How to break out of a rut
Today we will focus on how to make the most of the New Year. My title today is “How to get out of the ruts we can get stuck in”
… So we can move ahead in faith.
We won't be successful at anything if we don't get mobile.
Successful people are people of action.
Paul was a man of action.
Successful people know how to get things done.
And dreams and goals must be put into action if they are ever going to be taken care of.
Someone once said, "Even if you are on the right track, you are going to get run over if you just sit still."
James 2:17, in your outline, says, "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
Dreams not accompanied by action are also dead.
If we are going to be successful, we've got to get started.
And this is hard. So we have to learn to be self starters.
Unfortunately there are very few self starters in life.
Do you know that if more husbands were self starters, fewer wives would be cranks?
The sad fact is, we tend to settle into ruts.
Someone else said, "Most of us live our lives the way we watch TV. The program isn't that hot, but we are too lazy to change channels."
How do we get started on the road to success?
Life begins when we get moving. And so today, the first step to success... How do you break out of a rut?
"What does it take to get us moving?"
That's Question A...
A. WHAT MOTIVATES ME TO GET MOVING?
What gets you up and going?... to do something about your life.
There are many different things that motivate us but there are three very common ones.
1. PAIN - The Prodigal Son
The first is seen in the Prodigal Son.
Read passage :
Luke 15:14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
Luke 15:15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.
Luke 15:16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
Luke 15:17 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
Luke 15:18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
What made him get up and go? The answer is not hunger. The answer is PAIN.
Hunger pains were part of it. But his situation got too painful for him to bear, so he got moving.
Sadly, many of us are like that too. We have to hit rock bottom before we get moving. Only when the pain is unbearable, do we get up and go.
Now pain is not the best motivator but it is very effective. And because of our stubbornness, we force God to use this motivation on us more than he would like.
Pain motivates. It's not when we see the light but when we feel the heat that we get moving. When we get desperate.
We rarely change until we get desperate.
That pain is often emotional pain.
I'm tired of being depressed. I'm tired of arguing. I'm tired of worrying all the time. I'm tired of feeling bad. I'm so fed up, I'm going to do something about it. Good!
How true is Prov 20:30 GN, "Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways."
When I have gone through times of pain, God has spoken to me and taught me things I could not have learned any other way.
The second motivation that gets us moving is...
We see the second motivation in the story of Elijah.
Look at 1 Kings 17:2-9 GN.
1 Ki 17:2 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah:
1 Ki 17:3 "Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.
1 Ki 17:4 You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there."
1 Ki 17:5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there.
1 Ki 17:6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
1 Ki 17:7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
1 Ki 17:8 Then the word of the LORD came to him:
1 Ki 17:9 "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food."
"God said,` the brook will supply you with water to drink,'... so Elijah went and stayed by Cherith Brook. After a while the brook dried up... then the Lord said to Elijah, `NOW GET UP AND GO."
Those of you who were here for the Elijah series in the evening have vivid memories of Garry Fraser as Elijah, dressed up in his sheep skin car seat covers, sitting on the edge of Brook Cherith, the baptistry, while ravens brought him thick shakes and garlic bread.
God had sent Elijah to the Brook but it was now time to get going. So, how was God to get Elijah to GET UP AND GO?
The brook dried up. Now the answer to the second motivation is not thirst... but PRESSURE.
And everything was going great and Elijah was being supernaturally looked after. He was very satisfied and very happy and very comfortable and then... the brook dried up.
That's pressure. No water. Can't hang around long in those conditions. Got to get up and go.
Has your brook ever dried up? The Brook at the St George Bank or wherever?
What happened, God? Didn't you promise to take care of me. But look! All the bills are piling in and the brook's dried up. Don't you love me any more?
Yes. He sure does. He's just using pressure to get us moving.
God often uses finances to push us in a new direction... the lack of them.
Pressure motivates us to get out of a rut.
The doctor says, "Lose 20 kilos or you're going to die."
Your boss says, "Improve your performance or you're fired."
Teacher says, "Get an A on this test or you fail the subject."
Now pain and pressure are tremendous motivators... while they last.
The problem with those motivators is, once the pain and the pressure subsides, what happens?
We go back to our normal ways. We go on a diet until we lose the weight, but does that permanently change our eating habits? No!!
We cram for the final, until the final is over, but that change our study habits? No!!!
The third thing that motivates us to change is what happened to Paul on the Damascus Road..
Look at Acts 9:3-6
Acts 9:3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
Acts 9:4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
Acts 9:5 "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
Acts 9:6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
"Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice... `Who are You Lord?' Paul asked. `I am Jesus... now GET UP AND GO into the city and You'll be told what you must do."
He got a flash of insight, an inspiration, a new vision.
Now, Paul was moving. He was moving all right. But he was moving in the right direction.
What got Paul moving in the right direction?
PERSPECTIVE. That was the motivation. God gave him a new perspective. And he got up and went, and never stopped.
Now, many of us get up and go, the moment we get that new perspective, when we first meet Christ.
But maybe, that was a long time ago. And maybe you have got into a rut and need a fresh perspective to get you going again.
God's got plenty of fresh perspectives for us if we are willing to act upon them.
But He knows our hearts and he's never throws his pearls before swine. Therefore, if he knows that perspective is not going to be a sufficient motivator for us, then he'll have to use pain or pressure.
Make it easy for yourself. Look for God's perspectives and get moving on them.
We need to be teachable. Sometimes, we can carry a problem around for years and years and one day, we see the light.
We say, "Wow. Now I see it. Why didn't I see it earlier. It's so clear now. Wow, that's it. That's my problem. That's why I haven't been making it in life." We get that new perspective.
We could call it vision in many cases. I love people to come to me and say, "God has given me a vision of what he wants me to be and do and I am so excited about changing.
That's great. But we've still got to act on it. And for most of us, it means getting out of some kind of a rut.
So, Part B. HOW CAN I BREAK OUT OF A RUT?
(Six steps to get me moving) These are A B C D E F.
1. ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY OWN LIFE
There are three kinds of people in this category. There are accusers. There are excusers. And there are choosers.
Accusers blame everybody else. Their favorite phrase is, " It's all your fault."
And they love to pass the buck.
Now we have been doing this for a long time. From the very beginning of creation, we have had accusers... people who want a blame everybody else for their failure.
Adam blamed his wife. Eve blamed Satan.
It's not my fault. It's all your fault. Those are the accusers.
EXCUSERS -Then there are the excusers.
And they have an excuse for everything. Why they can justify their failure.
Rationalisations. The reason I'm not making it in life is because when I was very young my mom held me under the water in the bath tub and I haven't been the same since.
Or I was locked in the cupboard and it's affected me for life.
That's why I have developed all these resentments and therefore, I'm a failure at life.
Excuses, excuses... Those are the excusers.
The fact is, accusers and excusers are really just losers.
Then there is a third kind. And that's choosers.
They accept responsibility and when they make a mistake they admit it.
They are the people affirmed in Proverbs 28:13: "A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. (They are the accusers and the excusers) But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance."
That's the chooser. He/she chooses to admit, confess and move ahead.
So, we are to...Stop blaming others. Accusers.
Who are you blaming for your unhappiness? A husband? A wife? A boss? A parent?
Stop making excuses. Excusers.
What excuses are you giving for your lack of success.
When we make a mistake... admit it.
When we are in a rut... admit it.
If I admit the areas that I'm wrong in, this verse tells me, I get another chance.
But if I refuse to admit the areas that I am weak in, I will never be successful. I will remain in my rut.
So, the first step in breaking out of a rut is to assume responsibility for my own life.
Be a chooser. Not an accuser or an excuser or a loser. Choose to be happy. Choose to be successful. Choose to get out of that rut. Assume responsibility.
2. BELIEVE I CAN CHANGE
Stop saying "I can't" and start saying, "I can".
The person who says, "I can't" and the person who says, "I can". Who's right?
The fact is they both are. They both are because attitude determines ability.
This step may take a reprogramming of your mind.
Look at: Romans 12:2 ".. let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of mind."
Paul is saying here, "Success starts in your mind." How I see myself.
God came to Moses. Moses said, "God, you've got the wrong guy. I'm a nobody. You can't use me. I'm a nobody."
God came to Gideon. Gideon said, "God, you've got the wrong guy. I'm the youngest person in the poorest family in the smallest tribe." He had an inferiority problem.
God came to Jeremiah. Jeremiah said, "Hey, God. I'm just a teenager."
It's typical. When God wants to use us, the first thing we do is to put up excuses and say, "I can't. You've got the wrong guy Lord. I can't do it."
And so God has to build our faith first. And we need to let him build our faith to the point where, instead of saying, I can't, we say I CAN.
Look at Mark 9:23, "Everything is possible for the person who believes."
I can get out of that rut... despite all my past failures.
With my reprogrammed mind and my newfound source of strength, there's nothing that God and I can't do.
That's step 2. Believe I can change. If I don't believe it, then guess what. It will never happen. I will stay in that rut and rot.
C. CLARIFY WHAT I REALLY WANT.
If I want to get out of this rut, where do I want to go?
If I want to change, what do I want to change? How do I want to change?
We need to know these things because James 1:8 says...
Look at: James 1:8, "A double minded man is unstable in all he does."
We need to clarify... make up our minds. What do I really want to change? What help do I want from God?
James also says, "You have not because you ask not." Maybe I've never clarified it and prayed it to God. I could have had that thing ages ago. I could have been out of that rut years ago.
Well, I wasn't. So the time to get out is NOW.
Writing down goals is helpful.
A famous psychologist reported that he had discovered through many years of practice that the most helpful thing that he could do in helping people find happiness is to help them establish personal goals.
But a lot of people just don't know what they want. They are not happy.
Of course not. Because they are unstable, like the verse says.
A lot of people are even unstable about the most foundational things, about which there should be no doubt.
A lot of people are unstable about their marriage. You shouldn't be. It was for better or for worse, remember. So, it turned out worse. OK deal with the problem. get help. Get out of that rut in your relationship.
But a lot of people are half in and half out of their marriage. They can't decide whether they're going to stay with it or whether they're going to get out of it. They can't get out of it and they can't get on with it and they're miserable.
Why? "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
And if you really want to break out of that rut, clarify what I really want in this marriage. And then commit yourself to it and start saying, "Lord change me." Not, "Lord change my wife." Not, "Lord change my husband." "Lord change my kids." "Lord change me."
The only way we ever change other people is by changing ourselves.
Because when I change and I start responding in a new way, not in those typical, predictable, habitual patterns, then all of a sudden my wife has to change because I don't relate in the same way any more.
And if there's a negative behaviour going on in my marriage, the first thing I need to ask is, how am I reinforcing it? Because nobody continues a negative without a pay-off.
Clarify exactly what you want in your life.
D. DON'T WAIT FOR IDEAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
So many people say, "I'm going to change but the time just isn't right yet. I'm waiting for ...". And then they have their little excuse.
Look at: Ecclesiastes 11:4 (Good News), "If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything."
He says, "Hey the farmer, he doesn't say, "Oh well, it's not perfect crop conditions, therefore I'm going to wait."
It will never be perfect. So, he has got to plant anyway.
Living Bible, same verse, says, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done."
Whatever we are going to do, we have got to do in less than perfect circumstances most of the time.
Why don't you settle down and spend more time with your husband? Why don't you spend more time with your wife? "Well I'm going to once things settle down."... It's never going to settle down.
Why don't you spend more time with your kids? "Oh I plan to once our schedule gets a little less hectic... It isn't going to get less hectic. It's only going to get busier.
If you're going to do it, don't wait for perfect circumstances. Because they're never going to come.
You see folks, perfectionism does a couple of things to us: it keeps us in ruts.
#1 it produces procrastination. "It's not the right time."
#2 it paralyses potential.
You know, "If I can't do it perfectly, then I'm just not going to do it." That attitude will keep you well entrenched in that rut.
If you want to get out of a rut..,
Assume responsibility for your own life.
Believe you can change.
Clarify what you want. And then,
Don't wait for ideal circumstances."
5. EXERCISE MY BODY.
You say, "Oh no. You've been watching too many of those late night TV show commercials.
Hear me out, OK. Hear me out.
Notes: 1 Timothy 4:8, "Physical exercise has its value."
You say, "Dwight, why are you talking about exercise in the middle of a message on how to break out of a rut?"
I'll tell you why. Because counsellors are finding more and more that, today, most people are simply too tired to change.
It's not a matter of knowing what they ought to do. It's simply, "I'm just too tired. I can't be bothered."
And fatigue is a major cause of procrastination.
"I'm just too tired." That's the basic problem.
The fact is God made our bodies for movement. He made us for activity. And we live in a sedentary society where most of the day we sit still.
God made our body for activity. Activity is important. And we are realising it more and more.
Have you noticed when you go to hospital now, how quickly they get you up walking around after surgery. It's incredible.
As soon as the last stitch is in, "Alright, off the table. Come on. Get moving. You don't think we are going to wheel back to your room do you? You're going to walk down there. It's good for you."
Why? Because doctors know that inactivity kills. And the quickest way to get healed is to get moving.
Now let me make a parallel. You want to get out of a rut? The quickest way to get out of a rut is to first get your body moving.
Something happening makes something happen. You'll feel better, you'll look better, you'll live longer.
There are spiritual reasons too for looking after our bodies.
The fact is, the Bible says, "God created your body. Jesus paid for body. The Holy Spirit, if you're a Christian, lives inside your body. And the bible teaches that we've got to take care of it.
Now I'm talking to myself as always.
You see, there's a principle that says, to get energy (and that's what we all need in order to change), to get energy, we've got to expend energy.
People who go to counsellors for depression these days often get the advice... start walking. If you're depressed, start walking. Because it will help.
The most spiritual advice that some of us can get this morning is to start taking better care of our bodies. Because that will really make a difference in our life.
By the way, I discovered a great verse this week for mothers of teenagers. Acts 9:34 (Good News) "Get up and make your bed."
Assume responsibility for my own life.
Believe I can change.
Clarify what I really want.
Don't wait for perfect circumstances, they never come. Exercise my body because physical exercise will give me the energy to do what I need to do to make changes in my career, my life, my family, whatever.
And then F... 6. FIRE AWAY: DO IT NOW.
i.e. Do it now. Get into it.
One husband used to keep saying to his wife, "But Honey, I'm aiming to change." His wife said, "Well it's about time you pulled the trigger."
We are always aiming, "One of these days, I'm aiming to make a difference in my life."
Great! Pull the trigger.
These are three words that could change your life: DO IT NOW.
NOTES: Proverbs 27:1 (Good News) "Never boast about tomorrow. You don't know what will happen between now and then."
He's saying, "I shouldn't presume on the future. I'm not even guaranteed the next hour, much less the next 24 hours. So whatever I'm going to do, I'd better do it now. Because I can't boast about tomorrow. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow."
One of these days is really none of these days. It's just not going to happen.
I have some books in my library on procrastination. I'm sure they can help. But I just haven't got round to reading them.
I also heard that they were going to declare National Procrastination Day but they put it off.
A fellow called James Auberry always wanted to be a writer but never achieved it. When he died, he had this written on his tombstone,
He slept beneath the moon,
He basked beneath the sun,
He lived a life of going to do,
And died with nothing done.
How sad! The greatest tragedy in life is to waste your life.
One of these days. Some day, I'm going to make something of my life.
Everybody has great dreams. But dreamers are a dime a dozen. It's the person of action. Faith without action, says James, is worthless.
We've got to get it in gear... get moving.
What does it take to get me moving?
Let's go back to that Q.
Is it pain? Is it guilt? Is it fear?
Is it pressure? Has my brook dried up. Lord, I'm not going to make it. The resources are gone.
Successful people are self-starters because they have a mission that motivates. They've got an over-arching purpose for their life.
Now let's just do a little self-evaluation here, using these six steps.
Are you blaming anybody for your unhappiness? That's pretty easy to do.
What excuses am I giving for not growing up?
Have I learned to accept responsibility for myself and say, "Regardless of what my partner does, I'm going to live for the Lord."
Or, "Regardless of what my parents do, I'm going to make my life count."
How about believe? Have you been telling yourself, "I'll never change. That's just the way I am. I can't change. That's just me."
Begin by letting God transform your mind on the inside.
CLARIFY WHAT I WANT
Do you have a prayer list?... that says, "God these are the changes I'd like you to make in my life."
Have you been waiting for perfect conditions to start a new habit... to begin that new career... to become a Christian.
When the times just right. Don't wait.
All of us need to take better care of our bodies.
What do you need to start doing today?
Lord, I need to start complimenting my wife more.
Lord, I need to start spending more time with my kids... because they are not always going to be kids.
I need to start reading my Bible every day.
I need to start praying more consistently.
I need to start witnessing.
Today, I want to start taking better care of my body.
Today, I am willing to serve where I am needed.
Today, I am going to start giving more to the Lord.
Today, I'm going to get involved.
I need to get started on that dream that I have had for 5 years but have been afraid to get my feet wet. I've just held back. I've had this idea in the back of my mind but I haven't ever gone for it.
You know, the worst mistake I can make in life is to delay committing myself to Jesus Christ.
Look at these verses at the bottom of your outline: How much longer will it take you to make up your mind? If the Lord is God, worship Him! 1 Ki 18:21 GN.
2 Cor 6:2: Today is the day to be saved! Not tomorrow.
Maybe you have been thinking about it for weeks, months, maybe even years. Today is your day.
Because, today, when I give my life completely to Christ, then he gives me the power to make all those other changes that I need to make.
Personal Faith in Action
Here's a little project. Go home and ask yourself 3 Qs.
1. What does God really want me to change in my life?
2. What is my plan to do it?
3. When am I going to get started?
There's not a better time than right now.
Lord, get us moving. Force us out of our comfortable rut.
Use pain if you have to. Use pressure. Use whatever it takes. Because we know it's not good for us to remain there.
Give us the confidence to know that we can rely on your help and your strength to keep us from slipping back into our old ways... to believe that we really can change... and change for good.
Give us a new perspective, like Paul had... a vision of what we can become.
You know us. You made us. You know our potential. Help us to realise that potential.
Help us to be prepared to admit our mistakes and get another chance and make the most of it... to be successful.
May today be the day. Father, thank you for your word.
Today, help us to be doers of the word and take that first step, in Jesus' name. Amen.