What is the opposite of relentless? Some would say intermittent, short-lived, or irresolute. I think it’s settled.
Let me explain.
While the Apostle Paul encourages us to discover contentment in our circumstances (Phil 4:10-19), he also challenges us to approach faith like a soldier or athlete embraces discipline.
In 1 Cor: 9:24, he says: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!”
If we want to grow in righteousness or gratefulness, it makes sense that we would develop a relentless focus. While being grace-filled, it’s also possible to create a disciplined life that presses toward the prize of God’s blessing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
7 ways to develop a relentless focus on gratitude
#1: Never settle for good enough
In business, we often advocate creating a minimum viable product and mottos like “Published is better than perfection.” And this wisdom serves a purpose to keep us from getting stuck in the pursuit of unachievable perfection.
But when it comes to our faith we need to model elite athletes who constantly challenge themselves with phrases like, “Win the day” or “Getting better every day.”
Paul says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Cor. 9:25).
Tim Grover is a performance coach who worked with elite athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade. In his book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, he describes the tenacity of high performers. They never settle and constantly push themselves to become better. They know they can never stop growing.
Some of these traits can become selfish and darkly competitive. We serve in a community of faith and we want everyone to cross the finish line with God’s blessing. But I would venture to say we can’t embrace an “Everyone’s a winner” philosophy. When we do that we lower the bar and make it acceptable to stop trying.
#2: Intentional focus
When an athlete or musician sees something they need to improve, they will develop an intentional regimen designed to address that weakness. It typically takes hundreds or thousands of repetitions to create a new skill or to replace an old habit that hinders their performance.
Most of us aren’t willing to do the hard work. We stop short and in the process, we might ruin our original habit, but never fully develop the new habit. This is what separates the elite athlete from the rest of us.
How does this translate to faith and gratitude? We can create a deliberate practice of gratitude like Gerald J. Leonard discussed on day 48.
Before discovering grace, Martin Luther would flagellate himself over his sins. He took Paul’s words to discipline (or buffet) himself too literally. Nonetheless, this provides a picture of a relentless drive to become holy.
#3: Create a relentless training regimen
Fitness trainers know that the body regularly hits plateaus in our growth. After six weeks or so we become used to a new routine, so we need to change it up to avoid decline.
Likewise in our pursuit of holiness. Do you ever find yourself coasting in your quiet times? Going through the motions?
Maybe it’s time to change things up.
#4: Find relentless training partners
Just like athletes rely on coaches and trainers to push themselves, we all need this in our faith. It’s more than consuming sermons or listening to podcasts (but please don’t stop listening).
Who do you surround yourself with who pushes you to become better without condemning you when you fall down? Do you need to find some different people to encourage you?
#5: Identify weaknesses and obstacles
We really only need to listen to the Holy Spirit to know our weaknesses, but sometimes God uses people to point these out. Elite performers are typically their own harshest critics, but they invite a small group of people they trust to help them improve.
However you get help seeing your weaknesses, improvement always starts with an honest assessment of where we are and where we need to grow. Then we need to identify what will stand in the way of that growth and create a battle plan.
#6: Keep your vision before you
Olympic athletes often visualize standing on the platform receiving a gold medal to motivate themselves on the long days of training. Likewise, Paul created a clear vision of standing before the Father receiving a crown of glory.
Spend time creating a vision for yourself of crossing the finish line of faith. What will that feel like? What can you see, hear, smell, and taste?
#7: Relentlessly avoid sin and pursue righteousness
Paul is motivated to discipline his body (and his mind) as an athlete so that he won’t be disqualified. If he’s disqualified he can’t win the prize.
Our goal is more than avoiding disqualification, but it certainly starts there. The ultimate goal is being rewarded for living a righteous, holy, and faithful life.
This kind of relentless focus can be applied to any element of our faith, but it’s particularly relevant to gratitude. Especially, if we’re normally ungrateful.
In this Gratitude Challenge, we’ve been running for around eight weeks right now. I suspect you’ve developed some new habits and thought patterns. But it’s time to switch things up.
Here are some ideas for mixing up your gratitude training regimen:
- Increase your reps – Instead of writing one thank you card per week, write two or three
- Lengthen your time – Instead of journaling for three minutes, make it six.
- Add exercises – If you’re starting and ending the day with a word of thanks, put two or three calendar appointments down in the middle of the day to stop, breathe, and express thanks
- Introduce a stretch goal – Fast for one day per week and on that day spend extended time journaling grateful thoughts
Father, I praise you for being holy, holy, holy. You don’t have to try to be holy, but nonetheless, you are constantly in pursuit of excellence and glory. I praise you for your grace, that you accept me just as I am and that you don’t condemn me. Thank you that you want so much more for me. I pray you will give me a holy and relentless desire to become more like Jesus, grateful, loving, and kind. Use me for your kingdom purposes. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.