Archives for posts with tag: goals

start-finish

 There is a difference between a starting line and a finish line. They may actually be the same line, but your goals as you cross it are different.

 Crossing a starting line requires that you completely focus on what is ahead of you. You may get off to a running start or a slow start. Whatever preparation you have made for that particular race must be intentionally applied to the path in front of you. Your energy and focus and effort is on what you are doing.

 Crossing a finish line means that race is over. You can’t go back and change your position in the starting blocks or your strategy for running that race. Whether you triumphantly cross the finish line in first place or just drag yourself to the end of the course, that race is over. You will be judged by what you have just done.

 But what happens if the race you’ve just completed is the preparation for what is to come next? How many of us come to what we decide is the end and stay there? We choose to be defined by our past, rather than allowing it to refine us for our future. I failed; therefore, God can’t use me. People have disappointed me; therefore, I won’t trust again. I’m not perfect or powerful; therefore, God should find someone else. And we set up camp on what we think is the finish line, when God intends us to make a new, different start.

 The mistakes and pain of your past are not an excuse to refuse to run. Refusing to try again is the easiest way to fail and the best way to be defined by your weakness. A good coach will use the mistakes and successes of past races as a teaching tool to run future races more successfully. Sometimes that new start is a brand new adventure based on the lessons we’ve learned in the past. Sometimes that new start looks like the same old race…but we learn to master the course, rather than allow it to defeat us.

 Sometimes all the “lines” look the same from where we stand. How different would the story of our lives be if we allowed God to determine whether we are at the beginning of something new, or at the end of something old? To use our beginnings and our endings to train us to depend on His plan and trust His power, rather than our own? There are some things you need to let go of and put behind you. There are some things you need to work toward and trust God with, even though you can’t foresee success.

 When you sit on the starting blocks, it hinders your ability to begin the next race. Allow your belief in what you do know about God to determine your choices for what you don’t know about your future. Trust that God can take all that is in your past and use it to prepare you for what is to come.

 

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If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.  Margaret Thatcher

What we do and how we do it indicate our motive and purpose.  Sometimes my goal is to really clean my house; sometimes the goal is to quickly hide the clutter from whoever is about to ring the doorbell.  My level of “clean” is determined by which goal is in place.  I’ve been known to compromise actual cleanliness to achieve the appearance of cleanliness if I’m in a rush.  My favorite thing about a dishwasher is that I can hide dirty dishes in it!  My goal of maintaining a clean house is sometimes degraded by my desire to appear to be a thorough housekeeper. 

I’ve come to understand that this kind of compromise can work to our benefit or our detriment.  We live in a culture that places high value on toleration and compromise.  Avoiding conflict, maintaining peace, and being politically correct are more respected in our culture than standing firm on principles and convictions.  People who want to be liked won’t create discomfort or take an unpopular stand.  Christians should never be seen as angry, vengeful, selfish people who oppose all who oppose them, but Christians are more and more often condemned if their opinions or behavior do not give credence to those who oppose them.  Christians are required to be respectful and tolerant of other religions that show no respect or toleration for Christianity.  We may not include Muhammad in our cartoons or entertainment, but we are seen as fanatical if we are offended when Christ is the butt of jokes or his name is used as a curse word.  Our culture has adopted our celebration of Christmas, but now that culture wants to forbid public displays of the Nativity and has changed “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays”.   

Peace is a gift from God, but Satan also uses the desire for peace as a temptation to compromise on complete obedience.  Too often “Have no other gods before me”, “do not take my name in vain”, and “honor the Sabbath” have become increasingly uncomfortable requirements for people who seek to “get along” with the world.  If our goal is to be liked and avoid conflict, we will never take an unpopular stand against those who oppose what we stand for.  If our goal is to be seen as politically correct and achieve peace at any price or, we will never accomplish anything more than what our enemies choose to give us. 

What we achieve is all too often determined by our goal.  The church and its people need to take a serious look at what our goals are.  Do we want to serve the world, ourselves, or our God?  Do we strive for obedience and holiness or do we want to be accepted and admired by those around us?  Do we want slick programming or do we want to encourage deeper understanding of and relationship with God? Are we so afraid to “stand out” that we choose to “blend in”?

Jesus provided us with two very specific goals:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart….and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Choosing these as goals will put us at odds with others who have not chosen them.  Finding the line between complete obedience to God and unconditional love for others requires that we refuse to compromise on either.