What is your goal? During this time of Easter we read story after story about the life of the early church and more precisely about the lives of the apostles. What made them so effective? What motivated them? Thousands of people converted in a single day, people were cured and they faced persecution bravely. I was at an adult education meeting recently at my parish, one of the persons at the meeting commented a study was done of parish ministries and their effectiveness. The study showed that were a ministry was run by a true disciple, full of the Holy Spirit, the ministry was very effective. In the ones that did not have that type of leadership the ministries floundered. This got me reminiscing about a time in my life about 4 years ago when I was praying and received the same message 4 days in a row. The message was, “This is what you must do to have an effective ministry.” A curious statement that I promptly ignored the first couple of days. That message finally sank in and I realized that I had a goal, an effective ministry and there was something that I had to do to achieve that goal. I needed to form myself.
“All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it. Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:23-27
It is a simple fact that people who achieve, have goals. Having a goal is the important first step. The goal needs to be reasonable and attainable. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” From the prophet Jeremiah we read, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” We were recently discussing this in our adult formation class on the importance of having a spiritual plan. Our goal, as reflected in the bible verse above, is to get to heaven and eternal life promised to us by Jesus Christ. Keeping the goal in mind will help us as we train for our life lived in heaven. Desiring the correct goal will help us with our motivation.
I am currently reading a book, The Temperament God Gave You, by Art and Lorraine Bennett. The whole book is excellent and talks about temperaments within the context of our Catholic faith. There is a chapter on motivation that talks about motivating ourselves, our families and others. I like where it said that the greatest motivator is love. Taking that a step further the greatest motivator is God who is love. it is God that can motivate us to be far more than we ever thought we could be. This book has given me wonderful insights in motivating not only myself but others as well. I already see it paying dividends with my children.
Every athlete, disciple, must discipline himself in every way, 1 Cor. 9:25. This is my third year in formation for the permanent diaconate. The book, The Heart of the Diaconate by James Keating, says, “The diaconate is not given to a man because he is the best or possesses some special skill set but rather because he is weak and needs discipline.” (paraphrased) This is becoming more and more obvious as I go through this program. Formation asks a lot of us and provides a structure in which even someone like me can develop the discipline necessary to finish the race. I would encourage everyone to make some steps to develop the disciplines that will win for them an imperishable crown. Jesus desires that all of us will join him in the Kingdom of Heaven but we do need to train to reach the goal. What will you do to develop the disciplines of discipleship?