By, Jeremy Stalnecker

Maybe it’s COVID, maybe it’s the result of the last Presidential election, maybe it’s a generally apathetic attitude towards the Bible and Christianity, maybe it’s an increase in spiritual warfare, or maybe just the fact that I am becoming a cranky old man and paying closer attention to the world around me: whatever the cause, I am becoming increasingly tired of watching people fail.

If that sounds condescending or unnecessarily judgmental, it is not intended to be either. Nor is it a statement made without understanding for the challenges that we all face. Saying that I am becoming increasingly tired of watching people fail is just a statement of fact.

Over the last year or so I have been heartbroken, as I know many others have, watching:

Marriages fall apart as one or more person in the relationship decided to pursue people or interests outside of their covenant relationship

Churches struggle because their pastors have acted in ways that disqualified them (Biblically) from ministry

Ministry leaders leave the ministry because of sorrow or hurt or depression that would not allow them to continue

Death of friends and family in numbers that I have not experienced in my lifetime from illness of every kind

General apathy and hopelessness that may not take a life or end a relationship but stops any forward movement

What adds to the sorrow of watching these events play out on a seemingly daily basis is that most of them are preventable! Most of the time when spiritual, relational or physical failures happen, they could have been prevented if the right steps had been taken BEFORE the need to take them was obvious. And this is the problem.

People fail when they don’t train (prepare) for the battles they will inevitably face.

Living life as though there will never be a spiritual, relational, or physical challenge is at best naïve and always dangerous! We need to use the times of peace and balance in our lives to get ready for the difficulty that is an unfortunate part of the fallen human condition.

To that end I would like to provide a few considerations for those who are as tired of all of this as I am.

1. We must define failure.

“Failure” is one of those words that can be easily misunderstood because it means something different to each of us. When I talk about failure, at least as I am using it here, I’m not talking about falling short of a goal or desired outcome. This is not about losing a game, missing a sales goal, getting laid off at work, or being unable to get someone to like you. So how do I define failure?

Failure-Experiencing consequences spiritually, mentally, or physically that are the result of an unprepared life.

We only fail when we don’t live our lives in a way that will allow us to fully be all that God created us to be. While there are very few things in this life that we can control, we should consistently be training the resources that God has given each of us (our spiritual life, mind and bodies) so that when the uncontrollable circumstances of life do arise we are as prepared as possible. The outcome of those circumstances may be largely out of our control, but our preparation for them is not.

2. You only have one life

This is one of those that that should not have to be said, but I think it is good to be reminded from time to time. We only have one life. This is it. There are no second chances. There will be ups and downs of course, but we only get to walk this road once. Reflect on this truth daily and then shape your priorities accordingly.

3. You are here for a reason

I spent quite a bit of time writing about this in my book, “Leadership by Design“, so I won’t spend a much time breaking that out here. I do believe that the challenge for many is the belief, spoken or only thought, that we don’t really have a purpose. This leads to a life of survival or pursuing pleasure (what makes us feel good) instead of working to develop what God has given to us so that we can accomplish the purpose for which we were created. If you are unclear on your purpose as given to you by your Creator, you MUST spend some time nailing that down. It is also important to note that your purpose may change through the seasons of life. And since you don’t know what that next season may bring, focus on being the very best that you can possibly be and then trust God to put you where He wants you to be when He wants you to be there.

While I cannot tell you your God-given purpose, I can tell you that accomplishing that purpose will require a strong spiritual relationship with God (it is impossible to know what He wants you to do if you don’t have a relationship with Him), a prepared mind that is always learning and growing, and a healthy body.

4. Accept that you rarely control circumstance and never control outcomes

I don’t want to belabor the point here, but I do want to be as clear as possible. If you are always focused on outcomes (winning or losing a game, meeting or missing a sales goal, getting a promotion or laid off at work, or being either able or unable to get someone to like you) you will ALWAYS be disappointed and, more to our point, always FEEL like a failure. None of us can control outcomes. What we can control are the resources that we have been given and how prepared we are to use those resources when out of control circumstances inevitably lead to out of control outcomes.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here. We can INFLUENCE our circumstances which will lead to influenced outcomes and our ability to influence is based on our effort in the moment and the preparation that we have done ahead of time. Saying that we should focus on preparation instead of outcomes does not suggest that we are powerless or that we should not care. It is to emphasize that the best way to influence the outcome is to be prepared!

And, at the proverbial “end of the day”, we can find peace and rest in knowing that we did our best (put forth our maximum effort) and that we were as prepared as possible.

5. Realize there is more to life than comfort

Something that we know to be true but rarely act on. One of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt is:

“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”

Comfort is a gift not a lifestyle that should be pursued. The reason that I like to use the word “Train” instead of “Prepare” is because of the mental image evoked. Training conjures thoughts of hard work, sweat, and a lot of discomfort. If we will ever be fully what we were created to be we will have to find comfort in the uncomfortable.

I push my body and eat well because I cannot accomplish all that God has set before me if I allow the vessel He has placed me in to limit what is possible.

I strengthen my mind, always reading and learning and growing, because I need to be able to think clearly, apply the perspective of history to current events, and give others the benefit of knowledge they may not have access to so that I can function in any environment. I cannot allow intellectual laziness to hold me back.

I commit to the daily Spiritual disciples required of a follower of Christ so that I can know Him, rest in Him, and do His will.

6. Set goals to motivate training but don’t forget that training is not the goal. Training supports life and not the other way around.

This final one could be a post all of it’s own but I offer it here as “food for thought”. Goals motivate us train when we don’t feel like it or are not particularly clear on our purpose or the importance of today. They get us out of bed early to exercise, help us to read one more book, work a little later, or engage in an act of kindness even when we don’t feel like it. Goals are important because they keep our training on track.

But, training is not the goal. Training, often kept on track by goals, should not become the goal. It’s crazy how many people make exercise, or intellectual pursuit or spiritual discipline the goal of their lives.

Training is simply a tool that allows you to do what God wants you to do! Training is intended to SUPPORT your life not BECOME your life. Do not get these backwards or you will find yourself asking, even though you are putting in the work, “whats the point?” The point is always to be as prepared as possible to accomplish whatever God may want you to accomplish at a time of His choosing. Remain clear on the goal of training and the rest will fall into place.

Don’t Train Alone!

As tired as I am of watching so many fail because they were simply unprepared for the difficulties of life, I also understand that training for an unknown future is nearly impossible if we try to do it alone. But here’s the thing: there is no reason to do it alone! Find others who are working to grow in their relationship with God, learning to develop their minds and building healthy bodies and make them your training partners. There is help everywhere if we are willing to look. But that is the key. We have to understand just how important training is to our lives and the lives of those God has given us to influence if we are going to find the right partners so that we can train in the right way.

Failure-Experiencing consequences spiritually, mentally, or physically that are the result of an unprepared life.

Live your life in a way that will never cause you to say, “I wish I would have prepared. If only I had known.” The future is uncertain. Outcomes are out of our control. Focus on training and trust God to use you for the purpose for which you were created.

A Strong relationship with God + A Strong Mind + A Strong Body = A life well lived

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