May 8, 2015

10 Lessons I’m Learning in Life

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[intro]I’m older now. Youth is a distant past in my rear-view mirror. Yet I am thankful for God’s patience and faithfulness throughout my years and so appreciate His willingness to not give up on me through my failings and weaknesses.[/intro]

During a recent weekend series on Solomon’s life from the book of Ecclesiastes (11:8-12:13), I reflected on a few of the things God has taught me and continues to teach me.

Here are a few of those important lessons I am learning:

1. The little habits and choices I made when I was younger DO make a huge difference in my life now. (Galatians 6:7-10)

My study and commitment to grow through the application of the Scriptures has influenced how I think and live more than anything I’ve attempted to do. Daily, I am able to reap the benefit of this commitment, yet I’m also aware of my lack. Small decisions (good or bad) reveal themselves over time in my life. In spite of my failings, I realize that what is most important nowis to seek to finish strong, and not dwell on those things I may have failed miserably at.

2. In seeking to influence life change in the lives of others, I am more aware of God’s role/my role/their role. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

I can’t change other people. I have my hands full with seeking change in my own life. However, I am very aware of the Holy Spirit’s working in others, and also understand an individual’s responsibility in making those changes toward Godliness for themselves. Knowing this, I can speak Biblical truth to others, love them as Jesus does, and still sleep at night, knowing that I am only one small piece of the spiritual growth plan. God’s desire for life change in others is far greater and far more influential than mine. That’s good news.

3. I can be content with where I am in all areas of my life, yet still be motivated to keep growing and improving. (2 Corinthians 5:21/Phillipians 3:7-16)

My contentment comes from God’s acceptance of me—and my position in Christ, in spite of my mistakes. My motivation comes from wanting to honor Him going forward, and the fact that I can express my love and appreciation for all He has done for me, undeservedly so. Contentment and motivation can and must exist in balance. My contentment in Christ fuels the desire to grow and improve my service to God.

4. Truth, not age, builds character. (John 8:31-32)

Growing older provides us with great life experiences from which to draw from and pass on to others. Yet, age alone does not bring wisdom. Truth applied builds character and wisdom. By abiding in God’s truth and obeying it, we can know truth and live a life of freedom—free to honor God and not serve our own sinful desires.

5. It’s a privilege to know and be able to pursue what is on God’s heart: People. (John 3:16)

I am humbled to think that God has allowed me to see and understand His heart for people. In spite of all my weaknesses and failings, God has allowed me to invest my little life in the greatest investment ever known: People. I’ve learned to not take that opportunity lightly. I feel privileged to be a small part of His purpose and plan here on earth—united with others who also desire to invest our feeble lives for His purposes.

6. The more I grow and seek to live out the gospel in my life, the more aware I am of my own sin nature and its desires—and my failings. (Roman 6:12-14)

That’s actually a good thing! I’m ok with that. I am seeing more clearly the battle between the Holy Spirit that now lives within me and my sin-ravaged fleshly nature. It’s a polarization that continues to take place in my life on a daily (if not moment-by-moment) basis. In my thoughts. In my attitudes. In my behavior. I’m no longer shocked that I still wrestle with wicked or sinful thoughts or actions—even with areas of my life that I may have considered “fixed” in my life. I am well aware of the battle that is being waged in my mind continually. The battle in my heart grows more intense as I grow older and mature. Even as my fleshly nature gets “more fleshly,” the Holy Spirit’s influence is growing stronger and more powerful in my life.

7. God is faithful, even when I’m not. (Philippians 1:6)

As I grow older, I am growing in appreciation of God’s faithfulness to me, no matter how much I mess up or screw up. God’s commitment to me, and His purposes for my life, continue, no matter how much I tend to short circuit them. He will not give up on me. I’m His child. He’s my Father. He chose to have a relationship with me, knowing full well that His faithfulness would need to be expressed in more ways than I can imagine. His faithfulness to mature me extends to the end my earthly life. That faithfulness motivates me to get up when I fail and continue on.

8. As I grow, I tend to get more sophisticated at “acting spiritual” before others.

To counter this spiritual phoniness, I have learned the importance of seeking to be real/transparent/honest with God and with others. Knowing and recalling my position in Christ is helping me to be more real—more transparent—more honest—more “ok” with my weaknesses. I’m amazed at how often I think I am able to fool God by my shallowness. He’s not fooled. He knows me—He died for that lack of authenticity—and still accepts me. Still, He is always nudging me toward being real with Him about my failings. His followers are here to help me face those issues in my life. It’s freeing to be real, and yet accepted by my Creator and His followers.

9. It gets more difficult to “make allowances for the faults of others.” (Colossians 3:13)

I find myself more easily annoyed at the failings of others than I was when I was younger. Those insignificant things others do—that I’m convinced they do just to irritate me! As I get more accustomed to enjoying my “rights” as I see them, I more easily become annoyed when I feel those rights are being violated. With true spiritual growth comes real opportunity to love others in spite of feeling my rights are being walked on. Growth produces opportunity to choose and manage my personal feelings and in-born selfish nature. I can’t have one without the other.

10. Thankfulness for what I already have in Christ trumps my tendency to be discontent. (Psalm 103:2)

As I focus on what I have (eternal life and total acceptance by a holy God), which is already more than I could ever deserve, it frees my heart to be able to be truly thankful. My heart is ever on the hunt to seek satisfaction from things incapable of meeting the deep needs that only God can quench. As I choose to be thankful for all that God has given me, I am able to free myself from the daily enslaving power of what I don’t have, or what I wished had not happened, or what is difficult or trying. An appreciative heart and attitude paints a whole different perspective regarding life’s trials.

May we all continue to live and grow in the reality of knowing Jesus—the One who alone provides us strength for the journey and confidence in our acceptance by Him to love and serve what is on His heart—as we seek to live out the gospel to the world around us.

Image Credit: Jon Rawlinson

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