One fun thing I’ve noticed about the American Ninja Warrior television show is the creative way they invent records for just about everything. The challenge isn’t just about being the first person to make it to the top of Mount Midoriyama. The athletes in this competition celebrate every achievement they can think of!
Every time builders create a new obstacle for one of the courses, the commentators make note of the first person to conquer it. They know who has completed each course the fastest—for the season and for all time. They keep track of several other achievements, too. This year, for instance, Kacy became the first woman to complete the qualifying course and earn her right to compete in Las Vegas. Jon became the oldest man ever to qualify. Meagan made it two obstacles farther in the Las Vegas competition than any other woman ever has. And, of course, Brian currently holds the record for coming closer to that final obstacle than anyone else. Every week, it seems, someone is setting a new record for going farther or faster in some way than those who’ve gone before.
Hmm. I wonder if I could be the first Army chaplain’s wife to attempt the course. (One giant jump, splash!) Yeah. I think I’ll leave that record for someone else.
I am applying the concept to my personal workouts, though. I have an overall speed goal I’m trying to reach. Some days (like today!) I’ll successfully set a personal best record that brings me closer to this goal. Other days I watch for other records I can set. I may try to run farther than I have before (instead of faster). Or I may start out at the faster pace I’m reaching for overall and try to maintain it further than I ever have before. Or maybe I’ll run for a longer period of time between walking intervals or with a steeper incline than I’ve ever used. Reaching these goals encourages and strengthens me as I work toward my overall goal.
What’s really exciting about this idea is that it works for any discipline—even the spiritual ones. Maybe you’ve never read through the whole Bible and find that idea just too daunting. Instead of trying to reach that goal, challenge yourself to read just a little every day for thirty days instead (even if you only read a verse or two each day). You can also challenge yourself to read just the New Testament or one book of the Bible that sounds interesting to you. Set a goal, reach it, celebrate your success—then set another goal.
Prayer is another spiritual discipline. If praying is new to you, the thought of kneeling for an extended amount of time, talking and listening to God, may seem impossible, if not unrealistic. So make your goal to set aside a few minutes for prayer each day or to write in a prayer journal every day for a month or simply to pray for family members each morning as they leave the house for the day. Set a goal that will challenge but not overwhelm you, then reach for it, celebrate your success, and move forward from there.
One caution, however: remember to offer yourself tons of grace. Whether you’re running or reading or praying, you don’t have to set a new record every day. Some days it’s enough just to attempt the course. Ask God to help you know when you should push yourself a little harder or try something new, when maintaining your current pace is best, and when you must slow down to give yourself a break. We’re pressing on toward the goal, but we won’t reach it if we break down and stop.
Father, thank You for the ability to train ourselves through discipline and diligence. Please help us to set good goals, to reach for them with all the effort we can muster, to know when to rest, and to count on You for strength and endurance. We can’t do anything on our own, but with Your help, we’ll progress steadily until You take us home, triumphant at last. Amen.