Totally Worth It!

Life is hard.

Let me be more specific; life is hard if you want to live it.  NOT living life is easy.  Just grab the remote, game controller, magazine, drink, or whatever other escape device you prefer and… cease.  Stop engaging.  Stop trying.  Just vegetate.  You have no idea how attractive that sounds to me at times.

The big lesson I’ve learned over the years is that living, REALLY living, is difficult.

Want a great marriage?  WORK for it!  Read books, attend conferences, talk to each other.

Want to raise great kids?  Put your back into it!  Take parenting classes, read, spend time with your kids.  For Pete’s sake your hobbies can wait!

Want to be in better shape?  Complaining about being fat won’t get you there.  Get up earlier and hit the gym.  It’s a pain.  It’s a struggle.  It can be a total drag but it is so worth it!

Almost two years ago I started my own business.  I can’t even tell you how many times I wanted to give up.  It wasn’t unusual to go for weeks without work.  IT WAS SO HARD!  But you know what?  It was totally worth it! If I would have taken the easy way, I would not be nearly as happy as I am today.

Choosing the difficult thing is not only immensely rewarding, but it also strengthens us.

As I move into the next big phase of my life (planting a church) I’m acutely aware that it’s going to be one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever undertaken, but I also know it’s going to be worth it.  Lives are going to be changed, eternities decided, and needs met.  I’m confident that it will be worth it and, five years from now, I’ll be glad I decided to do the hard thing.

So what about you? What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?  Was it worth it?

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The Discipline of Discipline

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

“Discipline is freedom.” Wrap your brain around that! I read through Foster’s book with an equal amount of conviction and excitement about a disciplined life. I’ve always considered myself a relatively disciplined person (at least in a few areas) but I know I could use an adjustment here and there. I learned a long time ago that praying for God to help me be disciplined was crazy talk like praying for longer hair or bigger muscles. Discipline is a choice and a daily decision. It’s not just going to come over you by supernatural influence.

The thing I’ve found though, is that it really DOES bring freedom! I meet with people all the time that are struggling. They struggle with their commitment to Christ, they struggle with their weight, they struggle with their marriage, they struggle with… everything! It astounds me how many times the answer just comes back to discipline. To the struggling believer, I ask, “How’s your prayer life?” The answer is usually a long list of activities that are taking priority over prayer. I see friends struggling with their weight that just can’t seem to establish a discipline of exercise and restraint, pastors with declining churches that won’t discipline themselves to read, grow, and learn a better way, and families falling apart that fail to discipline themselves to say no to all the things that compete for their time together.

I know that’s a pretty general approach to many of the problems that we face. My intention is not to come off as insensitive and all “Drill Sargent-y”. But isn’t it much easier to wish than it is to take practical steps to do? I turned my life over to Christ 25 years ago. I’ve seen many wonderful people turn away from the faith during that time, and I have the pleasure of worshiping alongside others who were with me when I made the most important decision ever. When I look at the lives of those who fell away, gave up the fight, and abandoned their relationship with God, I find only one common thread, only one difference between them and those who are still serving Him today, and it’s a lack of discipline to seek God. That’s it! We all had similar problems, obstacles, and issues. It’s just that the disciplined ones stayed. Hence the old saying, “He who prays stays, and he who fasts lasts“.

There’s an old man in his 90s that I know from the YMCA. His name is Ernie. He swims six days a week! Because of his discipline, he has energy, he’s strong, mobile, and sharp as can be. He didn’t start swimming when he turned 90. He’s been doing it for decades, and now he experiences a great deal of freedom for a man his age. Many men, younger than him, come into the gym feeble, sickly, and tired because they they spent so many years without discipline and now they’re there under doctor’s orders. I don’t know about you, but I want to be like Ernie!

Being disciplined helps you to last. It brings freedom from bondage. It conditions you to serve better. It creates a condition in you that allows God to transform you!

If you don’t believe me, give it a try. Pick a discipline, like prayer or reading, and stick to it every day for six weeks.  You WILL notice a difference!  Your desires change.  You start to long for the good stuff.  Your capacity for achievement increases because you’re growing and expanding.  Your mind even starts to sharpen because you’re forcing yourself to develop new habits (a side effect to counter-intuitiveness).

I believe so strongly in the power of discipline that, if it doesn’t help you, I’ll refund the money I charged you for reading this blog 😉

One last thing.  If you do decide to give it a try, think about posting your benefits on this blog.  You never know who you’ll encourage!

Resistance Isn’t Futile

I was at the doctor’s office recently and we had a conversation about the Swine Flu.  I’m not a huge fan of vaccines and my question was, “What’s the worst case scenario if a guy like me decides not to take the shot?”  His answer? “You’ll be laid up for a few days until your body builds up the antibodies and fights it off.”  Interesting.  When we get sick, our bodies build up the strength to overcome it.

I find it extremely interesting that heavier weights (also called resistance) increase muscle strength, unfamiliar subjects fortify our minds, and difficult circumstances cause us to grow in wisdom, patience, and faith.

Pain, resistance, difficulty, adversity.  These things toughen us.  We’d turn to mush without them.  In fact I’m sure I know people who have turned to mush because they go into denial, dodge pain, or give up and wallow in self-pity.  After all, it’s far easier to quit, blame, or feel sorry for ourselves than go through the ringer one more time.  “Who wants more patience?”  “I have enough, thanks.”

I once heard Sam Chand say that our capacity to grow is directly proportional to our capacity to endure pain.  How true!  Once we decide that we’ve had enough, we stop growing.  I love Tylenol’s recent marketing slogan, “Push through the pain.”  When we want to give up, when we can’t find the answer, when it all seems too hard, PUSH THROUGH!  I’ve found that simply NOT throwing in the towel has tremendous value.  Most of the time, breakthrough happens just the other side of wanting to give up.

One of these days I’ll probably tell my story on this site, but let’s just say it’s not a pretty one.  I’ve had to endure some pretty great pressure and, even though I wouldn’t want to repeat all the obstacles, I treasure the work God has done in me through them.  I’ve gained wisdom, insight, endurance, and compassion for others.  Those things have prepared me for the work He has called me to and I thank Him for all of it.

Romans 5:3 & 4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”

If you’re feeling pressure, resistance, or stress stay the course!  Your muscles are growing, your mind is sharpening, your emotions are getting stronger.  Growing is more important than the false peace found in giving up.  When it’s all said and done, you’re gonna be a butt kicker.  Just wait and see!