By Dawn Wilson, Crosswalk.com
I love singing Bill and Gloria Gaither’s award-winning song, “Because He Lives.” The words touch me deeply: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” The 1974 Gospel Song of the Year was written during a time of national and social upheaval, yet the Gaithers held their new little baby and wrote that their child could “face uncertain days” because of the risen Christ.
Their song of hope claims life in Christ is “worth the living.” The day we trusted Christ was only the beginning of a great adventure, and there are many things we can do to change our life now and our future.
Here are 10 things I’m doing that make a difference. Perhaps they will spark some ideas to help you cooperate with the Lord in discovering the Christian life “worth living.”
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1. Check your priorities.
Few Christians dispute God and family are the highest priorities, even if their lives convey otherwise. God is the highest priority. Within the priority of family, we find the biblical pattern for marriage: protecting, teaching, and nurturing our children, and building a godly legacy. Other priorities are personal care, career, ministry—everything else.
If we don’t keep our priorities in line, we’ll likely experience chaos, stress, and possibly overload. Living with biblical priorities requires discernment and courage. Others may have expectations for us and even get pushy about them. We must learn to say “no” as God directs so we can say “yes” to what He desires.
Pursuing biblical priorities doesn’t mean we won’t become super busy, but priorities will work in sync when they are directed by the Lord. Consider how to strengthen and pursue each priority He gives you for a more God-honoring future.
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2. "Chat and chew."
“Chat and chew” is my concept of prayer and meditation. Prayer is intimate—a time of worship and seeking God’s will so we can know and obey Him. We chat with Him about our past choices, present decisions, and future goals. We must learn to listen too. Jesus, the Word says, listened to His Father in heaven and only did what the Father wanted Him to do. That should be our goal as well. As we listen to the whispers of God, our future will become a roll-out of today’s choices.
Another way to change our future is to “chew” on God’s Word. The image that comes to mind is of a cow chewing cud (bringing up what’s eaten and re-chewing it). Spiritual “chewing” is our meditation on Scriptures we’ve read and memorized so we can apply God’s perspective.
Dr. Ken Nichols of ALIVE Ministries says, “God’s Word influences my perspective. My perspective influences my response. My response influences the outcome—100% of the time.” When we “chew” on the Word, we’ll be more inclined to remember, understand, and apply truth.
3. Challenge defeating lies.
Speaking of truth, one of the best resources I’ve read on challenging lies that defeat us is the book Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets them Free by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Nancy woke me up to ways Satan defeats people through wrong beliefs. I’m learning to counter Satan’s lies with God’s truth.
Lies we believe hold us back from God’s best. We grow when we stop blaming others or our circumstances and take responsibility for our beliefs. We say and obey the truth. When we stop rationalizing—“That’s just the way I am”—and embrace biblical truth, we discover opportunities for change.
Jesus is the Truth, our hope for change. As my friend Pam Farrel, author of Discovering Hope in the Psalms, says, “Hope is waiting expectantly for God to show up and show off for our good and God’s glory.” Even before God acts, we commit to truth and to praising Him continually for what He will do. He is our hope for the future.
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4. Change bad habits.
To change our future, we must address bad habits. Good intentions aren’t enough. Changing habits is an ongoing work of God’s grace and requires our humble obedience. We observe what holds us back from pleasing and honoring the Lord. We learn to align our choices and behavior with Scripture. We heed the conviction and nudging of the Holy Spirit. Essentially, as author Priscilla Shirer says in the book Gideon, with God’s help we can “choose to convert our good intentions into obedient actions.”
Perhaps instead of “change,” it would be clearer to say “exchange.” Years ago, a teacher taught me the “Replacement Principle.” It is biblical, he said, to chuck things that are foolish, unhealthy, and unholy, then cultivate habits that are wise, healthy, and godly. In our ongoing sanctification—God making us more like Christ—our part is to “put off” and “put on,” to put off evidences of the old self and put on the character of the new self.
Imagine experiencing peace by putting off anger and bitterness, and putting on kindness and learning to forgive (Ephesians 4:22-32). Imagine the freedom in putting off immoral behavior and harmful addictions, and putting on self-discipline and holiness (1 Corinthians 6:9-20). That surely would change our future!
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5. Choose edifying relationships.
God is always with us, but He wants to bring people alongside us to encourage, challenge, and teach us. Brothers and sisters in Christ can help us change our future. We find many of these edifying relationships in church. Seek out and pray for godly mentors, counselors, and teachers within the Body of Christ.
To “edify” is to “instruct or improve someone morally or intellectually; to tutor, train and guide.” This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” We need people to pour biblical wisdom into our lives; and we need to find people we can likewise encourage. The Titus 2 model of mentoring and discipleship is often neglected in the church, but it’s one of the best ways to grow a healthy congregation.
Outside the church, we can build encouraging relationships too—but be careful! Be choosy about your chums! Close relationships have the power to draw you away from the things of the Lord or toward Him and His ways. Don’t be a “companion of fools.”
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6. Channel your gifts.
We can look at spiritual gifts two ways. One way is to diligently and intentionally cultivate them, becoming aware of strengths and potential blind spots for each one. Or we might simply seek God’s direction and obey Him, believing He will draw out and use our spiritual gifts in ways He sees fit. Either way, our spiritual gifts aren’t for our benefit. They are given to us to help the body of Christ function and bring glory to God. Channel your gifts toward meeting others’ needs.
“Gifts of the Spirit” are mentioned in several places in Scripture: Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, and 12:28. All spiritual gifts are a divine enablement, and God expects us to exercise them for His purposes and in His time and way. Gifts will motivate us, become our expression of ministry, and become a means of the Spirit manifesting His work in and through the church.
Before the foundation of the world, God prepared works for us to do during our lifetime. Surrender and obedience are key, and the “fruit” of the Spirit helps us; but specific gifts of the Spirit are given for our unique tasks in the Lord’s work, and we want to hear His “well done” for faithful service.
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7. "Chisel" your health.
We’ve all seen well-chiseled body builders who make tough choices to build physical strength. Similarly, one of the best choices Christians can make is to “chisel” their health. We get so caught up in our busy, sometimes chaotic lives. We may fail to see warning signals of an unhealthy lifestyle. We need to purposely chip away at (chisel) things that damage our health. Self-care is important!
Consider the countless diet and exercise programs available. If we don’t care for our bodies now, negative consequences are just a matter of time. Two years ago, tired of trying to regain my health medically, I went to a godly nutritionist. She helped me face my gluttony and laziness. I wasn’t taking care of the “temple” God gave me to honor and serve Him. I made many future-focused changes to correct my sorry state.
But chiseling health isn’t simply nutrition and exercise. We need more sleep, more rest, more quietness (tranquility) and more margin. As Richard A. Swenson, M.D., wrote in his book Margin, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits.” We need to clear out spaces in every area of our lives so we’ll have more room to breathe, grow, and serve!
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8. Chart your finances.
One of the things I’ve seen that makes a huge difference in our future is how we manage money. Some people hate the word “budget,” but wise people intentionally plan out and chart their finances for two reasons: to meet today’s needs and to prepare for tomorrow.
Janice Thompson with One Degree Advisors, a family-focused financial planning group, says, “Wise financial stewardship is built over a lifetime of consistent, intentional and confident decisions. It is less about the amount of money and more about how well you manage it that makes the difference—a principle clearly taught in Matthew 25. Every money decision today, big or small, has a ripple effect that impacts tomorrow. One uncorrected management degree off course (mindless spending, presuming on the future with debt, no long-term plan for short-term decision context, etc.) can land you far from your desired destination.”
Wise financial management now will provide future dividends, but ignoring God’s counsel will eventually impact you in ways you never intended.
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9. Champion worthwhile causes.
If you want to change your future while greatly influencing or helping others, champion worthwhile causes. Championing a cause might include giving to a cause ourselves, raising funds to support the cause, promoting it, or even becoming an active participant or volunteer. We all have so much to share. Be proactive. Go all out; don’t hold back (Proverbs 3:28).
It’s never too early to champion a worthy cause—like young Preston Sharp who organized the placement of more than 40,000 American flags and red carnations on soldiers’ graves. It’s also never too late. Many compassionate senior citizens volunteer for causes and ministries. Christians are never meant to retire from practicing the “one anothers” of Scripture.
What captures your interest and grabs your heart? Consider becoming a champion for: a missionary or mission group, a revival-oriented ministry, a Christian school, university, seminary, or student, a rescue mission or homeless shelter, a home for the elderly, an orphanage or adoption center, or an organization combating social ills like sex trafficking or addiction. Opportunities are endless. Be compassionate and take action.
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10. Cherish the eternal.
Earlier I mentioned Dr. Ken Nichols and ALIVE Ministries. “ALIVE” stands for “Always Living in View of Eternity.” World Help’s Vernon Brewer wrote about a defining moment in his life: “I have determined to live my life in such a way that every day I try to accomplish at least one thing that will outlive me and last for eternity.” Author Tim Grissom asks in Life in Action, “What are you planning to do today that has the imprint of heaven on it?”
These men have something in common. They live for eternity—they cherish it.
When we look to the eternal, the unseen, we “do not lose heart.” When we consider our living hope and the inheritance to be revealed at the end of time, we can endure life’s trials. When we think about that day when our mortal bodies put on immortality, we can rejoice and abound in the work of the Lord. Christians have a bright and eternal future. Let’s get ready for it!
Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, and also publishes LOL with God and Upgrade with Dawn and writes for Crosswalk.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.