form of sermons.
In my last article, Filling the Empty Cup, I talk a little more about growing spiritually and I also give my recommended general reading list.
Local ministry can be found in most places. The best thing to do is to ask your pastor of any needs in your church. If you like working with kids, check around your church or other churches for Awana. If you can not find one, consider starting a chapter here. I personally tend to work as a minister in non-Christian arenas (it tends to help my prayer life) and I prefer Big Brothers Big Sisters. You can also check to see if Child Evangelism Fellowship has a chapter in your area. Your local Christian radio stations also likely have some opportunities.
I have frequently heard the expression, “I wish I had that kind of energy” usually when someone sees kids running all over. This is usually the time that I start doing the same thing. I have energy because I have a regular exercise pattern. I have found that in times that I do not keep up with it, I tend to get groggy and lack energy, but it is amazing what 15-20 minutes of running in the morning will do for your day. This is what I recommend. First, if you are over the age of 20 you should probably check with a doctor before you start an exercise program, but I promise, he will be all for it! If you are out of shape, first start by walk/walk about 3-5 minutes on and then walk for a bit and build up until you can run non-stop for whatever your target time is. Even if you can run for 25 minutes straight, the first 5 minutes is still the hardest running time. Next, find some method of weight training. It could be pushups, sit-ups, etc, or you could get a pass to a gym. I do weight training three days a week, usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This method seems to work out best for me, and I get nine exercise sessions in a week (6 days a week running and 3 days a week weight lifting). Here are some fitness websites: Bodybuilding workoutz