Who’s Programming You?

We are all given a limited amount of time in this life, and we all want to make the most of it.  But how intentional are we about who we spend our time with?  For good or for ill, the people we spend the lion’s share of our time with will impact who we become.  Are your associations building you into the type of person you want to be?

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Anyone Bringing You Down?

It’s been said that your income will be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  I contend that often your habits, worldview, and maybe even your physique will also tend to mirror that of the people you let into the moments and hours of your life.  If you’re a part of a group of successful people, over time you’ll tend to build yourself into a successful person too.  If you hang around with losers, you’re well on your way to becoming one.

Observe the Words

A good way to distinguish successful people whom you’ll want to model from the kind of people who’ll bring you down is to listen to what they’re predominantly talking about.  Are they more positive and encouraging?  Or do they spend a good deal of time speaking about others negatively?  Is their conversation about future goals they have, and the means they’re planning to accomplish those goals?  Or are there frequent diatribes of blame:  I’d be better off but for what so and so did; If I weren’t so unlucky, I wouldn’t have all these problems.  A person who you want shaping your character will be speaking positively about future events more than he’ll be speaking negatively about past ones.

Avoid Pride

One quick disclaimer before you think I recommend sitting in your own personal ivory tower looking down on all the poor untouchables down there: there is a distinction between choosing to be part of a toxic circle of friends and spending time with people in order to evangelize, mentor, or disciple them.  The former is hazardous to your future, the latter is vital.  Only make sure that you’re spending enough time with strong leaders that you are strong enough yourself to influence a weaker group, rather than being influenced by it.

Can I Do That?

But where can I find a group of strong and godly leaders?  Why would they want to hang out with me?  I have two answers to this point—a short term and a long term answer.  First, you already know a few winners, and I think if you’ll spend a few moments considering it, you can think of few high-quality people in your life who’d answer your phone call.  Start there.  As you intentionally work on those relationships, you’ll be exposed to other winners naturally, and better than that, you’ll actually start to see and recognize the qualities of good leaders in those around you.  And one great thing about strong, godly, successful leaders is that they absolutely love to help people like you who are looking to grow themselves!

Own Your Time

Limit your time around negative people.  Particularly if your core group is of this sort, you’ll have a hard time keeping your distance, but you must gradually ramp down the time and replace it with time with positive role models.  If your negative group is family, you’ve got an even more challenging task.  But you must do it—for your good and ultimately theirs.  Get strong enough over time by being with winners that you’re capable of being around the weaker group and influencing those people positively.  And finally, recognize that you can create boundaries with people—even if those boundaries make people mad.  In fact, if your boundary makes a person mad, they’ve just identified themselves as the kind of person that you definitely need to set boundaries with!  A winner will respect others’ boundaries, and even if he feels slighted, he’ll approach you in a gentle and respectful manner, because that’s how winners behave.

Simple, Not Easy

Today’s lesson can be a tough one to live, particularly if the discussion of “toxic groups” brings the names of a few close friends to mind.  But just as the flight staff tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child, the best way to help your negative friends is to become a real leader yourself.  We’re here for you along the way, as is our Father in heaven.  Follow Him first and you’ll never be last.

The Intimidated Witness?

Caught Red-Handed

Imagine you walked into a grocery store just in time to see a young man slip an item off the shelf and into his pocket.  As he turns toward the exit, a security guard grabs his arm, saying, “Come with me, sir.”  The man ends up being arrested, and you are called as a witness to the court.

What would you feel like, being asked to honestly tell your story to the court?  Would you be hesitant, or would you share clearly and confidently the plain facts of the day?  Would you tell your friends and coworkers what had happened?

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The Medicine You Need

Or, take a more positive example:  let’s say you came down with a terrible disease.  You began losing function in your fingers and toes, and doctors told you that you only had a few months to live.  Then one day, a bottle of medicine is sitting on your kitchen table, marked simply, “drink me and live.” You drink it, and are immediately and completely healed!  Would you tell people your story?  Would you seek out others with the same disease in order to help them be healed as well?

These stories and questions seem so obvious:  of course we’d want to tell people!  Even though some of us would be intimidated to stand before a court, we’d want the truth to come out, and we’d certainly tell our friends and neighbors the story.  If we were healed from a terminal disease, of course we’d want to share our happiness with others, and find people who are sick too in order to help them.  But do you know that there’s something many of us have that is infinitely more important than any medicine, and concerns a court case much more significant than petty theft?

Something that Matters Much More

This truth is of the most vital importance, and will have lasting consequences.  It is this:  all people are estranged from God.  This all-powerful and holy being who gave us life also gave us a choice.  We could follow Him and live His way, or reject His love and rebel against His commands.  Our parents Adam and Eve chose rebellion, and we have been a sin-stained race ever since.  God requires perfect obedience to every statute in His Word, and to trespass once is to be guilty before Him.  How many lies do you have to tell to be a liar?  Only one.  And God will let no liars into His eternal Kingdom.

This is the disease that you and I have.  It truly is terminal, for if we die in this state of sin, we will spend eternity apart from our Creator.  One day, we will stand in judgment before the Lord of all, and on our own, there is no hope for any verdict but guilty.

Hope for the Hopeless

The gospel is the good news that there is hope for us.  While we were still sinners, God became a man, the man Jesus Christ, and came to the earth to live the perfect life we couldn’t.  When He died on the cross, he took your punishment and mine, and rising from the grave on the third day demonstrated His power and authority over death.  Any who will turn from sin, turn to Christ, and place their exclusive faith in Him will be saved.  Jesus’ blood will wash us white as snow.

Small Changes for Big Results

We’re just about to begin the second week of the new year—how are you doing on your goals so far?  If you’re like most of us, this week it will be harder than last week to stick with your new habits.  As the excitement of pursuing a better or healthier life wears off, we all are very tempted to revert back into old ways that are familiar.  How can we head this tendency off at the pass?

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This Is Hard

I find it helpful to recognize that creating a new habit or doing what you’ve never done before is difficult.  Take fitness for example:  it may not seem like a very tall order to work out for 15 minutes for 4 or more days per week, but especially if you’re accustomed to 0 workouts per week normally, the new habit will be a challenge to acquire.

Hard, but Temporarily So

After recognizing that maintaining a new habit it difficult, it’s also important to recognize that it won’t always be so hard to maintain.  After you breech the 30-day mark, you’re essentially built a new routine and continuing with it is much easier.  So, when it’s hard to choose the apple over the slice of cake on day 18, be encouraged by remembering that your good habit of healthy eating will soon be much easier.

Keep Your Eye On What Matters

Thirdly, you’ll do best to focus on being consistent with the habit instead of demanding perfection of yourself every day.  For example, if your new habit is to get fitter, focus on getting to the gym for a workout at least 3 times per week.  Even if you don’t have a killer workout every time, you’re reinforcing the good habit of getting to the gym.  Later, once you own the habit, you can focus on getting the most out of each minute you’re at the gym.

Find an Encourager

And finally, seek accountability from winners in your life.  If you’d like to become more regular with your Bible devotions, find a godly friend and ask if he would be willing to meet with you once a week and let you share what you’ve learned in your devotions that week.  The coming meeting will help motivate you to spend time in the Word each day so that you have something to share at the meeting.  A great friend like this can be a great encouragement too in those times when you fall or fail—helping to pick you back up and help you get back on your good track.

Let’s Go Together

Good habits are hard to acquire, but once acquired, they can take us to extraordinary places.  Never underestimate what 20 minutes per day can do to improve your life when it’s toward a valuable purpose and repeated consistently for a lifetime.  Let’s make 2013 the beginning of your thriving life!