For the past few years, I’ve been striving to learn conversational Spanish. I’ve blocked out time on my calendar to study. I’ve worked with a tutor. I spent a month hiking across Spain. And this year, I enrolled in a Spanish school in Guatemala and have spent the last few weeks, 8 hours a day, solely studying the language, while in the evenings, living with a family that only speaks Spanish. To say it’s been hard would be an understatement.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. . . . I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
The easy way, in the long run, is the hard way. The hard way, though beset with effort, pain and difficulty, leads to long-term ease of a life well lived. Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14, ESV).
I wish there was another way. I wish there was a quick fix, an easy solution, or perpetual smooth sailing. But you and I know that’s not the case. We have to set our goals and make our determinations with full intention that this time will be different. I know of no other way to fight the fight, finish the race and keep the faith than by developing a plan, praying fervently, seeking perpetual accountability and persevering.
1. Develop a plan. Don’t just set a goal, put together a plan on how you’re going to achieve it. You’ve heard it said so many times before that “a goal without a plan is only a wish.” I have a goal this year to finally get to the next level of speaking Spanish. But if I don’t put together a plan, I’ll be sitting here a year from now with the same goal, same lack of discipline, and same feeling of defeat. Develop your plan. Write it down. And then . . .
2. Pray fervently. I’ve been reading a lot recently about prayer, and one of the things I’m discovering is that after 30 years in full-time pastoral ministry I’m still not very good at it. Similar to the development of plans to accomplish goals, I need to develop a plan for prayer. Am I putting this discipline in my daily calendar? Am I developing a prayer list? And then I must . . .
3. Seek perpetual accountability. I have a friend who is a fitness trainer. People pay him money to set up a fitness plan and hold them accountable to stick with it. Of course, people can cheat, and they can drop out, but fewer people do when they invest time and money into an accountable program. Likewise, when you develop your plan to achieve your goals, finding someone to provide ongoing accountability is a must to help you . . .
4. Persevere. It’s hard to keep going, and some days all you can do is put one foot in front of the other. At times you want to give up and give in. There are days and weeks when progress seems vexingly slow. Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” If the snail accomplished its God-given goal, you can, too. “Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in” (Galatians 6:9, AMP).
Now, in the words of Nike, “Just do it,” and be grateful for the joy, and the pain, of the journey. I know I am.