Live your life with purpose

I just posted something to my Facebook page, a verse and a comment.
 
Here is the verse:
Proverbs 1:32 “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;” (NIV)
Here’s the comment:
“OK, that may seem a little intense for a first verse share of the new year, but my heart (for you and me) is that we live our lives for the Lord *intentionally* in this new year. Make today count *for HIM*. There is a way you can live, today and for the year, that shows that your life is no longer yours, but *HIS*. Live your life *that way*. Today, by the power of His grace, begin to live that way. May God strengthen you for the journey.”
 

Have you ever gotten to the end of a day and thought, “well, that was a wasted day”? To be honest with you, I HATE it when I feel that way. Ever since becoming a follower of Christ, I have wanted every day to mean something in my walk with Him. To grow in grace, to put away a sin issue, to share the gospel with someone, to love others better…all of these and more drive me each day in my life with Him (and for Him). By God’s grace, I think I have had many days that were lived with a real kingdom purpose and mindset.
 

But what do I do with the day that just doesn’t “feel” that way? How do I come to God at the end of that day? Well, here are a few things that I do:
1. first and foremost, I do a heart-check. Was this day really a failure? Was there some artificial marker that I had set for myself, and, not having achieved it, feel like a failure? If the answer is “yes” to the artificical marker question, I confess my sin of works righteousness before God, and ask Him to show me how to do good works for His sake (not my own sense of self-fulfillment) and in His strength. God has prepared good works for me to do (Eph. 2:10), but I am a fool if I think that the good works that I do make me more acceptable in His eyes (Eph. 2:8-9). I breathe a prayer of confession and repentance and seek to commit the next day to Him.
2. Was there a blatant sin (of commission or omission) that I did during the day? Did that keep me from pursuing my whole-hearted service to the Lord in everything? Nothing makes me feel like more of a failure than when I sin. Jesus died to pay the price for my sin, so that by faith in Him I could be restored to a loving relationship with God the Father. When I sin, I despise the price paid for me. I take for granted that which Christ purchased with His blood: my life and my hope, now and forever. Satan wants me to wallow in the regret of the sin. God wants me to confess the sin (and therefore confess my utter dependence upon Him), accept His forgiveness, forsake the sin (turn away from it, by the power of the Spirit), close my eyes and rest in Him. I can rest and sleep a peaceful sleep by resting in the grace and mercy of God.
3. I am a physical being. Is my sense of the day being wasted just wrapped up in my tiredness? Or my sickness? One of my daughters has rheumatoid arthritis. I have a close friend who has fibromyalgia. I know others who are suffering with cancer and suffering with the treatment for cancer. If all they have to count on for a sense of purpose and peace in life is their physical sense of well-being, then they are in the most despair. God is sovereign over all things. These afflictions are His doing. I am tired or weary or sick because I am *not God*. My tiredness reminds me that He is always the one who gives strength. So, I have to pray for my spirit to rest in Him. And, if neither #1 or #2 from above are in play, then I try to recount the blessings of the day, give God the glory for them, and close my eyes in rest.
 

So, what do these things have to do with the verse quoted from Proverbs? Even as a Christian, it is all too possible for me to live like a fool. It is all to practicable for me to be complacent in my life. (Complacency = “satisfaction or *self-satisfaction* accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies”). I want my life to be the *opposite* of those qualities. I want to be wise in my living. I want to be intentional in the life that I live. I don’t want to be wayward, directionless, in my life in Christ. I don’t want to be complacent. I want to be satisfied in Him (not self-satisfied). I want to be aware of the dangers around me (the world, the flesh, the devil). I want to be aware of my deficiencies (so that I would glory all the more in the *sufficiencies* of Christ.)
 

O Sovereign Lord, help me in 2012 to live a life that is purposeful. Help me to make the most of each day, each opportunity to love You and to serve You, as well as loving others and serving them. Help me to focus the energy and grace of the day You have given so that it resonates with Your strength and joy and hope. Help me to be aware of the dangers of complacency. Help me at the end of each day to confess my sins, count my blessings, and rejoice in the glorious hope of the Gospel.

A personal meditation

Monday morning, you sure look fine! It’s a beautiful start to the week. My proclivity towards stress and negativity haven’t woken up yet, though they linger at the door. There was this great quote from Spurgeon on Challies’ blog this morning: “How much of the staple of our conversation consists in complaint!” I am reflecting more and more on how my thinking needs to change in this area. It all relates to my trust and satisfaction in God and His provision. I fight against the tide of my own negative thinking all the time. Like most things, it is easiest just to go with the flow of my negativity, rather than fight against it. It ultimately is not the way I want to live my life, though.

I don’t want to just be a Pollyanna, either. I want a reasoned trust that looks for the best in all the situations I encounter, whether in planning or in the meeting of them along the way. How will I fight the battle today? How will I fight the battle in this moment? I’m not sure that negative thoughts are ones to “take captive”. I think it will be better to put them to death as a deed of the flesh. Certainly it is in the flesh that I do not trust in God’s provision, plan and timing. In the spirit, I realize that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

So, a negative thought, a gloomy outlook, a pessimistic expectation springs from my flesh. In short, it is sinful for me to entertain and nurture those thoughts. I want to change in my heart and in my thoughts and in my actions! Who can save me from this? Only you, Lord. Only you.

So, let’s take a bit of Psalm 56 and work it around to my application and desire for life change (and I don’t think it’s an inappropriate working of the verse.)
Ps. 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
(Since I battle fear as well, this is a great verse to think upon, to meditate upon, to soak into my thought- and action-life. Let’s look at it from the negativity framework in this instance.)

<>

This is my prayerful application of those verses into my life. It is the way I pray Scripture to God and pray Scripture into my life and thinking. I suppose in some ways it is the “preparatory” corrective prayer. I will pray this Scripture prayer in daily preparation for the battle against negativity and pessimism. The struggle in the moment of temptation will be aided by this taking up of the sword of the Spirit in advance of the fight.

The fight will come, count on it. It will probably be a long struggle, since the formation of the habit of negativity took years and years. I am confident, though, that it is God’s will for me to trust in Him in all circumstances. I trust that it is according to His good purposes that He wants me to be joyful and confident in Him and His provision and plan. Since these things are in accordance to His will, I know that they will be accomplished in me as I “work out my salvation with fear and trembling”, knowing that “it is God who works in [me], both to will and work for *his* (and my) good pleasure.”

In all things, may He receive the glory. What is done for His glory is ultimately for my good, too.
“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!”
Ps. 57:7-11

Grace

This is a great thought about grace:

“There is nothing in human experience alone that can awaken a person to the full reality of God’s grace. What Jesus did for us, the grace that His life and death is for us, is eternally impossible to fully comprehend. The fact that people like us will live with God FOREVER is purely His gracious gift to us. Sadly, even though we know so much about grace, we continue to make obeying rules the high watermark of our lives, rather than grace.”

(Richard Ganz, quoted on Tim Challies’ blog)

Fruitfulness

From C. H Spurgeon, on fruitfulness: “Our fruit is found from our God as to union. The fruit of the branch is directly traceable to the root. Sever the connection, the branch dies, and no fruit is produced. By virtue of our union with Christ we bring forth fruit. Every bunch of grapes have been first in the root, it has passed through the stem, and flowed through the sap vessels, and fashioned itself externally into fruit, but it was first in the stem; so also every good work was first in Christ, and then is brought forth in us. O Christian, prize this precious union to Christ; for it must be the source of all the fruitfulness which thou canst hope to know. If thou wert not joined to Jesus Christ, thou wouldst be a barren bough indeed.”

As we begin this new ministry year in ((34:3)), let’s remember that our fruitfulness will come from our connection to Christ. If we, individually and collectively, are not “joined to Jesus Christ”, we will be “a barren bough indeed.” (John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”)

God justifies the ungodly

from Spurgeon’s book, “All of Grace”

Romans 4:5 “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness”

“He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor.

————-

It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that ‘there is none righteous, no not one’. He knows that ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,’ and therefore the Lord Jesus…comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he ‘justifies the ungodly’.”

Thirsting and Hoping

Ps. 42: 1 “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Ps. 43:5 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

I love the bookends of Ps. 42:1-2 and 43:5. In one of the most vivd word pictures of the Christian’s longing for fellowship with God, the psalmist speaks of his soul-thirst (Ps. 42:1-2). It is a poignant, powerful observation that God alone will satisfy the deepest thirst that we have: the thirst for living water.
Psalm 43 ends with the psalmist directly addressing his soul. It has been often said, perhaps best by Martin Lloyd-Jones, that we spend too much time listening to ourselves and not enough time talking to ourselves. The psalmist picks up this challenge and speaks directly to the very disquiet of his inmost being. It’s as if he is saying, “soul, don’t you remember who you were thirsting for and longing for just a short while ago? You were thirsting for the *living God*. You knew that only He could satisfy the deepest longing, the deepest appetite for nourishment and fulfillment. This same God is the One in Whom you will again find your hope. You will praise Him! Oh, remember!”
May God grant us the grace today to hope in Him.

Mercy

Spurgeon on the Christian’s ongoing need for mercy from God:
“Only on the footing of free grace can the most experienced and most honoured of the saints approach their God. The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best. Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness.
We have need that the Lord should have mercy upon our good works, our prayers, our preachings, our alms-givings, and our holiest things. The blood was not only sprinkled upon the doorposts of Israel’s dwelling houses, but upon the sanctuary, the mercy-seat, and the altar, because as sin intrudes into our holiest things, the blood of Jesus is needed to purify them from defilement. If mercy be needed to be exercised towards our duties, what shall be said of our sins? How sweet the remembrance that inexhaustible mercy is waiting to be gracious to us, to restore our backslidings, and make our broken bones rejoice!”