UMA prayer



A Firm Stance

A firm stance in martial arts is essential for your success. The same is true in life. Work on your stance today by studying the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 12

            When I was in school I don’t remember kids being labeled as ADD or ADHD. My wife tells me that if I were in school today I would be labeled as ADD. She read me the list of ADD symptoms and I must admit I display many of the traits. The symptoms include:
1.  Inattention: difficulty organizing tasks; difficulty staying on task (quick loss of interest) and maintaining effort; difficulty with transitions or prioritizing tasks, following instructions, and completing school work; becoming easily distracted by extraneous stimuli; difficulty remembering daily activities

2.  Hyperactivity: experiences minor motor restlessness, such as fidgeting of hands; has difficulty remaining seated and talks excessively; has difficulty regulating restlessness to situational demands; has difficulty channeling physical restlessness in productive directions; has difficulty listening to others; becomes easily distracted while reading

3.  Impulsiveness: speaks or acts without considering the consequence; has difficulty taking turns; has feelings of being out-of-control, which can result in obsessive compulsive behaviors; has need for high stimulus activity

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

My mind wanders all the time and never seems to shut down, even when I’m sleeping. When I’m sitting in a meeting or listening to a sermon, it is hard for me to stay engaged and I begin to get fidgety. I have to make myself focus or else my mind is somewhere else in a split second.

The verses of Proverbs 12 are teaching us to focus too. It’s easy for our minds to get off focus. For me, long periods of sitting still send my mind to thought of my martial arts school, my family or anywhere but where I am supposed to be focused. As Christians the world pulls as our focus 24/7. God is calling us to have a mind that is filled with His wisdom. Verse 5 tell us that “A good man’s mind is filled with honest thoughts; an evil man’s mind is crammed with lies.” (Living Bible) To keep our mind filled with honest thoughts we have to stay focused on Him. This is a conscious effort in our daily walk. When the world tries to pull your mind into thoughts of lies repeat the words of Paul from Philippians 4:8. This verse is a long list of things to think about other than the lies of the world.

This principle is like a fighter using focus pads in his/her training. The fighter keys in on the pad and makes it his focus. He is directing his energy and technique right toward that pad. He fixes his eyes on the pad, lines up his punch or kick to make contact and with vigor delivers the strike. This process is intentful, has purpose and is focused. Soon the fighter gets into a rhythm and others in the dojo don’t distract him as he moves and continually strikes the focus pad.
Keeping our thoughts pure and on God requires spending time with Him and in His words. When we fail to do this the world will fill our minds with distractions and lies. A mind filled with the lies of the world is warped and Verse 8 tells us that “…a man with a warped mind is despised.” (Living Bible) This man is despised by others and by God.

Things come into our minds every minute of every day – images, words, music, conversation, sounds, noises, and thoughts. Our mind is constantly being bombarded. How you handle and process these things is key. It’s like weeding your garden. Both weeds and flowers grow in the garden and to cultivate the flowers you have to pull the weeds or soon the weeds will overtake the garden. If you don’t focus on keeping a mind filled with honest thoughts, then the impure thoughts linger and grow. What is left unattended in your mind will move to your heart. Once it becomes settled in your heart it changes your speech. “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34. Proverbs 12:20 tells us, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, …”. The word also says, “the heart is deceitful above all else.” Jeremiah 17:9. (NKJV)
See how lack of focus on your thoughts can infiltrate your body? It comes into the mind, settles in your heart and comes out your mouth. Maintain your focus and fill your mind with honest thoughts. Avoid having “spiritual ADD.”

Hard Work Pays Off

Succeeding in life requires hard work. Training for your next competition, working toward your next belt level, running your own school all require a commitment to work. These things are not just handed to you; you have to work to obtain them. If getting your black belt was easy then everyone would do it, but they don’t because it is hard work. The word “work” is a bad word for some. They take a backseat to work and let opportunities pass them by. Work truly is not a bad word; it is a word that when done brings blessings (verse 14). Think of the blessing that come from achieving your next belt level: joy and excitement, a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment of a dream or goal, mastery of an art, better focus and concentration, improved mental,  physical and spiritual health, confidence and more.

Blessings abound when you work hard. Stop and think about the impact of hard work and your job, in your home and in your hobbies. Verse 11 says “hard work means prosperity.” Working hard also means working smart. To work smart you need instruction. “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” (verse 1). The sooner you receive instruction about your work, you become more efficient and blessings and prosperity are soon to follow. Refusing instruction is just plain stupid!

Look what else hard work brings in Verse 24 – leadership. When you work hard others notice and will promote you as a leader. With leadership comes a higher salary which is the prosperity mentioned in Verse 11. Business owners want employees who come to work on time everyday and put forth an honest, diligent effort to do their job. When employees do this they will be rewarded. This reward may come in the form of a raise, incentive, recognition, or promotion. Some may think, “Well, I work hard everyday and no one notices.” Yes, someone does notice – your heavenly Father. Nothing goes unseen with Him. God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6) and working hard when no one seems to be watching is truly seeking God and His wisdom. As Christians, we should work hard everyday not just for the promotion, but because we do our work as unto the Lord so it brings glory to Him.

Never be too proud to work. Read Verse 9 again. No job should be beneath us if our very existence is on the line. It’s okay to get your hands dirty – they’ll wash. Look at Christ’s example when he washed the disciples’ feet. He was doing this to teach them to be a servant to others, but imagine how dirty this job was. I really doubt Chris complained about the smell, but rather looked beyond to the real purpose of what He was doing. You certainly cannot be prideful when you’re washing feet! The same is true for us in our work. Look past the task that seem meaningless to us and see the purpose of glorying God in all we do. Our next meal may not be riding on this particular task, but our witness is always being scrutinized. So work as if you are the hands and feet of Chris without pride and let your example show before others.

Your Words are Eternal

Ever try to put toothpaste back in the tube? It just won’t go! Once you squeeze it out you might as well brush your teeth with it because putting it back in is near impossible. We’ve all heard the phrase, “I stuck my foot in my mouth” and we’ve all probably said it a time or two. This figure of speech is used when you said something when you shouldn’t have and once those words are out, there’s no putting them back in. It would be great if we had an undo button on our mouth!
What you say can have a lasting impression on someone. This impression can be one that either builds them up or tears them down. Many martial artists in our school started taking lessons because of low self-esteem and confidence. They needed that affirmation of self-worth and thought martial arts training would be the key – and I believe it is! Taking the mindset that this is a reason for people to begin a martial arts class, encouraging these students is essential for them to continue. AS instructors we should always look for opportunity to encourage our students. Once practice that I started many years ago was at the end of each class, I ask the students to take a knee as I go down the line and tell each one what they did well in class and things they can improve on. I try to go quickly, not dwelling on one person longer than another.

Although this takes time and a concentrated effort to watch each student during class, I have had many students tell me how much they appreciate that. It shows them I am paying attention to them and they are important to me as a student.
Encouragement does not need to come just form the instructor, but from fellow students also. Sometimes doing martial arts feels awkward as you learn the techniques and routines. Telling your fellow classmates they are doing well speak volumes to someone who lacks confidence. This is pointed out in Verse 25. “Anxious hearts are very heavy but a work of encouragement does wonders. (Living Bible) An “anxious heart” could be someone who is nervous, scared, intimated, uncertain or overwhelmed. Even if a new student is in the beginner class there are other beginners who have been there longer and know the routine better. Remember the day when you first started? Now see this person through those eyes. You can make a difference in someone’s class, day or life by speaking words of encouragement.

The opposite of encouragement is discouragement. The cutting edge of discouragement can hinder someone’s growth in many ways. I have seen people quit martial arts because they felt they couldn’t learn the techniques and found their instructor and classmates to be impatient and unkind. We have all seen people quit something because they were discouraged. In many situations this discouragement was done intently and other times due to simple lack of consideration. Whatever the case, discouragement is a motivation-killer and dreams and goals are left unpursued because of it. As a Christian martial artist we can change that! “…but the words of the wise soothe and heal.” (verse 18) Your words of encouragement can heal, bring life and change the outlook of a person beaten down by discouragement. Purpose in your heart to be an encourager who looks for ways to build others up. Tell someone they did a good job in class tonight.

The Diligent Man

Diligent is a hard word – not to say, but to be. Diligence requires hard work, energy, and a never-give-up attitude. A diligent man sees the goal and pushes until he reaches it. Diligence is hard because the road to the goal can be long with many bumps and potholes that can be discouraging. The amount of diligence required depends on the goal. If your goal can be achieved in a small amount of time it may not require a lot of diligence, but the idea, project, dream or goal that is years down the road will definitely test your diligence.

As martial artists we see diligence demonstrated at every belt test. The short goal was to get your gold belt. Although this is very motivating for the new student, it is the first step in reaching a much larger goal of black belt. Diligence is a huge part of reaching black belt excellence. It may take three years or more before you can tie a black belt around your wait, but the day you do will be one of the greatest accomplishments of your life.

Diligence has a price and a reward. Look at verse 24. The price is hard work; the reward is victory and leadership. Victory in what? Whatever you set your mind to. If you want to be victorious, be diligent. If you want to be defeated, be lazy and slothful and you will never succeed. Proverbs addresses diligence again in verse 27. “…the diligent man makes good use of everything he finds.” (Living Bible) This may or may not be physical things you can hold. It may be gifts or talents that you possess. In October 2007 God spoke to me that I was not being diligent with the gift He had given me. The gift was my martial arts training. Many years ago the Lord impressed upon me the desire to create a girls self defense video. Having a daughter of my own, I knew dads all across the nation would do anything to protect their girls from an attack. They just needed the practical self defense skills to do it. I had all the ideas for the video and had replayed it many times in my mind, but I was lacking the diligence to see it through. My wife became the “diligence enforcer.”

She contacted a production company, scheduled the initial visit, hired someone to create a logo, worked on a filming itinerary and typed the script. The project took ten months to complete and it took diligence to plan out film shoots, schedule times, rehearse, meet with the producers, pick music all while working a full-time job and running the school at night. There were days when I would not have kept going with the project without a little prodding from my wife. Not for lack of desire for the project, but lack of time and energy amidst all the other obligations in my day. But, I always saw a bigger picture and knew this was what God had planned for us. During a summer visit to the Lake of the Ozarks a friend was commenting on the vision of a developer. The average person sees the trees and hills around the lake, but the developer sees houses with yards or a beautiful golf course. That’s the same vision that gave me the diligence to finish the project. This video has been used to help many women and girls.

Diligence not only applies to our physical being, but also to our spiritual being. When you are diligently living in the pursuit of the wisdom of God, the power of God is working on your behalf. This power is working on your behalf in regards to your job, family marriage, finances, and anything else you experience in your life. They key is a diligent pursuit. Diligence is an intense effort, a concentrated focus, an attentive drive for the things of God. God wants us to seek Him daily and strive to know Him more. Doing so will help pattern your footsteps after His and this will transform your attitude. As we seek Him, God will impart His knowledge and understanding in small amounts. He doesn’t dump it all on us at once because we couldn’t handle it. Instead as you diligently seek Him, He is faithful to be found. (Matthew 7:7)

Like this search to the pursuit of a black belt. When you seek out the knowledge and skills to achieve this level of martial arts you have to go after it. It does not happen by osmosis or suddenly manifest itself overnight. You have to enroll at a school, attend classes regularly and study your materials. That’s the kind of diligent effort we need to have when we seek after God. Proverbs 13:4 tells us that our reward for diligence is to be prosperous and earn an eternity with Christ – the ultimate reward.

Points to Remember

Work to block out things from your mind that are not Christ-like. Ask Him to fill your mind with His words and thoughts.

God expects us to work as if we are working for Him – regardless of the task as hand. Working hard is really a testimony of your life in Christ.

Your words bring either life or death. Bring life to someone today by saying words of encouragement and showing them the Christ that lives in you.

Move forward and don’t get complacent. Be diligent in whatever you put your hand to do.