What’s the longest range goal you’ve ever set? Did you accomplish your goal? Most of us lose the battle for gratitude because we don’t have the right plan.
Long-term battle plans
In England, they estimate it takes 250 to 300 years to build a cathedral. That’s a lot of planning and preparation.
At New College, Oxford beetles infested the oak beams in the dining hall. Trying to find replacement beams seemed impossible, except that the original architects planted oak trees with the express purpose of being used to replace the beams. When were those trees planted? Over 500 years prior to when they were needed.
I share these two stories to give you the perspective that your battles really aren’t that long and you would benefit from taking a much longer view of your life.
I shared on day 84 how I almost quit this Gratitude Challenge after only 80 days. 80 sounded like a big number until I read about the perseverance required to build a cathedral or win a military war.
Battle of Verdun
The battle of Verdun, in World War I, is the longest battle in recorded military history. Fought between France and Germany, over one million lives were lost in a battle that lasted 302 days. While the French ultimately recaptured their forts and villages, the battle was mired in deception, counterattacks, and heavy losses.
Can you imagine going to the frontline in that war? The likelihood of survival doesn’t sound very high, but personal survival wasn’t the goal—victory was.
Battle for our minds
You’re fighting a much more significant battle when you fight for control of your mind. Toxic thoughts and negativity lead to defeat and make you susceptible to the attacks of the enemy.
Dean Karnazes might be one of the craziest athletes of all time. In 2006, he set out to run a marathon in all 50 States in 50 days. He also ran a marathon to the South Pole in -13F weather. And he ran 350 miles in just shy of 81 hours. This guy is nuts.
5 Strategies for a Winning Battle Plan
To accomplish the audacious goal of running 50 marathons in 50 days, Dean needed 5 strategies that correspond with what we need to win the battle for gratitude.
#1: Right mindset.
If you’re facing the likelihood of death or the perils of ultra-distance running, your mind must be strong enough to control your body. This is why boot camp in the military is focused more on your mindset than physical training—though both are important.
The author of Hebrews shows you how to press through the pain and discomfort of trials, training, and discipline. If you can keep your eyes focused on the goal, you’ll be able to endure a lot more than you think.
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”—Hebrews 12:11 NLT
#2: Right vision.
The Bible reveals the way to endure pain and temporary setbacks is to have an enduring vision. Whether you set your eyes on a greater harvest (Gal.6:9) or crossing the finish line of faith (2 Tim. 4:7), the call is to never grow weary and to keep on fighting.
James promises, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 NLT).
#3: Right training.
I’ve never even run one marathon, so the thought of running 50 sounds daunting. Dean Karnazes didn’t wake up one day and decide to run 50 either. He created a training plan. He had already run multiple marathons, but he knew this dream would push his body and his mind to limits never before tested.
Working with doctors and trainers, he began to increase his strength and endurance and to improve his diet. He knew some of what he would face, but he also prepared his team for the unexpected (hurricanes and the need to run with an IV).
Likewise, when it comes to retraining your mind for gratitude, you need a training plan. Repetition is the key, but it’s not a mindless repeating of words like a mantra. No, you will need to purposefully retrain your mind to think gratefully. It may start out feeling inauthentic and fake, but eventually, the truth of God’s word will take root and replace your negative thinking.
Beware: this will take longer than you think—perhaps much longer.
#4: Right tools.
If you’re cutting your way through a jungle, using a dull machete would be a poor choice. Having a sharp machete would help, but it would be even better to have an army of people with sharp machetes helping you. The best tool would be a machine designed for cutting through jungles.
I have good news. You have access to the world’s best tool for carving a new path through the jungle of your mind: God’s Word.
Many people praise the power of positive affirmations these days. In fact, Angus Nelson mentioned that on day 62. Positive affirmations are good, but unless they are founded on the truths in God’s word, they will be like using a dull sword in a thick jungle.
The author of Hebrews reminds us that “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT).
Memorizing and meditating on scripture is your best tool and training plan.
#5: Right team.
King David said in Psalm 37:24, “Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” God is our team captain, our cheerleader, our physician, and our trainer.
But he also designed us to live in relationships. Just like an individual soldier can’t normally win a battle, we were designed to fight and live together. We need brothers and sisters to remind us of our goals, to pick us up when we fall down, and to keep telling us the truth.
Pastor Craig Groeschel illustrates this on a recent podcast episode by telling the host that she’s a great interviewer. He observes that she doesn’t seem to believe him, but he says if he and others affirm her repeatedly, she will eventually start to believe this.
When it comes to gratefulness, we help each other by telling one another things we are grateful for about God, our lives, and each other.
Creating your battle plan
A war is comprised of many battles. The way to win the war is to keep winning battles and that starts by winning today’s battle. If you happen to lose or fall down, don’t quit— regroup and keep fighting.
Think through your battle plan. Which of these 5 strategies do you need to strengthen? What’s one thing you can do today?
Father, I thank you for creating me in your image. You made my mind like your mind. I can think more deeply than I thought and I conquer the toxic thoughts that try to consume my mind. Train me to use your word more effectively. Surround me with people whom I can help and who will help me. Fill me with hope and keep my eyes fixed on the harvest you promised and the prize that awaits me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.