Jesus said, ‘I came to give you life and life to the full.’ How is that working for you? Are you really living or just passing the time? Do you ever think – there has got to be more to life than this? Perhaps for you, living life to the full means doing less! Is your life too full, with ministry and blessing others, who are finding life, while you are losing energy, passion and life from the experience! Perhaps the real question then to ask is this: Is what you are doing giving you life and life to the full? If we are lacking life, it’s good to think through the kind of things that can rob us of the life Jesus had in mind when he made this statement? Here’s my list of suggestions to deal with the robbers:
- Drop the weights. We talk about having a sense of heaviness, carrying the world’s problems on our shoulders and being heavy laden. Hebrews 12 says, ‘let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.’ Let them go! Don’t let worries, fears, burdens, unforgiveness, decisions, problems, and whatever else it is that is causing a heaviness in your life, be allowed to rule. It’s not God’s plan for us to live under a cloud like this. When we think about it, nearly all our worries and fears come to nothing. Why waste our time being negative about things that probably will never happen? There are commands to ‘be anxious for nothing’, ‘cast all your cares upon him’, ‘come to me and I will give you rest’… We say, ‘Well it’s not as easy as that! You don’t know what he or she did; you don’t know the feeling of being trapped; you don’t know the hardship!’ No I don’t, but Jesus does and he gives life in the midst of the storms, we just have to access it every morning, afternoon and evening. Do you know why those monks had a daily office? – the grace and focus ran out in a few hours and they needed to connect with the Lord again!
- Dates with God. Having just finished a ‘couples retreat’, my mind is full of exercises and relational insights that we have been fully engaged with. Of course, one of the keys to happy marriages is making a habit of dates with your spouse. The idea of this is to be creative, do something special, have a time of in depth communication, laughter, relaxation and enjoy one another’s company. I had a revelation this morning that we need to think in these terms with the Lord. I am pretty sure that my wife wouldn’t be impressed if our dates consisted of exactly the same thing, same place and the same kind of conversations every week! She needs some spice, some mixing it up, some innovation – you get the picture. I think the Lord wants our times together to have that kind of variety too. Living life to the full starts with the overflow from our spirit, as we spend these kinds of times with the God we love.
- Time to linger. I am not so good at ‘lingering’. I like to do things, be active, have movement but I realise some of the most special times and special memories, have been made as a result of lingering. These times occur when I have spent more time sitting at the table listening, talking, laughing and connecting. We had a number of these times last week at the couples retreat here in the centre. You came away from one of these special times, knowing that something has shifted in the relationship, trust has gone up, an investment had been made and you know from that moment on you will have a deeper connection. Rite and I love to cherish those moments as a couple – an atmosphere created, a memory made, a touching of one another’s hearts and although it’s hard to express, you know you have gone deeper. Life to the full is made up of a series of these precious moments.
- Me, thee or we: It’s such a pain – my printer won’t pick up wifi anymore and I have to plug in the USB stick! The central locking function on my remote car key has stopped working – so frustrating! The pool is going a little green because the water is too warm – why don’t the gardeners sort it out! We joke about our problems being first world problems – of course they aren’t real problems at all. At least I have a printer, a car and who has the privilege of a pool!? We kind of slip into the thinking that the universe centres around me? We seem to be at one extreme or the other – either we are seeing, feeling, focusing on our needs being met 24/7 or we put our own life on hold and live to serve, bless and go the extra mile for others. The truth is that there is a balance and a season for everything.
- A season for community and enjoying the warmth, care and accountability of others.
- A season to serve others and focus on their needs over my own.
- A season for me – to be a good steward of what God has given me, to spend time for self-care.
It’s no accident that Jesus pulled a group of men and women around him and he lived, ate, conversed and travelled with them. This is where our laughter, celebration and accountability take place. Jesus also experienced pouring himself out to teach and heal and didn’t even have time for a meal. Then at the height of the action, he would head off to the mountains to spend time alone.
Without these three aspects working together, we will miss out on a central part of living life to the full.
- Stop work, not work full stop. Do you only think work? I hear myself say, ‘There is no time to be bored because there is so much to do.’ Do I hear you say? Your to do lists are full. You actually enjoy work. You would rather get things accomplished than waste your time and in your opinion, many people seem to be doing just that. When Calvin established a work ethic, he introduced a sense of responsibility in the body of Christ to be involved in making the world a better place by affecting society with the gospel. Nothing wrong with that – but there is more to life than work – it’s called people. Our relationships are the only thing that is lasting in the world and we so the best thing we can do is invest in them. Living life to the full involves people and they have names, so let’s spend time with them!
- Find your calling: We can put our hope in a role or a ministry to be the answer to fulfilling our dreams and living life to the full. Roles change and ministries have seasons. You either get bored with a role that you have been in too long, or you change too often and tend to live in the stress of development.
A base or team leadership role or ministry has a shelf life. Some are longer than others but these are functions we take on for a limited period of time. I would encourage you to identify your calling from God, being something much broader than the role you are now investing in. A leadership role will change and usually 7-10 years is the time frame of you leading effectively in any particular role. The problem after that is that you become part of the furniture, you raise the bar and its more difficult for others to take on your role – you have expanded in your capacity the longer you have stayed in the position. So, someone taking it on now, will need a team to do what you are doing, or the ministry will downsize to the capacity they are able to handle.
- Neither tunnel nor telescope vision: Are you in danger of becoming too narrow in your view of things? How do you view vision? Do you become so specific in your focus that it’s hard for anyone to join you because they don’t quite fit? Can you only embrace certain specific ideas and anything outside of your strong boundary doesn’t get a look in.
On the other hand, are we looking out through our telescope and narrowing in on vision for the future, taken up with a multitude of ideas, concepts and dreams and find that we have lost a sense of reality? We can live for tomorrow, next week, next year and miss the life that is right here and now. Jesus said, look at the fields, they are ripe for harvest but he also said, don’t worry about tomorrow! There’s got to be a balance – an awareness of God’s priorities for today and tomorrow.
How do you view God? – are you developing in your relationship with the trinity and expanding in your understanding of Father, Son and Holy Spirit or narrowing in to know just one aspect of who he is? How do you view yourself – body, soul and spirit? Are you being a steward of every part of who you are? It’s so easy to focus on just one aspect and become biased in our approach when we are made by God to be integrated. Becoming whole means developing in body, mind, will, emotions and spirit.
In every area of life there is a season for focusing in and for keeping the breadth.
- Identify your desires:‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.’I was given this verse recently and was impressed by God’s generosity in this promise. As we spend time with him, praising him, living our lives for him, enjoying him, we get to live life to the full and experience our desires being met. Life to the full isn’t dependent on circumstances, on the roles we perform, on the amount of work we accomplish or on the number of friends we have. Life to the full is centred around living in relationship with God, in practicing his presence, in fulfilling his priorities, in doing what we see the Father doing, in intimate connection with our creator. In LDC lingo, this is self-surrendered leadership.
Until next month