Archives For Successful living

A Life Fulfilled

Ben —  February 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

We are all in the pursuit of true happiness and fulfilment in this life. Happiness is also God’s desire for your life, but if left unrestrained it can lead us down a path to self-destruction and self-fulfilment – or an inward focused life that pleases only ourselves and ignores the needs of others.

God’s idea of a fulfilled life is one that stands in direct opposition to the secular views of today – a forgotten principle that focuses outwardly on serving and blessing others. Many of the Psalms contrast between these two paths of living and claim a special blessing on those who serve others. In fact, 1 Peter Chapter 4 tells us that we have been given spiritual gifts that are specifically purposed to serve others. Having the servant heart of Jesus, giving and not just consuming is the key to a life fulfilled.

One of the greatest threats to the church today is the internal culture of Christian consumerism – ensuring that our needs are met.

Many Christians today see no difference between church and a restaurant:

Was I fed well? Did I like the music? Where the chairs comfortable? Was I greeted with a smile when I walked in? What temperature was the air conditioning?

Selfishness is a subtle form of ungodliness that can cause churches to become stagnant service centres, instead of vibrant communities of action. We are called to contribute to God’s house. The local Church is God’s plan on earth today. Serve the Lord, serve your Church and serve people with a joyous and generous heart. Be a part of something bigger than yourself that impacts the people of your city, leaves an eternal fingerprint in someone’s life and is truly a life fulfilled.

First Things First

Ben —  February 12, 2014 — 1 Comment

All of us feel torn by the goals and dreams we have, and by the demands and responsibilities placed on us.  Many people today could and do feel disoriented or confused about what the most important thing in life is.

Is it earning a living to support my family? Is it making smart financial investments to provide for me and my family’s future? Is it pursuing academia? How about getting to the gym to put my fitness first? Or doing more activities with my kids? All of these things are valid pursuits – but what should take the highest priority?

Jesus puts this simply in Matthew 6.33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”.

So essentially He is saying – “Put me first, and all the things you strive for, that I know you need, I will provide those too”

Practically speaking, how can we put God first in our life?

To seek God means –

  • To put God in the highest place in your life – Mark 12:30 ‘And you  shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
  • To have an appetite for spiritual things – that is setting time aside to read the Word, spend time in prayer and worship
  • To follow and honour Jesus in everything I do – by being a person of character and integrity
  • To be passionate about God’s purposes, and put self aside

Where do you want to go in your life – in your faith, finances, family, fitness and friendships? Putting God first, making Church a priority, joining a ministry you are passionate about, regularly enjoying prayer and worship will not take away from these other areas of your life, but rather enhance them and they will supernaturally flow. By abandoning them and pursuing God wholeheartedly, you will discover the power of the Matthew 6 promise.

 

 

The Kingdom of God

Ben —  May 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

 

It’s only human nature to regard ourselves and our own desires as the most important consideration in all our decision making. However there are great pitfalls in simply putting my needs alone at the centre of my universe. If I only see my relationships or my marriage as opportunities for other people to meet my needs, problems will arise. If I run a business purely for selfish gain with zero consideration for any of my customers or staff, I’ll run into difficulties. Self-centredness actually gives us a skewed outlook on reality.

Seeing ourselves at centre stage in life is a faulty paradigm. The world carried on fine before we arrived in it! God has been outworking His plan for centuries – and we are privileged to play a part in His mission! His church has a mission – a purpose – to be the Body of Christ in our world. When we live for God’s mission, we discover true joy, and find meaning that goes way beyond just living for ourselves. As Christians, God’s mission is now our mission.

God’s Message reveals His Mission. The first aspect of our mission is to bring Jesus to the world. The second: establishing the Kingdom of God.

Jesus spoke in parables to help us understand the differences between the world as we know it and how the Kingdom of God operates. Living according to the precepts of God’s Kingdom, under the Rule and Reign of Christ, requires living by a different culture, a different set of principles, different priorities and seeing life from a different perspective.

In Mat 6:19-34,  Jesus outlines some of those differences, including the attitude we need to develop towards material possessions, money, and daily needs.We can so easily get caught up in consumerism – becoming overly focused on our material needs and wants. Yet, when we think about it, most of what we spend our hard earned money on (even large expenses like cars) will eventually end up as rubbish! Sure, we all need money and material things, but we shouldn’t become consumed by our need for them! As always, we need to find a balance.

Mat 6:31“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Seek first the Kingdom of God – that’s a part of your purpose and you life’s calling. How do we go about doing this?

  • Make church a priority
  • Make ministry an important part of our routine
  • Make worship, prayer and reading the Word a part of our lifestyle.
  • Make following Jesus in your heart your greatest priority – always keep Him ‘Number One’!

 

Make His Mission your mission. At times following God may mean putting aside our own ideas and ambitions; but our lives will always be better with God at the helm. Are you ‘laying up treasure’ here on earth, or in heaven? (Mat 6:19, 20) What do you need to rearrange in your life to make sure God stays in no. one spot?

Living by faith

Ben —  March 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

 

2 Cor 5:7 …we walk by faith, not by sight. (KJV)

It’s impossible to please God without faith.

Heb 11:6Faith And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

A life of faith is essential because everything in our spiritual life stems from faith. Faith describes our perspective – how we choose to view our lives.  As Christians, we live in a certain amount of tension between two great opposing forces – the spirit and the flesh (our earthly nature). To walk by faith rather than by sight requires making continual conscious decisions to follow God’s Word.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent challenged Eve to doubt what God had said. Satan challenged Jesus regarding God’s Word in the wilderness. In our largely sceptical word, we will also be challenged on many fronts to doubt God’s word. Ultimately, having faith in God’s Word comes down to a decision.

As a church, and as Christians, we should learn how to be good at helping others. Our culture teaches us to resist, deny, or hide our pain. As Christians one of our callings is to give support to others through difficult times and to minister the love of God to those who are hurting. This is not just the job of pastors – we all need to realise that there will be times where we are the ones who can help someone who’s going through a time of grief.

 

Sometimes the hardest thing about wanting to help someone experiencing grief is that we simply feel unsure about what to say or how to act. How can we be a blessing at their time of need?

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping (about Lazurus’ death), and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

v35: Jesus wept.

In this story we see how Jesus responded with compassion and action. Here we see both sides of Jesus: He was both fully God and yet also totally human; He experienced the full range of human emotion. He identifies with our pain, sorrow and suffering. What vast dimensions of Christ’s love are drawn together in this, the shortest of Bible verses?

Practical tips for helping others work through grief:

  • Commit to the long haul. Recovery from loss is a process that continues over years. There is no right way or correct speed to move through the stages of recovery. It’s not a linear progression; there will be a series of ups and downs along the way.
  • Be a good listener. Don’t worry if you don’t have any answers or the greatest advice. Often the best thing is just being able to give someone the time to express what they’re feeling.
  • Talk naturally about the situation. Even though addressing the subject may be difficult, it’s usually better than avoiding it completely.
  • Do send cards, messages and give phone calls, both initially, and over time; eg on anniversaries. We might think these are only small gestures, but they actually contribute to the recovery process more than we might realise.
  • Pray for them. Get alongside them and ask if they’d like prayer. Pray for them privately. Prayer is powerful. The best news: Ps 23:3 He restores my soul. God can bring healing from the greatest loss.
  • Develop empathy. Do your best to understand what they’re going through. You don’t have to have been through the same experience to relate to their pain and imagine how they might be feeling. Take the time to just sit with them. (Ez 3:15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed.)
  • Don’t rush them or tell them what to do.
  • Don’t impose if your attention is not welcome. At times, the griever may not be ready for what you have to offer; the timing or mood may not be appropriate.
  • Avoid Christian clichés and pat answers.
  • Maintain contact. Even if you are unsure of how best to respond, it’s better to offer love and care than to avoid contact or withdraw your friendship. Even if you say the ‘wrong’ thing, people will appreciate your care and concern.
  • Let how they are feeling be a guide to your response. Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn (weep) with those who mourn.
  • A little gentle humour employed with sensitivity at the right moment can help.

I hope we can all develop these skills of tact and care. When people around us are facing difficulties, we should be the ones who can offer to help them through. Let’s develop excellence in our ability to respond to the call to help others in their times of need.

 

Ecclesiastes 13:1-8 is a well known portion of scripture, summed up in its opening verse:

Eccl 13: 1 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…

God created the natural cycles of day and night, years and the seasons. Gen 1:4 Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years.

Life doesn’t proceed in a linear fashion; it moves in seasons – cyclical rhythms. Different responses are needed in different seasons. What is right for one season may be inappropriate or unnecessary in another. Think of some of the characteristics of each of the four seasons:

  • Summer: a time of harvest, joy, holidays, ‘rest & recreation’, storing up for the future, but also dryness and scorching heat. We enjoy summer, but we need the other seasons to sustain life.
  • Autumn: a time where winds of change blow through your life, of feeling unsettled, uncertainty, the ground shifting, cultivation of the ground in preparation for the season to come, pruning, things seem to be cooling down or even dying off.
  • Winter: barrenness, darkness, no evident life, things seem to be at a halt, lack of apparent progress, growth is hidden, you’re in a valley, things don’t feel as exciting as they used to, a time of introspection and internal searching.
  • Spring: new life, breakthrough, growth, emerging fruit, productivity, passion reignited, sowing seed, new dreams and visions, movement, rapid change.

3 keys to handling different seasons in your life:

1. Submit to the season you’re in. Job 38:32 Can you direct the sequence of the seasons…? No, we can’t change the seasons; their timing is beyond our control. Go through each one with an attitude of humility and a heart that’s open to God. Ask “What’s He doing right now?”

2. God is in every season – even the difficult ones; the times when you feel as if He’s far away; even in those times when the daily grind seems never-ending. Notice how often we wish it was another time of year? Are we continually longing for a different season, either from the past or in the future? Or am I learning to choose to be content with where God’s got me right now? In Mat 6:11, when Jesus says ‘Give us this day our daily bread…’ He is talking about having a daily reliance on God. God has a way of anchoring us to the present. Seek Him out every day and tap into His strength no matter what difficulties you are facing.  He is there with us just as much in the winter, even when we can’t seem to find Him so easily, as in the summer, when we seem to feel his touch readily. “Where is God at work right now?”

3. Every season has a purpose. Looking back, you can often see that you learned and grew the most in the hardest times. They are also probably the times when we learn to rely on God most. We can learn and gain from every experience we go through. “What is He helping me learn right now?”

Seasons apply to every area of life. Developing the ability to recognise what season we’re in and doing our best to remain flexible enough to learn the lessons we need to will help us progress onto the next phase. Be willing to adapt, grow, learn and move. How we handle each season will prepare us for those that follow. And we should be careful not to judge those going through difficult times harshly, because none of us are immune to hardship.

Seasons can be observed in relationships; finance; different decades; our education/career; and the different stages of our spiritual growth.

‘Every morning is a fresh beginning; every day is the world made new. Today is a new day; today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment – this day – is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day – each moment of this day – a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity.’  Dan Custer

Ps 1:3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

How do you respond when a storm such as financial pressure, the death of a loved one or some unexpected health problem sweeps into your life? Do you fall into despair? Medical research tells us hopelessness can have serious negative physical consequences including heart disease.

 

The Bible offers us no free passes through the trials of life. Many of the most famous biblical characters went through enormous trials in their personal lives such as betrayal, family breakdown, loss of loved ones and great disasters. Being a Christian and having faith in God doesn’t mean we never experience problems, suffering, or crises. But it does help us journey through such difficulties.

 

As Christians we are not immune to life’s trials. I wish we were. But if we were, and true Christianity meant no big problems or bad surprises, then we are all doing something wrong, because churches are full of people going through difficulties. This can be a significant problem because if my worldview is ‘if I’m a good enough Christian, God is going to save me from all the problems of life’, what happens when just the opposite seems to occur? We can become confused, angry and disillusioned. So if Christianity offers no exemption – what is the answer? How do we find hope when trouble hits?

 

David found hope in God In the midst of great discouragement, even when circumstances remained tough.

Psalm 42:5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!

He’s at his lowest – yet He chooses to put his hope in God, finding peace and solace.

 

Some things people pin their hopes on:

Circumstances: yet they are often out of our control and can change so easily.

The future: yet it’s unpredictable, holds no guarantees, and cannot promise us improvement.

Other people: Sometimes we can build our entire foundation of hope on others, e.g. a boss we hope will promote us, or hope for some lucky break where we may just meet the right person. But people can let us down; people are not perfect; and they often don’t have the power to change our circumstances.

Money: Having witnessed the Global Financial Crisis, this is an easy one for us to cross off. We have seen hope in money shattered around the world. It’s not as foolproof as we used to think. In certain cases, we have seen people go from ‘white collar’ professionals to unemployed and homeless, and ‘blue chip’ share portfolios have tumbled in value. If money were the answer, famously rich people would have no problems.

 

The trouble is that by looking to these things to give us hope we set ourselves up for problems. You may be wealthy, well connected and attractive, but you still can’t stop life happening – it’s like trying to stop the incoming tide with a broom. What happens when things don’t turn out the way we expected? The ‘pillars’ we’ve built our hopes on can start to crumble, causing our entire stability to fail. We can place our hope in all sorts of things, but the only true hope is in God. Hope is one of the three pillars of the Christian life: faith, hope and love.

 

Just before the crucifixion, Jesus is discussing real life with His friends the disciples:

John 16:33 (NIV)“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

As believers we lead a dual existence: we are in Christ and in this world, two spheres of life that are constantly in tension. We live between these two realities – God who loves us and a world which is breaking down. But Jesus won the victory over the world’s systems; He has overcome the world.  When life seems to turn upside down on us, when we go through trouble, when we need to overcome – our hope needs to be in the One that has already overcome!

 

Hope is not the absence of troubles. (Hope actually originates in trouble; otherwise there is no need for it.) Neither is hope a feeling or an emotion. True hope is a choice – a decision to put your life in the hand of God. Hope in God is life changing. You can become the most optimistic, resilient, encouraging person you know through your faith in God.

 

Take heart! Even in the most difficult situations we can find hope in God.