Choosing to move forward is choosing to PREPARE to move forward. What makes preparation so hard though is that it COMES WITH A COST (I use capital letters when I would prefer to be yelling). I would argue, however, that the cost of not preparing is much higher than the cost of being ready and equipped when life’s inevitable difficulties come your way. Preparing is hard but makes success in life much more achievable than simply hoping that nothing bad ever happens. You will either pay the price now by preparing or pay the price later by struggling to survive.
For those who would rather pay now than later I recommend focusing on the following three areas:
While the word “Discipline” may conjure images of getting up before the sun or inflicting pain on yourself just to say that you are “disciplined”, when properly understood, true discipline is neither of those things. Most people view living a disciplined life as living in bondage. Discipline, it is believed, means that I cannot do what I want to do because I am beholden to a set of rules the limit my freedom.
True discipline, on the other hand, is the freedom to do what you SHOULD when something else would be easier! Instead of bondage, discipline creates the freedom to push back on the overwhelming or easy and push forward to live the life you were actually created to live. This is why disciplined living must be the starting point when preparing for the difficulties ahead. A life of discipline is a life that will be able to put one foot in front of the other when it would be easier to quit. This is the life that chooses to March instead of Die.
So how is discipline established? By deciding that you will be committed to doing what is right instead of what it is easy. ALL THE TIME!
Pick up you clothes
Make your bed
Be on time
Keep your commitments even when you don’t have to
Finish an exercise set or run when everything in you wants to quit
Finish those projects around your house that are half done
Read your Bible every day
Pray every day
Resist the urge to get on social media before you have done something productive with your morning
There are probably a thousand other examples that I could give but in short, always do what is right instead of what is easy. I don’t believe that most of us struggle to understand what’s right. We don’t do what’s right because it is hard. Hard is not bad, its just hard. Do the right thing. That’s discipline.
Why do relationships fall apart when the hard times come? Because we fail to build them when things are going well! We must focus on developing the important relationships in our lives before the battles so that we have a solid foundation to fight from in the battle. While there are a lot of different types of relationships, we need to focus in the following three areas:
These are close relationships that generally include our spouse and children. It is crazy how many families fall apart when trials arise simply because there was no depth to those relationships when things were going well. The true picture of just how strong a relationship is can be found when the world around that relationship seems to be falling apart. To remain strong as a family, focus on developing depth and intimacy during times of peace.
Your friends are those that may not be family but are still an important part of your life. We all need friends, even if only a few. Friends can serve as a sounding board when decisions need to be made and as a source of encouragement when life gets a little rocky. We always need friends but the need is not really felt until we are dealing with the unexpected. Be friendly. Invest in others. Develop relationships.
A mentor is someone who can help you navigate the twists and turns of life. Typically, although a mentor can be your friend, this is someone who is a step or two removed from you personal situation that can give advice based on the facts of the situation instead of how they feel about you. Friends tend to focus on protecting your feelings even when they are attempting to speak truth. Good mentors, even though they should be kind, focus on truth first and your feelings second. They are an unbiased voice in your life that can help you to avoid pitfalls and keep moving forward. Find these people BEFORE you need them and they will be there when you do.
This final area is what I call “investment”. There are a few areas outside of our personal finances that require focused investment if we will be fully what God expects us to be. When I use the phrase, “Be what you were created to be” it can sound like I am using happy church talk. What I mean when using that phrase, is that all of us were created by God with potential. We are not all the same and God’s purpose for us on this earth is not the same. We have all been called to live in a way that brings glory to Him, but the way that we do that will be different from person to person. God has made each of us unique and expects us to fulfill His purpose for our lives. In order to do that, fulfill His purpose for our lives, we need to invest in the following areas.
Why our physical health is so often overlooked is hard for me to understand. We should not be consumed with the physical in a vain way, but we also must understand that if we don’t care for our bodies we cannot do what we are here to do! I have come to the point in my own life where I believe that not caring for ourselves physically is stealing something that God has given us to steward over. Again, we are not all the same physically. We cannot be responsible for what we do not have. But, we must care for what we have been given so that we can do whatever God leads us to do. This is not about appearance but about health for the sake of God’s direction.
Just as we must care for our bodies we must care for, invest, in our minds. And, just as we cannot be responsible for what we don’t have, we should not feel bad that we lack something mentally that someone else has. In both cases though, mental and physical, we are responsible to steward over what we have been given.
A few ways that we can invest mentally:
Read books that challenge, teach and grow. There is nothing innately wrong with fiction, but focus on learning new things that will expand your view of the world.
Ask questions. Be curious. If you don’t know why something is the way that it is than find someone who does. Don’t drift through life. Learn and grow by developing curiosity.
Learn new skills. Take on something new and challenging and develop proficiency.
Don’t live from one entertainment to another. Stay off of your phone, games, social media. You can’t grow your mind if you are being constantly entertained.
A whole post needs to be written on spiritual investment but I will say that if you are not investing now in your relationship with God then you will fall away when faith questions become difficult to answer. We live by faith but if we have not learned how to do that we will find ourselves quickly lost when life spins out of control. Have you ever wondered why some of the people you thought were so strong spiritually walked away when something difficult came into their lives? Often it is because their faith walk was superficial and they did not invest before the trials came. How do you invest in your spiritual life?
Spend time daily in scripture. We are told in Romans 10 that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” You grow your faith by learning from Scripture. Invest daily in the Word.
Spend time daily in prayer. Prayer brings our hearts in line with God and His will for us. Invest in speaking with God every day seeking His direction in every area of your life.
Get involved in a church that lifts up the preaching and teaching of the Bible. Church should not be a passive event but rather an active engagement with the Body of Christ. Surround yourself with others who will provoke you to grow and provide the accountability needed to press forward when it would be easier to fall back.
There is a cost that comes with being prepared for the inevitable difficulties of life. There is also a cost that comes with not being prepared. The ability to push forward, to March when it would be easier to Die, comes to those who are willing to pay the price of preparation.