What Will It Matter

Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.  All the things you collected, whether treasure or baubles, will pass to someone else.  There will be no more surprises, no minutes, hours, or days. 

Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.  It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.  Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.  So too, will your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire. 

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.  It won’t matter where you came from or on what side of the tracks you live at the end.  It won’t matter if you were beautiful or brilliant – your days are numbered. 

So what will it matter?  How will the value of your days be measured?  What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built.  Not what you got, but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.  What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught to others. 

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered, or encouraged others to emulate your example. 

What will matter is not how many people you know, but how many people will feel a lasting lost that you’re gone.  What will matter is the charity and care with which you loved others, and have been a positive influence on their lives. 

What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live on in those you loved.  What will matter is how long you will be remembered by whom and for what.

What will matter is have you been a living and bold witness to the sovereign, living God of the universe, who created us in His image, died for our sins to set us free, and invites us to spend eternity with Him.

Whatwillmatter.com

Remember Who You Are

You are a son of Adam, created in the image of God, and a son of the second Adam (Christ), created for good works.  The life you are looking for can only be found in God through His Son Jesus Christ.  It cannot be found in the daughters of Eve, in money, in power, in experiences, in fame, in possessions, in sex, or in work. 

Eve is not the end game.  God is.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam chose Eve over God.  She can easily become the reason we live and do what we do.  But she is not.  GOD is the end game. 

Remember, you are a son of Adam, born again.  Remember this.  Act like it.  Think like it.  And act like a man.  Don’t act like a woman.  Don’t act like an animal.  Don’t act like a child.  Act like a man.

Accept responsibility.  God has put you in charge.  Be in charge.  Don’t blame others, don’t pretend you don’t know what is going on.  Don’t abdicate decisions to others when it is your decision to make.  Move towards the conflict and not away from it. 

Lead courageously.  Leading is what you are to do.  With courage is how you are to do it.  God has put you in command and you are to lead. 

People may not like your decisions.  You may not like the outcome of some of the decisions you make.  You may not even want to make the decision.  But is your job to lead, to lead with courage and to make decisions.  Just do it.

The issue isn’t whether God is speaking but whether or not you can hear Him or want to hear Him.  Make time for God.

Ed Levy, Little Rock AR

Others May – You Cannot

If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to measure yourself by other Christians; and in many ways, He will seem to let other good people do things which He will never let you do.

Other Christians and ministers, who seem very religious and useful, can push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their Christian goals, but these things you simply cannot do.  Others may boast of their work or their writings or their success, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you ever try it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, but most likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and the joy of seeing Him supply your needs day by day out of an unseen Treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and keep you hidden and unappreciated because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.  He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work on and on without others knowing how much you are doing; and then, to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will rebuke you for little words or deeds or even feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem to be concerned about, but you must make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and He has a right to do whatever He pleases with His own.  He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in the way He deals with you, but if you will just submit yourself to Him in all things, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are very near to His heart.

Settle it then, that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others.  Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that your secret heart becomes pleased and delighted with this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, then you will have entered the very vestibule of heaven itself.

G.D. Watson, 1845-1924

Live a Life With No Regrets

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty.  Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”                          I Corinthians 9:24-27

  1. Raise your standards (verse 24)

Run in such a way that you may win.

Don’t lower your standards.

Learn to live with the tension between the real and the ideal.  It takes

guts to hold to the ideal when everyone around you screams “give up”.

2. Remember your priorities (verse 25)

Exercise self discipline.

What are your dreams?  Did they come from the Lord?

Consider these priorities:

  • time alone with God
  • time invested in the lives of people

3. Restrict your focus (verse 26)

A great focus of our day is overcommitment.  Busy-ness does not

equate with attainment or devotion.

The one who pursues a singular passion is the one who

accomplishes the most.

What is the singular passion or focus in your life?  If you can’t state it

one sentence, then you are flirting with mediocrity.  It’s not that we do too little; it’s that we try to do too much.

4. Restrain your impulses (verse 27)

Discipline is the key that unlocks potential.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing is more common than unsuccessful

people with talent.”  DISCIPLINE IS THE KEY.

5. Runners – take your mark

Pick just one of these principles and seek to apply it to your life.

Make a list of your priorities.

Pray for grace to restrain your impulses.

Beware of the barrenness of the busy life.  You are too busy if your

significant relationships are not the highest priority.

                              Pastor Rich Campbell, Fellowship Bible Church

My Deer in the Headlights Story

Usually when someone talks about a deer in the headlights, it is with some humor, such as when some hapless guy’s girl friend or wife asks him about his feelings.  He then has this “deer in the headlights” look as if he doesn’t know what she is talking about.  But sometimes a deer in the headlights can be a very serious matter.

On March 12, 2016, I drove to Rison for a night meeting, then returned home.  Rison is about an hour and half south of Little Rock, and is an area that is almost all pine forest.  It was a rainy day and coming home at night the rain just absorbed the light from my headlights.  I was on a two lane highway, driving through the forest.

In the meeting I had just attended, someone mentioned that Rison and Cleveland County were known across the state for deer hunting and the number of deer that are killed each year.  As I was driving along in the dark night, the thought occurred to me that if a deer jumped out in front of me, I would not be able to see it until it was too late.  So I slowed down a little, from 65 to 55 miles an hour.

Less than a minute later, the largest doe I have ever seen crossed right in front of my car from left to right.  It happened in just a second, and I didn’t see it until it was on the highway, passing in front of my car.  It was so close, I was really surprised that I did not hit it.

I slowed way down and pondered my near accident.   A car traveling 65 miles an hour would traverse a football field in about 3 seconds.  Do you think a 300 pound deer hitting my windshield would break the windshield?  Yes, I think it would.

We have a body, soul, and spirit, and it is our spirit that has the capacity to connect with and hear from the Holy Spirit.  I understand that often the Holy Spirit will plant ideas into our minds, which we can even recognize as coming from the Lord.  I believe the Holy Spirit nudged me to slow down on that dark highway, even a little bit, and enough for me to miss hitting a large doe. 

So seeking to know the Lord and hear His voice is not only a great adventure, it can also save our lives.

Mark Peterson

Living With a Sense of Urgency: I Peter 4:1-11

Capitol Ministries Nevada, Dan Madison, October 2008

Looking at the political calendar, we certainly can agree that we are experiencing hectic times. A sense of urgency and uncertainty prevails throughout the nation as men and women vie for political favor.  In fact, this urgency seems to be reaching a fevered pitch as candidates and the electorate alike consider the outcome of the upcoming election. This atmosphere of urgency fits right in with our text and study as we consider the issue of “How shall we then live in urgent and unsettling times.”   

INTRODUCTION

Scripture has much to say about time and urgency!  In 1 John 2:18 we hear the apostle say “… It is the last hour…” The Apostle Paul writes: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). Again we see Paul writing to the Ephesians in 5:15-17:  “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

In today’s study we will see Peter add to this intensity as he writes: “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). In his epistles, Peter has much to say about time and the biblical perspective associated with it.  In 1 Peter 1:5 he said that Christ provided “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” In 1:17 he tells us to “Conduct yourselves in the fear of God during the time of our stay upon the earth.”  In 5:6 we read: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”  

Living for Christ is not easy. When we live according to biblical principles, in a godly manner, unbelievers and those of the world reject us.  Frankly, they want little to do with pure righteousness and pure godliness. Living this type of lifestyle has the effect of exposing sin. As men observe us they should be faced with an understandable choice: live like God or else face His judgment.  

So the question becomes, “How can a believer be effective for Christ in times like these?”  In the section of Scripture before us, Peter defines for us what a life led with a sense of urgency looks like in the light of eternity.

I. THOSE WHO LIVE WITH A SENSE OF URGENCY

A. ARE ARMED WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE  (VS. 1-2)

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:1 Query: What does it mean to be armed with the “same mind”?  The picture is that of a soldier who puts on his equipment and arms himself for battle. Our attitudes are weapons, and weak or wrong attitudes will lead us to defeat. Outlook determines outcome, and a believer must have the right attitudes if he is to live a right life. 

Query: What do you see as the thrust in verse 1b of “..he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”?  We must understand that just because a believer suffers for doing right, that does not have the effect of never stumbling or sinning again. There is no magic path to sinless perfection this side of glory.  These verses indicate that believers take seriously their struggle against sin and their commitment to obedience.  When we follow Peter’s counsel, we demonstrate to others that our obedience and relationship to Christ is the most important motivation in our life, more important than avoiding hardship and pain.  The Amplified Bible helps clarify Peter’s counsel: 

“So, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose (patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God). For whoever has suffered in the flesh has done with (intentional) sin—has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)

B. ABANDON DESTRUCTIVE LIFESTYLES (VS. 3-4)

1 Peter 4:3 1 Peter 4:3 1 Peter 4:3 1 Peter 4:3–4 44 4 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.  

 Query: What view do you get of the day that Peter lived? What formally characterized the lives of at least some of the Christian believers to whom Peter wrote? How do these sins differ from those against which he earlier warned them in 2:1?  Peter is quite blunt here; our past experience of sin is sufficient. Our life should reflect a marked transformation from our previous lifestyle. Note that these verses give a vivid description of the tragic and devastating life pattern of the unconverted, which ends inexorably in judgment.

We see clear parallels in Romans 1:18-32.4 Query: When the new life of the redeemed is seen by their old sinful friends, they make judgments. What are the results of these judgments?  It is safe to say that unbelievers will think that you are indeed strange. They will be astonished or surprised that you are no longer with them.  Unfortunately, their response is far from neutral.  Even more than showing surprise at the new life of the redeemed, we often see a malignant ridicule; a maligning of the believers new found faith. As the psalmist tells us, they would rather cast us away than welcome us. (Psalm 2:1-3)

C. ARE AWARE OF AN ACCOUNTING (VS. 5-7)

1 Peter 4:5 1 Peter 4:5 1 Peter 4:5 1 Peter 4:5–7 77 7 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.

Here we see the believers’ ultimate perspective. Those who slander and persecute believers will give account to Him Who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 

SUCH VICIOUS ATTACKERS ARE AMASSING A DEBT TO GOD THAT THEY WILL SPEND ETERNITY PAYING BACK.   JOHN MACARTHUR

 The living—those alive when Peter wrote—and the dead—those already dead—will all be judged “so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” (Romans 3:19; cf. Matthew 25:31-33, 41-46)5  

Query:  How does the awareness of Verse 5 help Christians to endure abuse and insults from their associates, both old and new? How are we to live in light of this Scripture?

D. ARE AWARE OF THEIR COMMITMENTS TO GOD 

The incentive for spiritual duty is clearly delineated in verse 7a “But the end of all things is at hand.” Here Peter is speaking of the Lord’s return (cf. Acts 3:21q; Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:1). The word “near” (ēggiken) means “approaching.” The perfect tense indicates a consummated process with a resulting nearness—the event (Christ’s return) is imminent; it could occur at any moment. (cf. Matthew 24:37-39; Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 16:15; 22:20)6 In light of this, in obedience, we are to be aware of our commitments to God.

Commitment #1:  KEEP LOVE FERVENT (VS. 8-9)

1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8–9 99 9 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

Warren Wiersbe, in his study on 1 Peter titled “Be Hopeful,” makes the following observation about being fervent:

The word pictures an athlete straining to reach the goal. it speaks of eagerness and intensity. Christian love is something we have to work at, just the way an athlete works on his skills. it is not a matter of emotional feeling, though that is included, but of dedicated will. Christian love means that we treat others the way God treats us, obeying His commandments in the Word. It is even possible to love people that we do not like!

Commitment # 2. DO THEIR DUTY (VS 10-11)

1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10–11 1111 11 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. We see a final priority for those who live in the light of Christ’s second coming. 

This can best be summarized as intense serving.  Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift that he/she must use to the glory of God in the building up of the church. As stewards, we have been entrusted with these gifts so that we might use them in such a way to benefit the church (fellow believers) and to bring glory to God.  Query: It is God Who enables us and gives us these gift(s).  How, then, is God glorified in our obedience?

 How do we allow His dominion to have expression in our lives?  Spiritual gifts have been defined as “a divine enablement for ministry to the body.7” Paul echoed Peter’s thought in 1 Corinthians 12:7-27.  Here we see that as each part of the human body has a particular function, so does each member of the body of Christ. There are teaching gifts and serving gifts. Each of us has at least one; most have more than one. All spiritual gifts are important to the church and need to be exercised by members of the body.

There are those who have “behind-the-scenes” gifts, i.e. ministries that support and make it possible for the visible ministry to function. Whatever your gift is, you need to exercise it to the glory of God. As believers, we should want to glorify God in how we think, how we talk, and in all that we do. First Corinthians 10:31 speaks to this: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

CONCLUSION—APPLICATION 

The “so what” aspect of this Scripture seems to boil down to two areas:  1. Since the time is short, we should live in love toward others. When suffering does come, we need to commit ourselves to God and continue to do good. Proverbs 25:26 tells us “A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well.” How sad are the consequences of a believer who falters in his testimony; all creditability is lost before the unsaved. 

2. Since the end is near, live in love toward others. Minister to them with your spiritual gifts. As you serve others, God will be praised.8  Peter tells us to look at the experience of our Lord Jesus. He reminds us that as Christians we are to follow Him in his sufferings as well as His glory.  Although others may be surprised by our new way of life (vs. 2, 4), we are not to be surprised if our experience is patterned after the Lord’s (vs. 12). 

Someone has said that believers are either in a trial, recovering from a trial, or ready to enter a trial.  That is the life of growth and being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).  Harold Willmington, in his book Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists, has provided “13 Proper Reactions to suffering” which follows on Page 4.  I think it will be helpful as we set our eyes on Christ and a biblical world view.

1 Nelson, Joey, Living with a sense of Urgency (www.sermoncentral.com/.asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=56116) Outline.  2 Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Hopeful (Cook  Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs, 2005) 101 3 Anders, Max, Holman New Testament Commentary, I&II Peter, I,II,III John, Jude, (Broadman & Holman, Nashville, 1999)  

Do You Dare to Dream

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.  I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.  I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…  I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals, or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain – mine or your own
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy – mine or your own,
if you can dance with wildness, and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us
to be careful, to be realistic, and to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.  I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. 

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.  If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day.  And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure – yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake, and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.  I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.  I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.  I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Author: Oriah  http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com

Great Trials in Our Lives

Ye greatly rejoice, though now…ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold…though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ…receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:6-9

From my own experiences during fiery trials, I can testify that the pain, the angst, and other suffering are conquered the instant I surrender to the flames. It is like falling backwards off a steep cliff into the hands of God. There is no parachute and no stopping halfway. If He doesn’t catch you, then you will hit the bottom and die. That is literally the goal of faith – to trust God with your life and everything in it. All that is not put into His hands is unprotected and causes us angst and suffering. However, when all is surrendered, we receive a deep serenity that the fire will not burn anything except what needs to be consumed. That’s when the gold shines. Cedric H. Fisher

When you are pushed to the edge of despair, trust in the lord completely. He will either catch you when you fall or teach you how to fly. Source unknown

      

From Surviving to Thriving in the New Year

Cradling my newborn as I rocked her to sleep, my mind battled with the doctor’s words spoken the week before, “I’m sorry, but the tests indicate Hodgkin’s Disease. We’ll repeat the test to verify the diagnosis.”

“Lord,” I silently cried, “Why? Will I never see my newborn grow up or my two toddlers become adults? How could this happen?”  For a week I pleaded, cried, shouted, and begged the Lord God of Heaven and earth to spare my life. Now, finally as my daughter’s infant eyes closed in sleep, I gave up.

“Lord, “I whispered.” I accept whatever this means. I don’t understand it and I don’t want it, but for whatever days, weeks, or months remain to me, I want to fulfill Your purpose for each day. You gave me life. It belongs to You. Now more than anything else, I want to make my life count. I want to do exactly what You have planned for each day you’ve given me.”

My life changed that day. A new process began–the process of discovering God’s plan for each day He granted.  Previously an overextended, overcommitted overachiever, I resigned from the positions I held as the pastor’s wife. I explained that I was staying home to care for my newborn and find out exactly what God wanted me to do with each day.

God used the next year of my life to take me from surviving to thriving. He taught me seven principles through His Word and His orchestration of circumstances that I offer to you as encouragement in the New Year.

1) Spend time with God first

I know you’ve heard it before but it can be done. When it seems impossible to find time, I try to remember I can’t possibly know what He plans for my day if I don’t meet and discuss it with Him first. After all, He says that He knows the good plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11). He wrote all the days ordained for me in a book before one of them came to be (Psalms 139:16) and He knows how He wants me to use them (Ephesians 2:10).

When my young baby and two toddlers demanded constant attention, I followed the advice of Ruth Bell Graham. Billy’s wife was often responsible for all the children while her husband traveled to speak throughout the United States. She developed the habit of leaving an open Bible on the kitchen counter. Each time she passed by she read one verse. These “conversation starters” with God enabled her to tap into His thoughts and desires for her day.

Emilie Barnes, author and time management expert, described how she organized time with God during the early years of motherhood.  She placed a basket in a very visible area of her house. It contained her Bible, prayer notebook, a few postcards for encouragement notes to friends, a box of Kleenex for difficult prayers, and a small bunch of silk flowers. She scheduled time each day to grab her prayer basket and spend quality time with Jesus.

2) Search for God’s will for your time

For years, I assumed that if I saw any need, whether planning a program or accomplishing a task, it was my responsibility. As a result, I seemed to say “Yes” to everything. I was so busy doing all these supposedly great things for God that I was clueless as to His actual desire for my time and activity. After the Hodgkin’s diagnosis, I decided to resign all church work until God showed me what He wanted me to do. I wanted His instruction for guidance to know His will. He used interesting ways to show me His plan.

First, one pastor’s sermon on the will of God offered direction. “You must seek and find the will of God for you alone because if you are doing the will of God, there is no greater joy. At the same time, if you are not in God’s will for your life, you are robbing someone else of being in God’s will for them,” the pastor said. I was deeply convicted. It seemed that in our church, I was the Body of Christ; other qualified people were denied a chance to use the gifts and skills God gave them because I was busy doing it all.

At the time I read an article quoting Jesus, “Father, I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do (John 17:4).” The article explained that no one knows how many people Jesus left untaught and untouched while He walked the earth. And yet at the end of His life He was able to say to the Father that He had completed the work He was sent to earth to fulfill. I knew I wanted to be able to speak those same words at the end of my life.

Finally, God began to show me four ways to evaluate the tasks and activities in my life to help me decide how I was supposed to spend my time.

a. First, I learned to pray about each opportunity by considering if the task, activity, or ministry was consistent with God’s desires as He revealed His will through prayerful reading of His Word.

b. Secondly, I asked myself if the circumstances seemed supernaturally arranged to enable me to fulfill the task.

c. Thirdly, when confiding in trusted Christian friends, did their advice or counsel seem to encourage me to pursue this path?

d. And finally if still unsure, I would ask myself if this was something someone else could do as well or better than I could. Were the unique gifts, skills, and abilities God had given me necessary, or had He designed someone else for this special task?

These four steps for evaluating God’s will proved indispensable for the rest of my life.

3) Pray about everything

How, you may wonder? For years, I never understood how God expected us to “Pray continually (I Thessalonians 5:17)” or follow His direction to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert, and always keep on praying for the saints (Ephesians 6:18).” I decided that to do this, you had to wait until you were old.  Then you would have time to follow these instructions.

But soon God showed me that prayer was simply conversation with Him–all day long about everything. He created us and wants to discuss every aspect of our life with us. How?

Let me ask you a personal question. Do you talk to yourself? Of course you do. You are mentally discussing this article right now as you read it. You’re asking yourself if you agree or disagree and whether or not you’ll give it a try?

All day long, a running conversation is going on in our minds as we consider the events of each day: the people we meet, the demands we face, the challenges we tackle. What is prayer? Inviting God into that conversation. Instead of discussing all these things with ourselves, why not begin to discuss them with God? He is the only one who understands our situation, knows how to handle it and has the power to do something about it.

4) Learn to say “No” so you can say “Yes” to God. 

When offered an opportunity that may be God’s will for you, explain that you will pray about it for at least one week before giving an answer. Then pray.

After thorough evaluation and prayer, if you then believe God wants you to say, “Yes,” do so with joy and know God has called you to this task. This changes the way you serve God. Ministry becomes a privilege done out of a sense of joy, rather than begrudged duty, guilt or condemnation. You know He has called you and will equip you to fulfill His purpose for your life.

If God does not show you through His word and you feel His inner peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), say “No.”  Yes, I mean it. Say, “No.” “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying ‘This is the way; walk in it (Isaiah 30:21)” enabling you to truly fulfill His purposes in your life. Then you will be ready and waiting to hear His voice when it is time to say, “Yes” to His opportunity for you.

5) Nurture relationships because they matter. 

Time proves that good relationships are essential in life. All of our accomplishments and accumulated successes will pale in light of the successful relationships we develop and nurture.  God cares about relationships. The entire Bible echoes God’s desire for relationship with His people and describes the great costs He endured to secure that relationship. It’s said, “You can’t take it with you” at death. But the truth is, you can.

There are two things that are eternal–God’s Word hidden in your heart as you build a relationship with Him and your relationship with those who will share His Heaven with you.  As you face the New Year, cherish and nurture your relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. With God’s power, you can let go of grudges and be quick to forgive.

In an address to the women of Wellesley College several years ago, Barbara Bush spoke these words, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” No one knows the future. Spend time with those you love today.

6) Identify your God-given gifts, skills, and abilities and use them. 

As God continued to teach me the principles I am sharing with you, I began to realize the potential He gives each of us to make a difference in our world. As I spent more time at home caring for my children, the hunger to reach out to the world persisted.

I began to realize that when we identify our God-given gifts, skills, and abilities, the possibilities to reach our world are endless, regardless of our boundaries. Are you bed-ridden? Pray and write a note of encouragement to a relative. Are you changing diapers and picking up toys? Invite a friend to chat with you while you work. Are the children napping? Put ingredients in the bread machine so you can run a fresh loaf to a new neighbor.

During this time in my life while I sought to know God’s will for each day that remained, I began to feel God wanted me to write. 

Once a week during Mother’s Morning Out, when all the other moms went shopping, I chose a secluded classroom in the church to begin my vigil with God. It was there I learned to write, something I had never considered before. Out of this time came the book, Resource Guide for Women’s Ministry, a personal handbook filled with interesting ideas for discovering your God-given gifts, skills, and abilities and using them in simple ways each day to fulfill His plan for your life (Romans 11:29).

7. Enjoy the life God has given you

For a long time, I thought it was somehow unspiritual to enjoy life. After all, Jesus had suffered. Then I realized Jesus had something to say about that Himself. In his final prayer for us before returning to His Father and ours, He said, “I am coming to you now (Father), but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them (John 17:13).”

Jesus was joyful. He also tells us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). We live in a fallen, broken world. That will not change. Jesus didn’t promise life would be easy. He did promise He would be there.  And in the midst of it all, He offers joy.  Seize life and joy with gratitude.  The Hodgkin’s disease diagnosis that changed my life and offered the principles I share with you now in this New Year took place twenty years ago. I was told later my problem was misdiagnosed.  I did not have Hodgkin’s Disease. But God did not allow that truth to be revealed until He had answered my prayers and taught me what I needed to know about living each day for Him.  Have I lived life perfectly? No. Have I lived it purposefully?

Yes. The satisfaction and fulfillment of a life well-spent is immeasurable. As you seek to thrive rather than survive in the New Year, I pray that you discover God’s purpose for each day you are granted and live your life to the fullest.

Linda McGinn Waterman, Author Resource Guide for Women’s Ministries

THRIVE! Think About It:

“First I was dying to finish high school and start college,

And then I was dying to finish college and start working,

And then I was dying to marry and have children,

And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work.

And then I was dying to retire,

And now, I am dying…and suddenly I realize I forgot to live.”

Anonymous