If success has eluded us, when we know we could be doing so much more, the time to reevaluate life is here. We must be honest with ourselves, the hard choices made, a plan with defined goals, yet with the flexibility needed in the real world should be thought out. Change begins when we recognize that must master ourselves, holding in check our desires, passion, and excesses.
We close out another year and usher in a new decade. All of us tend to make resolutions on New Year’s day and yet how many of us follow through? We often give up within a month, why? Change is hard, leaving our comfort zone is not easy, does it mean we do not want to improve our lives? We all have dreams and aspirations, but are we willing to put in the work that it will take to reach them? If we want something bad enough, we will make the time, find the funds, be consistent and throw away the excuses.
The strength to overcome what you know is not right. The strength to face powerful opposition without giving up. This is not physical strength, it is inner strength.
Like physical strength, we must exercise our inner strength it if we want to improve it. We use our inner strength in both good and bad experiences throughout our lives. Most of our victories in life are the result of putting our inner strength to work, and it is tested in tragedies and turmoils that are never far from those times of triumph. There is no escape from pain, so we must use the hard times to grow our inner strength.
When it comes time to develop our inner strength, it is easier to be more like water than steel. We find the path of least resistance and head that way. I’m here to encourage you to take the difficult path instead.
It is often said that life is what we make it. I have come to learn that there is a lot of truth in that statement. If we wake up and believe that this day will be bad, it very likely will be. On the other hand, if you think of all the positive that will happen during your day, even a bad day can turn out pretty good.
Your inner strength has the possibility to change both your circumstances and your attitude.
Can you fight on after being dropped flat on your back? Can you not only stand back up, but finish strong? Can you decide to change and then follow through with it? If you can, you have great inner strength.
If you feel your inner strength needs work, start by realizing and admitting your weaknesses. Own your weaknesses, and work on them. With dedication, you can turn them around into strengths.
I thought I had great inner strength, but it turns out I was fooling myself. I realized just how weak I was in many ways once I surrendered my will to God’s. I had viewed religion as a waste of time, and I had viewed myself as “in charge.” Today I look forward to the quiet time when I can pray and connect with God. My relationship with God gives me the inner strength to make the right choices, because he provides strength when I am weak. The best part of this? His strength is available to anyone who believes.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
2 Peter 1:5-8
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… often attributed incorrectly to the Constitution, they are the famous words found in the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
You are free to choose how you spend your time, where you live, what you read, the words you speak, and the future you work towards. There are no hordes of barbarians at your gates, no wild beasts hunting you, you don’t have to spend your days gathering and hunting for your meals. If you believe you are being held down by some force, then you are – you will be holding yourself back.
So where is your time spent? This is where the small steps and freedom of choice come into play daily our lives. Will you watch a tv drama, a sports game, or go to the gym? We can spend our time on distractions or we can better ourselves and those around us. Exercise will make you feel better physically and mentally. If you feel better, those around you will notice and be inspired. Lead by example. Will you spend an hour on Facebook or pick up a book and feed your mind?
Liberty, wrote Thomas Jefferson, is “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” We are all given the right to do as we choose, as long as it does not infringe on others.
Many people confuse unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the right to be cared for and have our needs met for us. Our needs being met is not something we are owed by being born. We have the freedom to choose how we meet them through our decisions and how we spend our time.
Government was never intended to take care of our needs – that is what we are intended to use our freedom to accomplish. That and so much more! The beauty of life in our day is that meeting needs is just the beginning, the limit is the limit of your dreams and your hard work.
Very few people living in the United States understand this concept. Many people would prefer for the government to be our surrogate parents, taking care of us from the cradle to the grave. That has become a big pattern of this world. Paul writes in Romans that as Christians we are not to be conformed to the patterns of our world, but instead we should renew our minds, take care of our bodies, and seek God’s will. Are you renewing your mind? Taking care of your Body? Is your goal, as Paul instructs, to find and follow God’s will for your life?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
If you watch the news or log onto Facebook, you have probably heard it said by now that nothing is your fault. Anything negative was brought upon you by an outside influence. Once you start the blame game, it’s easy to forget that we all have free will.
Personal responsibility has the potential to turn our nation around. We live with more freedoms than any citizens in the history of the world, which gives us more responsibility in determining our own futures. We have no nobility, no ruling class – each one of us has the potential to become whatever we wish in life.
As free people in a free society, our lives are the sum of the decisions we make. I know many people will disagree with me on that. Most will insist on pointing to one bad thing that happened to them, which they blame for changing their life. In reality, life is the culmination of many small decisions made over a long period of time that shape our lives. When we don’t like who we are, it can be very hard to accept that we are to blame.
Think about where you are at this moment in life and trace it backwards. If you are honest with yourself you will see that your past actions determine where you are today.
The great news is that nothing is permanent. You can change your life by changing the decisions you make on a daily basis.
It is up to you, and only you, to change the behaviors that have caused you to be where you are. When changes are made, the outcome will reflect those changes.
If you try to change everything at the same time you are less likely to change anything in the long run. Zero in on one thing you want to change, and start with that. Take baby steps, all aimed toward the same goal. Successful people know where they want to go, and what it takes to get there.
I see this concept of the importance of the small things in nature. This year I started to learn beekeeping as a beekeeper’s apprentice. We began in the spring with two hives. After a couple of months we got a phone call about some bees swarming at a nearby home, so we went and picked up a third swarm and put it in a hive. One of the three hives flourished and grew strong, but the other two were just getting by. We combined the two weak hives to make one bigger hive.
After the bees worked through the spring, summer and early fall, we checked on their progress. They need to have enough honey to last through the cold Illinois winter, so it would not be unusual if there was not enough extra honey to harvest any the first year of keeping bees.
Each hive is made of wooden boxes called supers and each super has eight frames hung in it. The bees make honeycomb on each frame and fill the honeycombs with honey. When we checked the hives, they had each produced and stored enough honey that there was enough extra to remove one super from each hive.
From the two supers, we ended up extracting 27 pounds of honey, which ended up being over two gallons. Each teaspoon of honey represents a dozen bee’s life of work. That means 18,432 bees devoted their lives to make the 1536 teaspoons of honey we harvested. That is a lot of small steps that add up to a big accomplishment.
My own life began to change when I stopped and thought about my long-term goals. What would be the honey harvest of my life? I used to make snap decisions without thinking. I would go off and do what looked exciting or fun. Once I directed my energy towards a long-term outcome and forgot about the short-term distractions, I began to see real change.
Change is hard. That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes on your goal, not on how you’re feeling at the moment. As Christians, we often quote the verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).” This can be taken out of context to give the impression that life is not hard with God is on our side. The truth is far from that. Paul, when he was writing that, was in prison.
God doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that he won’t give you anything you can’t handle (as Pastor Arol preached so clearly this past Sunday at Minooka Bible in his sermon about Jonah). Life is tough. God promises he will be with us, but he never promises it won’t be hard.
This is not limited to changing yourself, although that is where it all begins. In order to transform the world, you have to transform yourself first.
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self,which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness..
Everyone has goals and dreams, so why is it that some people reach them and others do not?
Our goals will depend entirely on what you deem to be important in life. Money and possessions are top of the list for the many Americans, but goals can include spending more time doing the things that bring you joy – maybe taking a daily walk while the sun sets – or, improving relationships with those you love.
The problem with most goals that aren’t achieved is that they are not specific enough. Maybe you’re tired of your car breaking down and you want a new car. What type of car, what does it cost, how long will it take you to save for it? Maybe you want to spend more time reading or get more sleep. What books do you want to read? What time do you need to go to bed to get enough sleep? Instead of just losing weight, what size pants do you want to wear, what weight do you want to reach?
Clarify your goals, make them specific. Write them down.
Hopefully. you have multiple goals, and you take the time to define them all clearly. It’s also helpful to identify and write down any possible pitfalls you might encounter on the way.
The second step is to come up with a plan on how you will start moving toward your goal. Let’s say you chose weight loss. Do you want to just take a pill and lose it or maybe have an operation? A more realistic plan for long-term success would be to schedule 45 minutes at least three times each week exercising. Find a trainer or a workout buddy to help keep you accountable.
Whether you reach your goal or not is entirely in your hands.
Now that you have those first two out of the way it is time for number three: putting your plan into action. Every person who ever began a new path in life began with nerves. We like to be comfortable, and we feel secure when things stay the same, but there can be no change if you avoid unfamiliar ground. Doubt will come to mind, but don’t let your mind hold you back.
The fourth part is putting in the work. You are building the foundation of your goal. You may not notice anything for days or weeks at first, but if you work at it continually, you will. I like setting small goals that I can hit along they way to my ultimate goal. If your goal is a new car, set a goal to save $400. Once you reach that, make a new goal of $1000. Keep setting a new one after you reach the old. Progress is all most of us need to keep moving forward.
Start picturing yourself accomplishing what was once only a goal.
What else could there be? What else is important? The fifth step is to keep going! There are times you will feel discouraged, and there are times you will want to quit. That is when you must dig deep – go back to the paper where you wrote down your goals and remember the reasons they are important to you. Re-evaluate your methods and adjust, but keep moving forward. If a door closes, you open another or go around. Stick with it!
If this sounds like a chapter out of a self-help book, it’s because over the years I have read a LOT of them. They all had something to offer – encouragement, a plan. By following their suggestions I strengthened my resolve and accomplished a lot of goals. Whether the goals were financial or physical, they brought short-term happiness and feelings of success, but none of them brought me lasting inner peace or joy.
My values changed when I started living my life to serve God instead myself. The reasons behind my goals in the past were always self-serving. Now, when I set goals and accomplish them, I do it to glorify Him, instead of myself.
1 Corinthians 10:31(NIV)
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.