Living has taught me that it is hard to make sweeping life changes all at once. Make a single positive change, hold the line until it becomes a habit, then make another, seems to work best.
Looking back, the lasting habits I have created over the years have all had one thing in common.
They were deemed “Non-Negotiable” from day one. For example….
Coffee – For a host of reasons, I decided that if I was going to continue drinking coffee it was going to be black. Problem was, I didn’t like black coffee, but that was the deal. Three weeks later “non-negotiable” had become a habit.
Breakfast – Same thing every morning. Several handfuls of raw spinach, half cup of oatmeal with a cup of blueberries stirred in, big scoop of whey protein in water. Again, “non-negotiable” became a habit.
There have been other health related habits over the years but some of the more interesting habits, at least to me, have been spiritual in nature….
I missed church most of November and every Sunday in December of 2016. That last week of December though, I felt led without question to be in church the next Sunday, which was New Years Day.
I agreed, but over the next few days that internal still small voice, instead of going silent, continued to encourage me to be there Sunday morning.
It was so strong that by the time Sunday actually arrived that I didn’t just “arrive” at church…. I “arrived expectantly”!
Arriving “expectantly” was a first for me. Prior to that Sunday morning if I made it to church, I just “arrived”.
I wrote down only one note from the sermon that morning, Ben Rockwell’s closing statement, “Stop trying to write your own story and take your place in God’s story”.
Those words were the direction I had needed to hear at that point in my life, and made clear the continual prompting for me to be there to hear them!
Truth is, I have not looked at my life, or the purpose of my life, quiet the same since that day.
Given the lead up to the Sunday morning, and the result of arriving expectantly, I made the “non-negotiable” decision to continue arriving expectantly at church…. somewhere…. every Sunday… for the remainder of 2017.
2017 has since become 2019, and for 112 of the last 113 Sundays I have done just that, “arrived expectantly”, somewhere, to a Sunday worship service.
“Non-negotiable” became an empowering habit that God still uses today to work in my life.
For clarity, the point is not, “look at me I go to church” the point is that I picked a specific avenue to pursue a closer relationship with Christ, and it worked for me. So, I continued down that productive path.
But it gets better….
Years ago, I had begun taking notes to remember what I heard in the sermon, but my mind still wandered all over the place.
As soon as the sermon started, the enemy would hit me with every worldly thought imaginable to keep me from focusing on the message. This didn’t happen when church was just a checkbox in my life. I wasn’t much of a threat then.
In time I recognized these attacks for what they were, spiritual attacks by the enemy to keep me from growing in my faith. I decided to fight back, by staying focused, throughout the entire sermon, without a single errant thought entering my mind.
I made a “non-negotiable” commitment to achieve this goal, which was a very tall order for an ADD mind, and one that in the beginning seemed impossible.
The first Sunday, and the next, I literally did not make it 30 seconds into the sermon before I failed, but as the months rolled by, my focus increased.
Then one Sunday morning, almost an entire year after I began this “non-negotiable” quest for focus, John Riggin finished his sermon and I said out loud, “I did it”.
My wife said, “Did what”? The enemy let out a long sigh. God just smiled.
It has been over a year since that day and on occasion my mind still wanders, but it is not often. Most days I stay dialed in on the message, from start to finish.
Big picture here….
My faith had gotten lazy in late 2016 and God was losing the priority status I had given him in my life. He interrupted my spiritual laziness with an offer, a request, for me to be in church the next Sunday.
Even though I accepted the request to be there, He kept encouraging me, kept fighting for me, until that day arrived and I didn’t just “arrive, I “arrived expectantly”. I did my part, and then some. “I’m here Lord! So, what is it you want me to hear”?!
This led to me being empowered by the sermon, which led to “non-negotiable” church attendance, which led to “non-negotiable” focus on the message, all of which work together today to keep God at priority status in my life. That’s how it works.
Want a stronger faith, a closer relationship with God? Pick something that opens a door, or opens another door, for God to work in your life and then make that something “non-negotiable”.
Do that, and then watch what happens in, and if you are willing to share it, through your life.
I can’t help but share what has happened in mine!
Get in the boat. Do you part.
From Nose to Toes.
Shane / #16
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