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Momentum for Life
Biblical Principles for Sustaining Physical Health, Personal Integrity, and Strategic Focusâ"Workbook
By Michael Slaughter
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2008 Michael Slaughter
All rights reserved.
Momentum: Mass in Motion
Mass in motion. Quantity of forward motion. Impetus. i.e.: "A team that has momentum is on the move and hard to stop."
"I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD.'"
For all its storied history, the World Series rarely captures my attention. There was something different, though, about the series of 2004. The Boston Red Sox had not won a series since 1918, after which they had traded Babe Ruth, the Bambino, to the New York Yankees. Between 1918 and 2003, the Sox had appeared in only four World Series, losing each in game seven.
The curse of the Bambino (as people called it) seemed to strike again in 2004 as the Sox fell to the mighty Yankees in the first three games of the American League playoffs. No team had ever come back after being down three games to none. Boston would need to win four games straight, the last two of them in Yankee Stadium.
The Red Sox won games four and five, and then I turned on my TV. There was a growing confidence in the eyes of the players as they traveled to New York for the sixth game of the series. It appeared that momentum had begun to turn in their direction, and a team that has momentum is on the move and hard to stop.
Boston went on to accomplish what no other team in the history of baseball ever has. They won the championship series against the Yankees after being down three games to none, and then they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight games to win the World Series.
Momentum for Life
Every baseball team goes into the season with the goal of reaching the Series and winning the prize. Some teams break out early, only to fade in the heat of August. Others persist, paying the patient daily dues of disciplined practice on the fundamentals. Likewise, you cannot get where you want to be in your faith, influence, relationships, vocation or physical-emotional health if you are not moving forward.
From priests to presidents, the landscape is littered with the corpses of talented people who failed to maintain the positive momentum of character development. From Bill Clinton's indiscretions to Martha Stewart's deceptions, from the executive failure at Enron to the hightech meltdown, from the Catholic sex-abuse scandal to a major Protestant denominational leader's admission of an extra-marital affair—people of influence in government, business, and religion alike stumble into the oblivion of moral and ethical failure. And what is true for them is true for all of us. Maintaining life-momentum is imperative if we are going to navigate our way faithfully through a world of clouded moral boundaries.
Pause and take inventory of your life. Are you moving forward (growing, making progress, seeing results) in the following areas?
Faith ____ ____
Influence ____ ____
Relationships ____ ____
Vocation ____ ____
Physical-emotional health ____ ____
We are all people of influence. Each of us has an effect on those in our circles of acquaintance, a bigger effect on our circles of friends, and a still bigger one on our family members. Influence is more often about our actions than our words, and it can be negative or positive. Kind words and angry words, conscientious work and slipshod work—each can cause ripples that extend much farther than we can see. That means the integrity we bring to each action is vital, for it sets in motion events we often don't foresee. All progress, all positive influence, all leadership begins with self-leadership.
How would you define self-leadership?
Settling for Lesser Dreams forever
We dream about the incredible opportunities we have to influence the world for God's purpose. We know that through God's Spirit we can make lasting contributions that benefit the well-being of others. But having a dream and having the disciplined, lifelong dedication to realize that dream are two different things.
Most good things are the result of a predetermined desire, an ongoing commitment to build momentum for life. Faith is not an instant realization of a desired future, for nothing worthwhile can be acquired at once. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).
Many young people start with dreams of walking closely with God and being used to make a difference on planet Earth. Yet so many bright, rising stars are tempted to compromise their idealistic visions. They begin to work for money instead of meaning. They settle for a job instead of a life calling. They focus their lives on personal achievement rather than enduring contributions. Young people are selling out, and older people are cashing out.
God wants so much more. God wants to build lifelong momentum toward what we were created to become. The apostle Paul compares the life of faith to running a race that requires the impetus of momentum.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24- 27)
Instead of climbing to new heights, too many people plateau when they meet resistance. It doesn't have to be that way. God wants to win the battle for the soul of the world, and it begins for each of us with the management of the world inside. I've learned this the hard way through several conversion-like crises:
My marriage. On June 1, 1992, my wife, Carolyn, and I made the disciplined commitment to start our marriage over. After almost twenty years together we were headed toward divorce. Instead, I had a conversion about investing in that key relationship.
My devotion. On August 17, 1994, I traveled to Korea with a doctor of ministry class from a nearby seminary. As we learned firsthand about the amazing revival sweeping that country, I saw that the real power was in the Korean church's commitment to prayer. I made the disciplined commitment to begin every day with a time of devotional meditation and prayer.
My body. On August 18, 2000, I was at a restaurant and started to feel sick. Seconds later I collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. In the days that followed, a cardiologist said I haven't taken good care of my heart and body. My body fat content was in the 30s—a ridiculously high level—so in October 2000, I started working with a personal trainer. I was converted in the way I eat and exercise.
In the wake of these potentially catastrophic events and my accompanying mini-conversions, I discovered a group of practices that helped me achieve a self-discipline I had not experienced before. These practices cover every key area of my life—spiritual, intellectual, interpersonal, physical, and missional—so that when I follow them faithfully I am a more complete human being. They enable me to build momentum for life.
Model for Living: D-R-I-V-E
I am convinced that every follower of Christ needs to find self-management practices that create momentum for life. Mine are based on the acronym D-R-I-V-E. They are the elements that keep me moving with momentum towards God's promised future, and I believe they can be effective tools for you as well.
D stands for devotion. This is the spiritual element. Many persons of faith lack depth and prophetic clarity because their devotional lives are superficial. Daily Bible study and journaling, undertaken with rigorous discipline, vitalizes my devotion to God. I do it first thing in the morning, just like I get ready for the day. If I don't practice this discipline, it takes me only twenty-four hours to lose my fear of God. What we do determines who we become. I want to see life through God's eyes and become passionate about the concerns that matter most to God, and this morning devotion helps me do that.
Put a checkmark beside the words that describe your current devotional life:
My devotional practice is the S.O.N. method that helps me see through the eyes of the SON of God. It involves the Scripture I read for the day, the Observations I journal as I read, and the practical applications I Name for my life. I then take time to express my feelings and thoughts in a written prayer. I'll show you a specific example of what I do when we explore the importance of devotion in Week 2.
R represents readiness for lifelong learning. This is the intellectual element. As a disciple of Jesus (the word disciple means learner), I want everything I read and observe to impact the faithfulness and effectiveness of my life ascent. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27, KJV); and I want to learn to better recognize his voice.
Many people stop learning once they've received a diploma. They grow redundant and boring. Any of us can grow similarly stale unless we remain committed to expanding our horizons, and that is exactly what this discipline is designed to accomplish. In Week 3 we will look at the importance of nurturing the disciplined practice of lifelong learning, and I'll share with you my personal daily regime.
What are you currently reading and/or learning?
I denotes investing in key relationships, beginning with my family. This is the interpersonal element. I'm committed to putting my family before my work and church.
I also invest in other people who are strategic for the mission. All people are equally important to God, but not all are equally strategic when it comes to the expenditure of your time for God's purpose. Maybe for you it's a key group of volunteers who act as unpaid staff or a few certain young people in need of a strong mentor. For me, it's the senior management team at Ginghamsburg Church. They are my "mission critical people," the only people besides my family who can contact me anytime. It's easy to let others set and fill my schedule based solely on who calls and says, "Pastor, I've got to see you today"; but practicing this discipline helps me keep first things—and first people—first. We'll explore this discipline in greater detail in Week 4.
In addition to your immediate family, who is most strategic in your life?
V indicates a vision for the future. This is the missional element. This is the most critical discipline, the one that all the others point toward and support, because no amount of learning, personal relationships, spiritual discipline, or physical health can give you momentum for life if your life has no purpose. It's critical that you have a vision, because you become your life picture. As the Book of Jeremiah opens, the Lord asks the prophet twice, "What do you see?" (Jeremiah 1:11, 13). It's important to see and develop the picture God has given you. You can't live someone else's picture. You have a unique calling; you must become who God has created you to be.
Why is it critical to live with vision?
One characteristic of risk-takers and innovators is that they have clear faith-pictures of life. Like Joshua, they need courage to step into their dreams (see Joshua 1:1-9). Like Jeremiah, they must act upon everything God has commanded them; or they will yield to fear. When we begin to relinquish our dreams to fear, we downsize God's vision. We will consider the perils of a lack of visualization later in this lesson. Then in Week 5, we will cover the specifics of visioning for the future.
Eating and Exercise
E stands for eating and exercise. This is the physical element. Sustaining momentum for life requires spiritual, social, and intellectual discipline; but you've got to make sure your body will be around for the future you've envisioned! With the apostle Paul, I want to say, "Do as I do" in all areas of my life (see 1 Corinthians 11:1), including the way I take care of my heart and health.
Since my heart-scare in 2000, I have become much more disciplined about my physical health. I run regularly, work out with weights, and watch my fats, carbs, and sugars. As a result, I have more energy now in my fifties than I had in my thirties. I've come to realize that, as part of my daily D-R-I-V-E regimen, eating and exercising are as spiritual as they are physical. We will address healthy eating and exercise habits in Week 6.
How would you characterize your current eating and exercise habits?
__ Poor __ Fair __ Good __ Excellent
This acronym D-R-I-V-E has become my way of life. Romans 12:1 says, "To offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship." These are the disciplines that help me grow, with all of them contributing to my whole-life relationship with Jesus Christ. The equation is simple:
Faith + discipline = momentum for life
What's your model for living? Many Christians don't have an action plan for a well-balanced life. If you don't have a self-leadership model that works for you, I challenge you to test and explore this one.
To go where God is calling in your life and vocation, you must deal with three momentum busters—attitudes that can prevent you from moving toward the purpose for which God has created you.
1. Rationalization: "I Make Myself the Exception"
Jerusalem is situated on an uneven rocky plateau at an elevation of some 2,500 feet. In ancient times, every faithful Jew (Israelite) was expected to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least once a year to make an honorable, excellent offering in the Temple—the only acceptable place to do so. No matter where you came from, you faced quite a climb to reach the Temple. The journey involved the pilgrim's full commitment of body, mind, and spirit.
Worshipers, while making the ascent to the holy city, sang what are called the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120–134). These songs are about reinforcing character, faith, and persistence in the face of resistance.
Just as increasing resistance in exercise fuels momentum and produces results, so resistance in life fuels our momentum, producing desirable results. We learn to strive and thrive through resistance. The resistance equips us with the momentum we need to ascend life's mountains. God gives us the strength to increase our life momentum by allowing resistance to come into our lives.
We learn to strive and thrive through
We need momentum to move upward. We may be pleased with our physical condition; but unless we work out, we won't stay at our current level, much less gain ground. Followers of Jesus are called to "work out" our salvation knowing "it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Philippians 2:12-13). We're in a partnership with God that requires sweat equity on our part!
One of our obstacles to life momentum is rationalization—telling ourselves that we can live at the top without the effort of the climb. "I am the exception," we misguidedly tell ourselves. Because we live in a culture that has a passion for the immediate, we want "easy" and "now"; and we try to make God work that way too. Avoiding perspiration at all costs, we lower the bar. We change God's standard of measure. We turn to sex for sex's sake. We sell out by working for money rather than meaning. By lowering the bar, we arrogantly argue with what we read in the Bible, making ourselves exceptions to God's created moral order. We downplay Jesus' warning that "the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it" (Matthew 7:13, NRSV).We rationalize, "That doesn't really mean me."
Trouble is, we're not only to believe Jesus but also to embrace the spirit and lifestyle of Jesus. The road is hard, and rationalizing in one area guarantees that we'll end up rationalizing in every area of life.
Briefly describe a time when rationalizing in one area of your life led to rationalizing in other areas as well: ____________________________________________
Excerpted from Momentum for Life by Michael Slaughter. Copyright © 2008 Michael Slaughter. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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