Failure with our spiritual goals is inevitable at some point. The question is, what will you do when you fail?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church
Let me start this morning by asking you a question…
What would you do in the following situation?
Say you make some crazy, bold promise to yourself that you are going to exercise 5 days a week, EVERY week this year.
And on top of that, let’s say you do it.
Every morning, you get up before the sun , which in MN, actually isn’t saying a whole lot.
But you get up, and you go work out. 5 days a week.
But then, out of nowhere, you have this crazy busy week
And now, this week, for the first time, you only went once. The streak is over.
So let me ask you, what kind of person are you?
Do you get back at it, and do 5 times again next week?
Or is it all over? Are you done now?
For the vast majority of people, as soon as they fail at their goal once, it’s over. It’s all over.
We simply have no clue for how to deal with “Unmet Goals”
We are finishing our “Resolution Regret” series this morning.
So far we’ve talked about putting our “Head before Heart” in order to get a plan started, and last week we talked about the details of how you can actually put a spiritual goals plan in place.
And today, I want to talk about the crossroads of failing at your plan
HOW WILL YOU RESPOND TO FAILURE
This week, over 100 adults were present at House Groups to start working their Personal Renovation Plans.
If you’re not in a house group yet, take the leap this week.
It’s so amazing to show up here the following Sunday, look around, and finally know people. Such a great feeling.
So, because of the Personal Renovation Plans, and because we’re just talking about Bible reading in general as a church, we’ve got TONS of people starting to consistently read the Bible and pray…just this week.
And maybe you’ve had a great week so far. Or a great few days since you started.
But eventually, no matter what your goal is, even if it’s small and attainable (like it should be!), you’re gonna have a bad day
Let’s say, you set a goal to read one chapter a day in the Bible (maybe you’re working through our 100 chapters in a 100 days plan), and you’re gonna pray for 3 min a day.
And you do great the first 10 days. Every day. Nailing it!! Working the plan!
But then…you get super busy this week.
Maybe you’re throwing the biggest super bowl party in the world next Sunday.
And you get so busy planning, inviting, watching highlights of David Tyree, and cleaning, that you totally let your plan slip
You fail on your plan, say, 3 days in a row.
For most people, like we said, this is where the plan ends.
Well, it was a good run. 10 days.
But most of us, have no idea how to respond to failure…besides…actually failing, and not starting again.
But let me ask you a question: “Why does the first time you don’t do your plan have to be failure?
I think one of the best things we can do is re-frame what our goal is in the first place
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul talks about wanting to be with God in heaven, but for now…he’s on earth, and here’s his goal:
(2 Corinthians 5:9) – NIV
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
Our Goal is to please Him. To live for Him.
TO draw near to Him, so He’ll draw near to us.
But it’s a GOAL.
Are you gonna be perfect in it every minute?
You have a sin nature, the Bible calls it.
Our natural state is imperfection.
So you didn’t hit your goal of perfection?
Wait, maybe perfection shouldn’t have been our goal.
We need to be obedient to high standards, but we also need to acknowledge our humanity
If you’re gonna do this thing…Encounter God daily… Get in the Bible daily.
You’re gonna need a really high tolerance for failure.
You’re gonna have some bad days. Some bad weeks. Maybe even a bad month or two here or there.
I know we’ve used these parallel examples a lot, but it’s honestly one of the most helpful ways to study discipline and habits.
If we could find 100 people who had all successfully started exercising for the first time 3 years ago, and have been basically consistently doing it weekly for 3 years…
It would be extremely rare to find ANYONE in that group who hadn’t had a week or even a month where they hadn’t exercised in the last 3 years
What would distinguish them above every one else would not actually be their weekly discipline, but their ability to start doing it again AFTER they failed.
And if you really want to fundamentally have God change you as a person, so you can change this world, then we have to learn how to get back up again.
Otherwise, we’re never going to experience great and sustained change in our lives.
It’ll never work to start a plan, do it for 10 days, quit, and then try it again for 10 days…2 years later.
We have to figure out how to navigate this minefield of unmet goals.
KEEP GOAL IN SIGHT
I think one of the best ways you can help yourself get back up again when you have a bad week is to always keep the end goal in sight.
Let me explain through a story.
In 1952, a young woman named Florence Chadwick set out with a goal to swim 22 miles from Catalina (which is off the cost of California) back to the coast.
This was a challenge for her, but not unreachable.
She had already been the first woman to swim across the English channel in both directions.
She set out on a foggy day on July 4th in 1952, and even though it was July, the water was still numbingly cold.
The fog was so thick, she could hardly see the boats in her party
Several times sharks had to be driven away with rifle fire
It was not an easy swim, but YET she swam on.
However, once she hit the 15 hour mark, she told her trainer she was gonna give up. She couldn’t go on.
He encouraged her to keep going. “You’ve gotta be close”
But she said the fog was so thick, and that she couldn’t see anything. All she could see was FOG! So, she quit.
After she had quit and been taken out, they later found that she had already swam 21 of the 22 miles, & was actually only a mile from shore
She later remarked, “I’m not excusing myself, but if it wouldn’t have been foggy and I could have seen the land, I might have made it”
And for Florence, it wasn’t cold, or fear, or exhaustion that ultimately caused her to quit. It was the fog.
It was the fact that she had lost sight of her goal. She couldn’t see it anymore.
And I wonder if that’s not a main reason so many of us don’t just start back up again when we have unmet goals for a season. We lose sight of the goal of it all
So what, you didn’t do it for a month. For six months. For years.
Why were you doing it in the first place?
Say you lived in a remote village 100’s of years ago, and it was determined that once winter was over, that some people would need to go on a long journey by foot to go get food, and you were selected for that journey.
However, unless the people were physically in shape before they left, they would never make it
And thus, the people of the village would starve.
Wouldn’t you keep training?
Even if you slacked for a week, do you think you would then say, “Oh well, I give up?”
No way. The goal (the people around…their hungry faces) would always be right in front of you, and thus, the goal itself would get you back on your feet.
It has to be the same with your faith!
What’s your goal? Your goal is to glorify God and help Him reach lost people
Being changed to change.
Keep that in front of you!
Keep a list of lost people you are praying for
Keep it on your mind every day.
Keep a picture of someone by your Bible that you want to meet Jesus.
Remember, your “self-improvement” isn’t the end-goal.
You’re on a mission to change this world, and part of that is spending time with God and sitting in his love, and becoming like Him.
Keep the goal in front of you.
The apostle Paul lived by this philosophy
(Philippians 3:12-14) - NIV
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
He’s put the stake in the ground at glorifying God, and he’s gonna do whatever it takes to get there.
KEEP IT STEADY
One of the key mistakes we make when we fail is we over-guilt ourselves.
It’s been 5 days since you encountered God in daily prayer or Bible reading, so you’re gonna….MAKE IT ALL UP…TODAY!!
And we think, “I know! I Know! Instead of one chapter today, I’ll read FIVE to make up for the five I missed!!”
Let me just temper your expectations…this rarely works in goal setting.
Let me explain.
Back in 1911, Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen both set out at the same time to become the first explorers to reach the South Pole in Antarctica
However, they had very different strategies
Roald Amundsen’s team had a defined strategy: They would go 20 miles a day no matter the conditions.
Even if it was a blizzard, push on my friend, 20 miles.
But what if it was a perfect day, and they could have gone 40?
Still, 20 miles. 20 mile march. Everyday, no matter what
Robert Falcon Scott’s team on the other hand, was sporadic. They went as far as they possibly could on good days.
But when the blizzard’s came, they would rest. Sometimes even for days.
However, Scott’s team was beat by Amundsen’s consistent “20 mile march” team by more than a month.
And the sporadic Scott’s team actually died on the return route.
“It’s kind of a different way to think because lots of times, when we talk about life on earth, we say, “It’s a blink of an eye, and then it’s eternity”
And while that’s incredibly true, at the same time, that’s not an excuse for us to not be disciplined and diligent and growing with our God. Every day.
If you don’t believe me, you can look this up, but virtually every hero of faith of the last 2,000 years had this in common: They were disciplined people.
People like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Susanna Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Sarah Edwards.
All of them…so good at discipline. All so dedicated to getting back up again when they failed.
And they got to live in the REWARD of the delay of discipline.
Part of successfully navigating this thing is just planning for the odd weeks.
Lots of times, we just get tripped up when our schedule gets thrown out of wack
Say you’ve been really successful in your plan for maybe even a month, but then, you go on vacation. Spring Break maybe.
And everything gets thrown out the window.
Or you travel for work, or someone comes to stay at your house, or whatever.
When our routine gets thrown off, we often struggle to stay disciplined…and when that happens, like we’ve said, we struggle to get back up.
So, one of the best things you can do is to develop a contingency plan.
Okay, so you’re gonna travel for work this week. Or you’re home from J-Term or, whatever.
What’s the plan? How are you doing to do it differently?
BETTER TO FAIL THAN TO SIT ON THE COUCH
“You know, sometimes…I think we just don’t get back up again because, and this is odd, we oddly don’t want to acknowledge that we failed
It’s SUPER weird. But I’m pretty sure that we often don’t start our discipline again because to START it again would be to imply that we SHOULD’VE been doing it all along.
But to continue to do nothing…somehow implies that it must not be THAT important to do, and must not be THAT wrong that we’re not doing it.
The things we tell ourselves… Simply crazy.
(Matthew 21:28-31) – NIV
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.31“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
Jesus tells us that we’re going to get nowhere by sitting on the couch and saying we’re going to do it.
We’ve gotta get up and serve and follow Him
And even if we said at first we weren’t gonna do it.
Heck, even if we didn’t do it (and lived like the Tax Collectors and prostitutes), better to eventually do it
And when you fail at your plan, you have to know….
Better to have tried and failed (TEMPORARILY!!!) than to have never done anything.
You’re making progress!!!
This is better than to have said, “Yeah, I want to” and then to never have done it.
You can get back up.
Better to fail in going to war in saving someone than to be sitting at home hoping someone else does it.
One of the things that Bible so clearly teaches us is that failure in following God... Having unmet goals… Is INEVITABLE.
Often the biggest shock to people just reading the Bible for the first time is how often the “heroes of faith” fall off their horse.
But what makes them a hero…is that they dust themselves off, get up, and get back to serving God.
We see this with Abraham, with Moses, with David, with Peter, and on and on…
You have to look at each new day in your plan as a new beginning.
One day at a time.
So you didn’t do it for the last month.
What can you do about today?
I believe there are two pressing dangers that we need to be aware of when we start talking about encountering God every day and developing a plan for doing so
One of them can happen when you have success with your plan
And the other can happen when you don’t
And both of them happen when you forget this one truth for Christians
I am forgiven and loved by God despite how successful I am at my plan
The first danger is what Christians often call Legalism
It’s what often can happen when you start doing everything right.
This could be an entire series in and of itself, so I’ll try and keep it brief.
But in a nutshell, what happens is we start to do really good at reading the Bible every day, going to church, praying every day, etc.
So good in fact, that we start to feel good about ourselves.
And we start to think, God loves me BECAUSE
God loves me BECAUSE I ____, ____, and ____
And we start filling in the blanks: “Man, Jesus is digging me right now BECAUSE…. I read the Bible a lot.”
Some Christians fill in 20 lines: Jesus really loves me a lot because I……..don’t smoke, don’t swear, never miss church, don’t watch rated R movies with the exception of the Passion of the Christ…
And here’s what happens, we’ve deviated from that truth we just had up
I am forgiven and loved by God despite how successful I am at my plan
Now, maybe you weren’t thinking I was going to turn it that way, but isn’t legalism a deviation of that idea?
See, legalism says, “I am loved by God (not despite how successful I am)
Legalism says, “I am loved by God BECAUSE I am successful at my plan”
I’m good at it, and He loves me more because I’m good at!!
And that can be a danger of setting a plan.
It’s not reason enough to NOT set goals for growing daily in God
But you HAVE to be aware of it.
Especially if you start to get good at it.
Be wary of your mind telling you that God loves you more because you do A, B, and C.
No, he just loves you.
That’s what the cross is all about.
He loves you. He just loves you. And offers you forgiveness.
Does He want you to do certain things…Yeah. Sure. Absolutely. But that doesn’t change His love.
Just like a parent. Do they want their children to do certain things. “Um, yeah!” But if their kids aren’t completely successful in them, does that change their love?!? NO!
Here’s the other danger of setting up a plan.
Again, not enough reason to not do it, but you have to be aware of it
You’ve now set a standard for yourself. A goal.
And when you don’t hit it, that means you have something to feel bad about
This is psychology 101 for why so many people never set goals.
If you don’t set a goal, you don’t have to feel bad about not reaching it.
‘And what happens for a lot of us is we don’t hit our spiritual goals.
You miss for a week. A month, whatever.
And we start to Shame ourselves. WE just start dumping the shame on.
Maybe this is how you grew up.
I saw this just the other day in public.
A little boy was too afraid to say something to another adult in public, and his grandpa just shamed him in front of everyone
“Shame on you!! You should’ve have talked to him! You embarrass me! Shame on you!”
And I just cringed watching it.
And for a lot of us, what happens is, when we “fail” at our plans, we hear those voices in our head.
Shame on me. God’s disappointed in me.
& it’s like we all of sudden create this graph of God’s love
IF I’m failing at spending time with Him, He loves me less.
And again, it’s a deviation from this truth. But in a different way.
I am forgiven and loved by God despite how successful I am at my plan
He still is madly in love with you even if you fail.
(show hand graph) You can fail, but his love remains
Does He want you to spend time with Him? Of course.
But does He start removing his love from you because you missed a day?
His love never fails. His love never changes.
(Lamentations 3:22-23) – NIV
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
But if you can’t grasp that. You’ll get stuck.
You won’t start again. You’ll be too embarrassed to.
The shame will be too great.
But what if you could know that even if it had been 10 years since you had opened a Bible or sat down to pray to God…
What if you could know that even after 30 years, you could still come back to Him, and He would love you just as much as the day you stopped talking to Him?
That His love never failed. Never changed. Never ran out.
Then would you come back? Then would you start again?
Well, that’s the truth:
See, spending time with each day…learning His Word, will change your life. It will help you change this world.
But when you start to slip….and you will…and that’s okay…
That His love remains. It has not wavered. It has not leaked. It has not run out. It has not changed.
Dust yourself off, get back on the horse.
And get back to your amazing God.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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