Here we are already, churning towards the end of January. I have chosen my word for the year (FOCUSED) to anchor me into a consistent way of thinking in order to make my goals into realities. I explain my thoughts on this in a little video on the topic. I’m putting it here if you’d like to watch.
Anyway, some thoughts are coming together in my mind about all the things undone that have been straggling behind me. What cumbersome chains of failure and regret they are. They weigh me down, hounding me over and over with the accusation that I have again not made the progress I would like to. Getting fit, paying down debt, getting the house organized, and so many more have eluded me. But it isn’t their fault. It’s mine. Sure, I have a boatload of excuses I could pin the guilt on. However, my loving Heavenly Father dropped a truth bomb on my heart back in July that I’ve been turning over in my mind since then. Yeah, that’s right. Six months later, I am finally dealing with it openly.
THE THOUGHT: Is what you’re doing moving you towards what you’re praying for?
OUCH. I don’t like that. I’m offended by it. But being the loving Heavenly Father He is, sometimes God will hit you with a painful nugget of truth for your own good. At times like this I am grateful for the words of Hebrews 12:11: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Obviously, God doesn’t ask questions of us that He doesn’t know the answer to. He knew. I knew. So then, the painful process began. I had to face up to the lack of discipline that didn’t align with the things I was praying so earnestly about. It is always unpleasant to look such things squarely in their ugly faces, but failing to do so has even less desirable results. Trust me, I’m studied in avoidance.
Now I’m not talking about the kinds of things we pray about that are beyond our control. These would include serious illness, family crises and such. I mean things that we can have an active role in doing something about – general health and wellness, improved relationships, financial situations, etc.
Is what you’re doing moving you towards what you’re praying for?
Oh dear. What to do and how? It’s such a big task. When you are chronically self-defeating, you have to get a new strategy. It has to be one in which you are single-minded and focused, not divided in your loyalties. We can’t fool God and pay Him respect with our mouths but then do whatever we like and expect Him to answer our prayers. Here are the things I have determined are the means for righting the ship and moving in a positive direction.
Enough of the waffling and lip-service to God. It’s time to hush your lamenting while you are still dissenting. (I’m talking to myself here.) Focus on what the bible has to say. James 4:8 is clear on the issue of “double-mindedness”:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 (ESV)
Also from James is this gem:
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8 (KJV)
And why should this be so? Because when our focus is on things that are opposed, we can’t be stable. Do we want change? If so, we can’t remain in the same pattern of conduct, teetering between what’s comfortable and what’s necessary. Our emphasis needs to be on God first and foremost. When we draw near and seek Him, He will do the same. This is a wonderful promise. Also, we need to cleanse our hands, meaning to stop doing the things that are counterproductive to what we pray for. Lastly, by purifying our hearts, we can become focused, ditching the double-mindedness that often results in failure.
STOP COUNTERPRODUCTIVE PRACTICES
If I am praying for my health to improve, I have to stop habitually eating ALL THE SWEETS. I have free will and I love sweets. If I exercise both of these things at once, I am actively working against what I am asking God to do. If I don’t feel good and have no energy, I have to will myself to get up and exercise. I can’t lay around the house and expect to be healthy. For you it may be something different, like quitting smoking or getting more sleep.
Similarly, if I am praying for my finances to improve, I have to draw the line and make some sacrifices. I can’t keep a thousand cable channels, have the top grade cell phone plan, and continue using my credit cards to make frivolous purchases. The desire to get out of debt must meet with some better decisions. God will do His part too. He can stretch what we have and provide unexpected ways to save money, but we must not work against what we are asking Him to do.
It’s time to hush your lamenting while you are still dissenting.
If I want my relationships to improve, I have to consider whether I am contributing to confusion or conflict in any way. Am I being kind? Considerate? Loving? If not, I need to start. Post-haste! It isn’t my job to change the behavior of others. It’s my job to change my own. Period. God will strengthen me and give me grace towards others when I ask Him to. I can’t seek to control the behavior of other people though. God will work on them.
DO YOUR BEST, GOD WILL DO THE REST
I’m a big fan of Joyce Meyer, who is a no-nonsense preacher from St. Louis. She has been in ministry for over 40 years and offers practical, biblical advice for everyday life. One of my favorite thoughts that she shares is about knowing our role:
Don’t try to take on God’s responsibility. When we do what we can do, God steps in and does what we can’t. – Joyce Meyer
So much yes to this! When we try to grab the steering wheel of life from the Lord instead of partnering with him by doing our share, we invite trouble. For many years I shoved Him aside and tried to navigate life on my own, never consulting Him or asking for His favor on anything I did. Frustration and failure were the results of these efforts. In truth, I still try to snatch the controls from Him here and again. At least by now I have learned to relinquish them back to Him before my folly reaches critical mass.
When you are chronically self-defeating, you have to get a new strategy.
This little pep talk is born out of many years of foolishness and time wasted on my part. I hope you find some small inspiration in it. So pray, and ask Him to help you. Seek His wisdom and guidance, but then put legs to your prayers and make decisions based on the wisdom you gain from your prayer time and study of the Word. This is entirely different than “doing works” in order to curry favor with God. That doesn’t work. Our efforts don’t earn favor or grace with the Heavenly Father. He loves us deeply and wants to help us. It’s just that we need to make sure our actions aren’t destructive obstacles to what we want Him to do. May your 2017 be filled with positive progress and answered prayers.
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