Archives For Successful living

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.

 

 

Humility

Ben —  December 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

Philippians 2:3–4 (NLT) Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.(NIV) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,(G) not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Paul defines humility in Philippians 2.3: “Count others more significant than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:14–15 (NLT) Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

(NIV) Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blamelessand pure, “children of Godwithout fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.

There is a connection between arguing, complaining and pride. If you are proud, you may think you know it all or that you know better than others, and regard yourself as ‘more spiritual’ than most. You may be highly critical of others, or be judgemental towards leaders in the church. On the other hand if you are humble you’ll find less to argue about. We can bring a humble attitude to many areas of our lives e.g. at work and amongst our families.

In every area of life there will always be a few things that you’re not entirely happy about or that you disagree with. Develop the habit of focusing on the good stuff and learning to live with the negatives. We can be like the Israelites in Numbers 11:1: After finally being set free from four hundred years of slavery, many of them started to complain about the food and about Moses’ leadership. Are we like them? We too have been saved, delivered and set free – we shouldn’t spend our time grumbling either!

We need to be like children – but ‘child-like’, rather than simply ‘childish’. Here are some aspects of both:

Child-like: Humble, simple (children don’t tend to over-complicate things), quick to believe, loving and affectionate, open to people and able to make friends easily, reliant on God our Father.

Childish: Prone to throwing temper-tantrums, immature, impatient, and self-centred.

We need to shine God’s light like stars or ‘luminaries’. We can shed His light wherever we go, even in dark places.

Stars also speak of dreams and potential. (Gen 22:7) 17? Be different – dare to have a dream, to stand out and do something big. God wants to activate our potential – success is a godly thing. Faith is the currency that allows us to access the promises God has stored up for us; faith enables us to follow the dreams and visions He gives us.

We may not be able to control many of the circumstances we face, but we do have control over our attitudes, our mindset and our perspective on what comes our way.

Phil 2:5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…v8 who humbled Himself by becoming obedient…

 

Questions:

Can you think of any other positive aspects of ‘childlikeness’?

What are some good antidotes to help us complain less?

What can make God’s light shine less brightly in our lives? What can make it shine more brightly?

How can we readjust childish or negative attitudes?

Partnering for Success

Ben —  October 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

Despite the modern convenience of electronic communication and the popularity of social networking sites, it seems many people today have difficulty getting past surface level and developing lasting friendships. Many admit they are lonely and don’t feel connected, describing themselves as relationally incomplete.

Many people also seem to lack a sense of community – having somewhere they feel they belong to; where they can interact with others face to face.

Are we losing the skills needed to develop strong close relationships that last the test of time? The truth is: we can’t achieve a whole lot on our own – we need to join with others in every area of life.

When difficulties arise within a partnership it may seem easier to walk away than to stick with it and work through the problems. Our culture seems to encourage walking away from difficulties.

  •  It is easier to walk away from a friendship when you are offended.
  • It is easy to just walk away from a church when you don’t like something
  • It can feel easier to walk away form a marriage that is in crisis.

 

Maybe we don’t fully understand or value the long term benefits of lifelong partnerships – ones built on mutual principles, character and trust. Learning the keys to sticking together can unlock great potential.

 

Philippians 2:25–30 (NKJV) Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;

At a time when Paul was imprisoned, unwell and unsure of his own future survival, he chose Epaphraditus to deliver his letter to the Philippians because of the strong relationship they had built over time. Paul needed someone proven, reliable and trustworthy – someone he knew would get the job done. Paul had helped Epaphroditus recover from serious illness, trained him, and over time a strong bond of respect and trust had grown between them.

Paul describes Epaphroditus as his:

  • brother
  • fellow worker
  • fellow soldier

Here we have a model for success for relationships in many areas, including family, friendships, career endeavours, church involvement and ministry. Here we see a relationship that goes far deeper than just surface level, with various layers built of commitment into it over time.

A Brother: speaks of a family bond, denoting closeness and common attributes, commitment, mutual protection, strength, a common lineage and heritage

 

The story of David and Jonathan comes to mind. These two had a brotherly bond, and made a strong and lasting pact together, despite the fact that Jonathan’s father wanted to kill David and also David was set to take the throne that could have been Jonathan’s. (1 Sam 18)

 

 A Fellow Worker: represents more than lip-service – it speaks of action and productivity – someone who will roll up their sleeves and help to get the job done. Regarding church, it denotes those who get involved in helping out rather than just talking about what needs to be done. There’s always plenty to do, but not everyone wants to do the work.

 

Matt 9:37-38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. 38 “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest. (NKJ)

A Soldier: the fighter. There will be times in relationships when you will need to contend for them – not with the other party, but to keep the relationship moving forward. This applies to friendships, marriages, families and at church. This seems to be an aspect we’ve forgotten. In the heat of battle, it can seem easier to bail out rather than persisting until problems have been overcome. Like soldiers, we need to pursue victory!

To be successful we need to link up with others. Paul knew this. He had very little in prison, but one thing he had was his partnership with Epaphroditus – more than a surface level friendship; a relationship with depth, built on layers of strength.

 

Invest in your relationships and you will reap the benefits. As you become the friend others need they will be more likely to be there for you in your time of need.

 

The secret to happiness

Ben —  October 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

Here is the audio from this weeks Life Coach segment on radio – click the file to hear my talk on the fridge that makes you smile to open it, and what true happiness is all about!

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The Goal Of Life

Ben —  October 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

Phil 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behindand straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prizefor which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

What an amazing statement! At this stage of Paul’s life he was in prison in dreadful conditions, unwell, unsure whether he would remain alive much longer, deprived of his freedom, comfort and possessions. Yet in this time of terrible adversity we see great single- mindedness and clarity in his approach to life. Sometimes being stripped of external comforts can actually help us to see things more clearly.

Paul knew he still had more to learn and to work towards. We all have untapped potential which can be released if we catch hold of a vision of what God’s got in store for our lives and keep pursuing it with all we’ve got. Paul, previously well known for persecuting believers (see Acts 9:13) also knew that dwelling on the past wouldn’t help. Like Paul, we need to decide not to let any regrets about our past shackle us and hold us back!

Phil 3:13 ‘This one thing…’ Many of us try to do too many things, causing our focus to become scattered and leaving us struggling to give any area enough attention. We can easily get so caught up in dealing with minor issues or worrying about problems that we lose momentum and make very little real progress. Single-mindedness leads to greater productivity.

Phil 3:14: We are easily distracted. It’s easy to get caught up in stress and worrying, or to get sidetracked into less fruitful pursuits. Having vision for the future with clear, specific long- term goals is the best way to stay on the right track. Athletes have clear goals and rewards, but in real life it’s usually not quite so obvious. But we are all motivated by outcomes. We need something particular to aim for – something we can envisage clearly, rather than just vague notions of self improvement. That’s why setting clear, written goals has such incredible motivating power.

Paul wrote this letter in dire circumstances. Yet rather than complaining and asking for sympathy, he speaks of joy and takes the time to encourage others! We always have a choice regarding how we view life. It’s so easy to dwell on the negatives and the problems. But have you noticed that we tend to attract more of whatever we focus on? And like Christian in ‘Pilgrims Progress’, as we walk towards the cross our burdens will fall away. Am I pressing on daily towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?

Read through Philippians 3 this week, and write down one main goal for your life.

Living a Worry Free Life

Ben —  October 11, 2012 — 2 Comments

Worry is a mode of behaviour – something we can take control over and change.

The brain is an amazing creation. It is still largely unexplained. It’s far more than just a physical organ – it’s the CPU, the command centre of your life, and it connects directly to your heart. Our thought life, especially what we focus on the most, shapes our lives. Win with the mind and you will succeed in life.

The Bible speaks of the ‘carnal mind’ – the mind we’re born with, our natural instincts, which carries an inbuilt bias towards selfishness and sin. That’s why Joyce Meyer calls the mind something of a ‘battle ground’. It’s where we win or lose in life.

Phil 4:13 says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Let’s view this statement of Paul’s in context by looking at the twelve preceding verses.

v2 We are instructed to rejoice continually, not to worry or stress or be fearful about the future. God is never worried or anxious. Notice that in the whole letter to the Philippians Paul barely even mentions the ordeal he is experiencing in the Roman prison where he is being held.

v5 The Lord is at hand. He is never far from us. Sometimes we need to reach out to make contact with Him, but He’s always there for us.

Be anxious for nothing – do any of us live up to this one? How much (or little) does it take to get you worked up? Part of the process of moving towards maturity is learning not to get overly anxious about every little thing that doesn’t go our way. Even with major concerns, I’ve learned to ask myself “How much will this really matter in a year’s time? In ten years?”

And stop worrying about what other people think about you – because they’re not thinking about you – they’re thinking about themselves!

Chronic worry can lead to emotional problems such as loss of motivation, productivity, energy and creativity; and physical problems like digestive problems, heart attack and high blood pressure.

The ‘gateways’ to our minds are our eyes and our ears. We need to guard and filter what enters into our minds via the media such as the net, TV and other influences. What do I allow to enter my mind? Is it positive and encouraging?

We have a natural tendency to focus on negatives and problems – even when they’re just minor issues! Even small worries can eat away at our inner peace and destroy our positivity if we let them build up.

In fact most worry and anxiety is wasted emotional energy. Much of what we worry about actually never happens! And why worry about things we can’t change?

Luke 12:25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

Mat 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

v7 God’s peace is the remedy. It guards our hearts and overrides troubles. Meditation on the Word of God will always bring peace. (Ps. 119:165) It’s an internal assuredness that steadies our hearts even in difficult times.

v8 Seven things we should be focusing on: whatever is

1.True

2. Honest

3. Just

4. Pure

5. Lovely

6. Of a good report

7. Has virtue

 

Are you in control of your thought life? Take time right now to think on something positive! :)

Remember:  Win with the mind and you will succeed in life.

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