My wife and I work out together five days a week, whether we want to or not (and oftentimes it’s “not”). Anyone who has a regular exercise routine knows that you have to set goals. How much weight are you going to use? How many repetitions are you going to do? How many miles are you going to run, or walk, or crawl? What kind of gains are you looking for? It’s been said that you’ll never reach higher than the goal you set for yourself.
When I started getting serious about exercise, I could barely do two pull-ups. Now I could have set my goal at two and quit, feeling that I had reached it. But I didn’t. Instead, I set my goal at five, even though I had to use a chair to help me do the last three. Over time, however, my two turned into three, then four, and finally five, leading me to set another goal – this time for ten. You get the picture.
As in the physical life, so it is in the spiritual life. If we want to improve, we need to set our spiritual goals high, and then bend every energy to reach those goals. While it is true that “Human effort avails nothing without divine power,” it is equally true that without human endeavor, divine effort is with many of no avail.” (Prophets & Kings, p. 486). This is why Jesus said “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Lk. 13:24). Some will seek, but they refuse to strive.
These spiritual goals may begin with spending regular daily time in devotion to God through prayer and Bible study. They could include things like more regular attendance at church meetings and functions, taking more of an active role in your local church, or committing to sharing your faith more intentionally. You may choose to make changes in what we watch, listen to and eat. You may aim at speaking more kind and encouraging words, and being a more devoted spouse, parent or friend. As you commit yourself to excellence in your spiritual life, God will provide the increase. So what are you waiting for? Reach higher!
Remember that you will never reach a higher standard than you yourself set. Then set your mark high, and step by step, even though it be by painful effort, by self-denial and sacrifice, ascend the whole length of the ladder of progress. Let nothing hinder you. Fate has not woven its meshes about any human being so firmly that he need remain helpless and in uncertainty. Opposing circumstances should create a firm determination to overcome them. The breaking down of one barrier will give greater ability and courage to go forward. Press with determination in the right direction, and circumstances will be your helpers, not your hindrances. (Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 331-32).