Belgium, Rome, and You

 

Team USA’s joyride in the World Cup came to an end last week. USA made it to the top 16 in Brazil but lost to Belgium 2-1. How many seasonal games did it take to reach the final 16? How many practice sessions before those games? This is not a rhetorical question. Seriously contemplate. Feel the emotional, mental, and physical exertion required.

The saying, “Rome was not built in a day” is fact not some mystical sound bite. Origins of the city that would become the capital of the Roman Empire began in 753 BC. Some historian’s record the reign of Titus Aurelius Antonius until A.D. 138 as the pinnacle year of Rome; a nearly 900 year build. How many lives were lost from political intrigue or on the battle field before Rome’s pinnacle? How many people studied and how much money was spent in order to build the aqueducts, coliseums, roads, and cities associated with Rome?

Whether yesteryear or this year, the message is clear; it takes time, hard work and discipline to accomplish anything significant. Elton Trueblood said, “In following what comes naturally or easily, life simply ends in confusion, and in consequent disaster. Without the discipline of time we spoil the next day the night before, and without the discipline of prayer we are likely to end by having practically no experience of the divine-human encounter.”

God encourages His children to “work hard” in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Jesus exemplified this work ethic. Frequently, the Bible records “before daybreak” or “very early in the morning” Jesus was praying, working, planning, or moving. This was not novel to Jesus or a new teaching from him. God taught through the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”

What professional, dietary, physical, business, or relational goal do you yearn for? How do you plan to attain it? Honestly, I do not know how to advise you. What I do know is that it will not come instantly. Rather, moments worth celebrating come with a plan, tenacity, quality goals, and help from your teammates.

Begin with the Bible. Do not relegate it to the history dump or the irrelevant section of your brain. It does not just contain truth. It is truth; revealed by the God who created the world and every living thing. He is not a clockmaker who made the clock, wound it up, and left. He is actively involved every day in every way. As John Wesley, a leader in the Methodist renewal movement said, “He has condescended to teach us the way. Oh give me that book. At any price give me the book of God.”

Michael Cusick in “Surfing for God” admonishes people to “Practice intentional thinking. What you think about is ultimately what you become. What we once called ‘the power of positive thinking’ is increasingly backed by scientific evidence. The more attention your brain pays to given input, the stronger and more elaborately it will be wired and retained in the brain. When we give our attention and focus to good things, like peace, joy, and self-control, our brains rewire themselves in a way that allows us to experience those good things. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to be intentional about what we give ourselves to?”

Repetition may be boring, but it has power. Studies show that repeated behaviors, over time, cause structural changes in the brain. These changes can be negative, causing compulsion and addiction. Or they can be positive, rewiring the brain so that negative stimuli such as porn and lust are no longer a reflexive reaction. Repetition helps lock behaviors in the brain in the same way an athlete develops muscle memory. Be encouraged. Your struggle with sin is a learned response, Mr. Cusick writes, in many ways, just like the athlete. Your brain can unlearn, and it can change.

The American soccer team is still a few years away from winning a World Cup experts say. It is attainable as are your goals and dreams.

 

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