I’m in one of those places in life where I’m asking what’s next. I am looking around at the circumstances in my life and just saying, “Ok God, what are you doing here? And what do you want me to do here?” Part of it is seeing that there’s a whole lot of stuff happening around me that I simply have no control over, but on the other side of that is recognizing that God has given me choices to make and things to do to direct my life in a way that is good and glorifying to Him.
With the start of the new year, I have been challenging my students to take an active posture in regards to their lives and faith. I believe that the Bible teaches that God is in sovereign knowledge and control of everything that happens, and that we are called to trust Him in the things that he brings in and out of our lives (Proverbs 16:9, Isaiah 46:10, Romans 8:28). In that though, we can fall into the trap of taking a passive posture towards life and faith. We can get into the mindset of, “Oh well God is in control and is going to do this or that anyways, so I don’t need to do anything about it.” When we do this we ignore the active role that God has called us into as His sons and daughters called according to His purposes. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul exhorts his younger friend Timothy, saying “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12 ESV). Take notice of the way in which God’s word exhorts this believer to approach his faith: pursue, fight, take hold. These are not passive postures, these are active steps of faithfulness. These are choices that Timothy must make about how he will live and what he will do.
I want to be intentional about the things I give my time, thought, and energy to this year because I know that the things I fill my time with direct and shape the posture of my heart. I want my heart to be pointed like a compass toward God and things that glorify Him. The two ways that I want to do this is by asking good questions and forming good habits.
Asking Good Questions
A writer and speaker that I enjoy listening to, Andy Andrews, often says the quality of your questions determines the quality of your answers. I think that asking good questions is one of the most important skills we can learn. When we learn to ask the right questions in the right places, it can dramatically impact the decisions we make and how people interact with us. We should ask questions of ourselves and others that intentionally guide us towards actively living for God.
Just as a basic framework, stop and ask, “Why am I doing this?” and “How does what I am doing right now point me toward or away from God?” One area that I had to ask this question was with TV and Netflix. I found myself a while back coming home each day from classes and work and sitting down to mindlessly watch TV for hours on end. Obviously this is not actively pointing me toward God, but is it pointing me away? I found in some cases yes, especially when I was turning to television to cope with stress and busyness. Instead of turning to God as my shelter and refuge, I was turning to television and often binge eating as my savior from the hectic world. Does this mean that TV is bad? No, of course not. It means that I need to be careful to ask myself why I am going to TV, and whether my consumption of it is beneficial or detrimental.
The goal here is not to be overly critical of every little thing or to suck any fun and leisure time out of our lives.The goal is to be intentional, see where certain things in our lives are not serving God, and to find ways to shape our lives to the One who offers true and abundant life (John 10:10).
Forming Good Habits
I recently read a great book called You Are What You Love, by James K.A. Smith. In the book, he discusses the forming power of the habits we have in our lives. The main thesis of the book was that our habits direct what our hearts desire, and what our hearts desire is what we will worship and form our lives around, so we should be intentional about our habits.
If this is true, and I am convinced it is, then I want to build habits in my life that are God-centered and gospel-driven. I want to have a rhythm to my life that communicates to my heart and mind that who I am is a child of God called to live for Him. For example, if God has given His Word to me in the Bible, and I believe that my life should daily be shaped by that Word, then I want to daily read and meditate on that Word. If I believe that each day is an undeserved gift of grace that God has given to me, then I want to practice thankfulness to God for that gift. I have been doing this by writing down three specific things at the end of each day that I am thankful for, and then taking the time to thank God for the grace He has shown me through those things and His continued work in my life. If I believe that God has adopted me into a family of believers, and the Bible calls me to gather with and serve that family, then the life of the local church is going to be a priority, and not just on Sunday, but every chance I can get to meet with my brothers and sisters in Christ and encourage and love them.
My desire is to live life in a way that shapes me toward loving God. As a believer, God is going to use the things in my life to work for good (Romans 8:28), but I want to direct my life towards Him in a way that we are working towards the same goal of His purposes, not where I am living for myself and He is grinding away at me in spite of me.
“But as for you, O man (or woman) of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12 ESV).