Of this I am almost certain, there are two proverbial keys necessary to unlocking the door of success to any goal we desire to reach. The first key is discipline, a weighty key that requires great strength; the second is balance, a delicate key requiring great attentiveness to preserve its fragility. Now here is the hardest part… you have to use both keys at the same time to unlock that “door.”
Are you imagining this with me?
Does this seem nigh impossible to anyone else?!
Well, let’s just start with this then, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) Despite the fact that balance and discipline seem almost contrary to one another, it is possible to exercise both and reach the goals you have set for yourself. But not on your own. You need your Heavenly Father to help you.
There have been numerous times in my life when I have tried to do it all in my own strength, and every time I am left exhausted and disappointed until I realize I have not been relying on Him to help me. And until you do the same, you too will end up exhausted and disappointed. Of course, I am no expert; all I can do is share with you the things that the Lord has shown me in my own life. While making my goals for 2012, this was something that God put on my heart – something that would help me stick to my goals and see growth in my life.
With that being said, let’s address these two “keys.” Of the two, balance is probably the one I struggle with most, so I will address it last. Discipline can be a little easier for me if it means acquiring something I really want. For example, in January 2011, I set a goal to lose thirty pounds by the end of the year. My purpose was two-fold 1) I wanted to be an ideally healthy weight 2) I wanted to feel good about myself. By June 2011, I had lost thirty-five pounds.
The difficult thing is being disciplined when I don’t want to be, but need to be. I can think of several goals I have set for myself, because I know they are things that I should be doing in order to see growth in my life. The hard part is putting what we know we should be doing into action. Because knowing how to do something and actually doing something are two very different things.
The truth is, you know how to reach your goal. You probably wouldn’t have set a goal, if you had no idea how to attain it. But if you are like me, it’s taking the necessary steps that can be a struggle… or as in my introductory illustration, it’s lifting that weighty key that requires a measure of strength. So where do we find that strength? Through Christ. He gave us everything necessary in His Word and through the power of His Spirit. In fact, discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s just known by another word – temperance. (Galatians 5:22-23).
With this in mind, ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why have I set my goal? Is it to please yourself, others, or Jesus Christ? Above all, if your goal is not set with Christ in mind, then perhaps your goal is not really worth striving for. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…” When you are living a Christ-centered life, knowing that everything you do is for Him makes the hard things a little bit easier. Now along with the Christ-centered goals you may find yourself and even others pleased, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as pleasing Him is your primary focus. Later in verse 23 of the same chapter the Bible says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
2. Have I asked for the Lord’s help in accomplishing my goal? Once you have separated selfish goals from Spirit-filled goals, this step becomes a bit easier. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” God obviously wants the best for you, and since He is omniscient and omnipotent, why not ask for his guidance and strength in reaching your goals?
3. Am I doing everything I can to reach my goal? Oh, hello discipline… we meet again. So once you understand you must be dependent on God, what can you do?
First, get organized. Organizing your life is a whole other subject in and of itself. Time and space and frankly capability does not permit me to address this right now. Ask God to help you prioritize your responsibilities. Read books on organization (I highly recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen).
Next, get focused. You have already narrowed your goals to the things Christ would have you do, now write them down. Set time frames for your goals, and intentionally make time to reassess your progress on a regular basis. Eliminate distractions that keep you from reaching your goals.
Finally, do. Stop making excuses. Stop wasting time. Trust me, I know that it is easier said than done, but at some point you have to decide that you are just going to do it! And you can. Because your goal is worth doing when you know you are doing it for the glory of God. “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
As I told you before, I set a goal in 2011 to lose 30 pounds, and I reached it. What I didn’t tell you was how it affected the other areas of my life. The results were not good, because I had completely disregarded that necessary key of balance. There was nothing wrong with my goal to lose weight. The problem was I had lost sight of all other aspects of life, and losing weight almost became an obsession. I no longer thought of my goal being accomplished for the glory of God; my goal was being accomplished for the glory of man. I thrived on compliments. My appearance in the sight of others controlled my every thought. Now, there may have been other factors that played into this – certain life events that had provoked a measure of insecurity with how I looked. But had I my focus been on Christ, I would not have reached this point.
Fortunately, the same life events that had played a part in my obsession also brought my attention back to my relationship with God – the relationship I had almost completely abandoned for several months. As I sought him for guidance and strength (something I had not done when I had set my goals) I began to realize how faulty my mindset was. And once God had shown me where I fell short, He began to help me find the balance I needed.
Now, perhaps I had known this all along, but for the first time in my life, I had intentionally decided to live it out. I determined that everything I did would only be done because my relationship with Him was all that mattered. Do you know what I discovered? Obsessing over my weight and my appearance – what I should and shouldn’t eat or wear or whatever – was doing nothing for my relationship with God. Yes, the Bible says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost… For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body…” I had started off with these verses in mind, but I had forgotten the end… “and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
With this in mind, here is my advice for finding balance:
1. Put Christ at the center of all your goals. And if your goal cannot be done to the glory of God, let it go! Pleasing Him is all that matters. There is no #2 after this. As far as, I’m concerned, it is the only thing necessary to acquiring balance.
As I said before, I am no expert. But I know what the Bible says, and I know what the Lord has shown me, and I know how the Lord has worked in my own life. I only pray that some part of this may help you or simply encourage you in some way. Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)