How do you prevent wasting your life? Well, the Bible says this in Ephesians, 5:15-17… “Be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do
Question 1: What does God want from my life? What does that mean? What does that take? What does that involve and why should I do it? First, what does God want from you? Well, when you read through the whole Bible, you can summarize it in a couple of words. You can write this in – He wants my whole life. He wants my entire life. There is not a single verse in the Bible, not one, that says you can be a Christian and live your life any old way you want to. It’s just not there.
God wants all of you. He doesn’t want 10% of you, He doesn’t want 50% of you, He doesn’t want 99% of you – He wants all of you. Now God is very clear about this; there’s no mystery in it. Look at what the Bible says in Romans 6:13, ”Give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God”. Circle the word “completely” and circle the word “whole body”. It should be all of you. C.S. Lewis once said, “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important”. If it’s really true, then it deserves everything you’ve got. If it’s not true, you shouldn’t be here right now. The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important. It’s either all, or nothing. It’s either true, and that should determine the rest of your life, or you should just chuck it and go do whatever you want to do.
There’re still a lot of people trying to sit on the fence. Because they say, “Well, I don’t know what God wants me to do”. Well, look at the next verse: This is what the Lord your God wants you to do: Respect the Lord and do what He has told you to do. Love Him. Serve the Lord your God with your whole being.” There’s that word “whole being” again. A lot of people try to sit on the fence. They say, “Well, I’ll serve God in my spare time”. It’s like I have this pie – I have my social life, and I have my career life, you know I have my family life and over here my retirement life and over here I have my spiritual life – as if your spiritual life is one part of the pie. Wrong. God’s the whole pie. He wants the whole pie to be under His control. He doesn’t want to be pigeonholed and you say, “You know God, I’ll give you 10% of my life”. He wants it all. He wants your whole being.
Now, there’s a myth that says that you can do it all, you can have it all, but you can’t. You have to give it all to God. Look at the next verse; let’s read it aloud together, ”No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money”.
I want you to notice the word “cannot”. He doesn’t say you “should not” serve God and money – He says you “cannot” serve God and money. He says it’s impossible. What’s He talking about? He’s saying it is impossible to have two number one priorities in your life. You’re always going to have a No.1, and everything else is going to be 2,3,4 and 5. You can’t have two number one priorities.
Now there are a lot of things besides money that can certainly push God out of First Place in your life. Work can push God out of First Place; play, sports, hobbies can push God out of First Place, friends can push God out of First Place in your life, school work can push God out of First Place in your life, dating can push God out of First Place in your life, even your own family can push God out of First Place in your life.
And He’s saying you can’t serve God and something else at the same time. He said, ‘I want it all; I want to be totally in charge of your life”. So really the question here is “what’s going to be First Place in you?” Is what’s going to be the No. 1 goal in your life building your career? Is the No. 1 goal in your life raising your family? Is the No. 1 goal of your life going to be saving for retirement? Is the No. 1 goal of your life going to be maintaining your good health? You see, all of those things are good. In fact, God created them. And God approves of every one of those things, except in First Place. God says, “You will have no other gods before me”. And whatever is in First Place in your life is your god. And any time you have something in your life that’s No. 1 that’s not God, that’s called an idol. And God says, “that’s wrong”. He says, “ I want to be No. 1 in your life before everything else, and I’ll bring it all back into focus in the right way”. He says, “I’ll put it altogether”.
One time Jesus told a story about this. Actually, it wasn’t a story; it was an event that happened in His life. He was walking down the streets of Jerusalem and a man walked up and Jesus said, “Follow me” and the guy said, “Okay, I will follow you. But Lord, let me, first, go take care of some things I’ve got to take care of”.
Now, that little phrase there – “Lord, let me first” is a contradiction. You can’t say “Lord” and “me first” at the same time. If you’re saying “me first”, He’s not your Lord. He’s not in charge. He’s not No. 1. So, you have to decide who’s going to be Lord in your life – you, or God? Is it going to be God first, or me first?
Let me ask you a very personal question – where are you saying to God, “me first”? You know, even Christians do this. Where are you saying, “God, I’ll live for you, but let me first find somebody to marry. God, I’ll live for you, but let me first finish my school. God, I’ll really serve you, but let me first get the kids out of the house. God, I’m really going be on fire for you, I’m going to do it all, but let me first achieve financial independence. Let me first pay off my mortgage. Let me first build my career. Let me first finance my kid’s college education”. And God says, “If I’m not first, none of this is going to be in right perspective”.
Jesus told the story; He said, “it’s like a king who plans a big banquet and he goes out and invites everybody to come to this wonderful banquet. He said people began to make excuses.” This verse is not on your outline… it says here “they all alike began to make excuses (this is in Luke 14). And the first said, ‘I just bought a field, and I must go and see it – please excuse me’. Another said, ‘I just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way out to try them out – please excuse me’. Still another said ‘I just got married, so I can’t come’”.
Now, think about this. These three guys are invited to a banquet by the king; they all turn him down. The first guy uses his wealth as an excuse – I just bought some land and I have to go look at it – it will still be there, but he had to go look at it. The second one used his work as an excuse – I’ve got to go and plow my field. The third guy used his wife as an excuse – I just got married. So here’s my question to you – what excuse do you keep giving to God for you putting yourself first? Lord, let me first do this, then I’ll be sold out to you. Let me first do this, and then I’ll be all yours. Let me let you in on a little secret – if you would put God first in your life, He’ll take care of everything else.
Look at the next verse. The Bible promises in Proverbs 3:6 – “In everything you do (that’s everything), put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want to be a success. You want to be a success? The Bible tells you how, right there – “in everything you do, put God first. In everything you do, put God first and he will crown your efforts with success”. Have you been trying to live a part-time Christian life? The first question of life is – what does God want? He wants all of you. And any time you sit on the fence, you lose. What does God want? Well, He wants all of you.
Question #2 – What does it take?
What does it take to not waste my life? What does it take to become all that God wants me to be? What does it takes to develop myself to my fullest potential? Well, I’m going to say it in one word. It’s a word you’re not going to like. It’s a very unpopular word. We cringe when we hear this word. We really don’t like this word. But it’s the word “discipline”. And a groan went out across the land. You might write this verse down – Proverbs 10:17. Proverbs 10:17 says Whoever practices discipline, is on the way to life”. You cannot be a disciple without discipline. The two words go together – disciple and discipline. You can’t be a disciple of Jesus without discipline.
Notice what the Bible says, 1 Timothy 4:7 “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”. Now, what in the world is discipline? Well, in two words – discipline is delayed gratification. That’s all it is. Delayed gratification.
Discipline is doing the difficult now, in order to enjoy the benefit later. Now some of you don’t even need this definition, because you’re incredibly disciplined. Some of you are very disciplined in your work, your career. You plan your day, you’re always on time, you’re conscientious in your work habits. Some of you are very disciplined in your physical workouts. You never miss a physical workout. It’s in your routine, in your schedule. Some of you never miss a favorite T.V. show. I mean, you wouldn’t think of missing it. And of course, many of us never miss a meal. Shoot – I’ve never missed a meal in years! Not in years. You’re disciplined in some areas.
You know where you’re disciplined? In the areas you want to be. The things that are important to you, you get done. What if you were as disciplined in having a daily quiet time as you are in never missing a meal? What if you were as disciplined in serving others as you are in getting up and going to work everyday? What if you were as disciplined in attending church as you are in watching that favorite T.V. show that you never miss?
You know, there’s another word for discipline – we like this one a little bit better, so you can use this one – I give you permission for it…It’s the word “habits”. Habits are, simply, disciplines and you are the sum total of your habits. Tell me what you do habitually, and I’ll tell you what your character is. If you habitually tell the truth, you have integrity. If you are habitually faithful to your spouse, you are a faithful person. It’s what you do over and over and over without even thinking. If it’s a habit, it’s a part of your life and your whole life is designed, shaped, controlled, developed by the habits. And if you want to change your life, all you have to do is change your habits.
Notice what the Bible says, 1 Timothy 4:7 (in the Living Bible) – “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit”. Keep spiritually fit. He says there are exercises you can do that will keep you spiritually fit, just like there are exercises you can do that will keep you physically fit. Let me just mention two. One is one I call the discipline of letting go. The discipline of letting go. That means you let go of things because you can’t keep adding things to your schedule without letting go of something else.
Hebrews 12:1 – ”Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress”. I want you to notice two words – the word “weight” and the word “sin”. Those are two things that hold you back. There are two things that keep you from being all that God wants you to be. There are two things that limit your potential in life.
There are two things that waste your life. And He says, “You’ve got to let go of these things”. One of them is “sins” and the other is “weights”. Now, you know what sins are…breaking one of the commandments of God. But what’s a “weight”? Well, a weight is something that’s not necessarily wrong; it’s just not necessary. Have you thought of that? There’re some things in life that are not necessarily wrong; they’re just not necessary.
A weight can be all kinds of things. It could be a relationship, it could be an expectation, it could be an activity, it could be a club, it could be a memory that you refuse to let go of, it could be a fear, it could be a job. There are a thousand, or hundred thousand different kinds of weights. And the Bible says, “to grow, I must learn to say no”. You can’t say, “yes” to everything. You have to say “no” to some things. You have to say “no” often to good things in order to have time for the best things. You have to say “no” to things that are not bad. In fact, they’re quite good, but you say “no” to them because you cannot do it all and have it all. And one of the reasons we have a hard time letting go of activities is we tie our identity to them. But if you are serious about fulfilling your purpose in life, you have to make space for God in your life. And if you’re going to make space for God in your life, you’re going to have to cut some stuff out. Some good stuff, not sin, just good stuff.
I want to be honest with you. I’m concerned about you. I’m concerned about the people in our church. You can’t keep adding things to your schedule. And most of you who I know personally – I know your lives – are way too over crowded. You’ve got way too much going on in your life.
I’m telling you right now as someone who cares about you; you need to decide right now what you’re going to cut out. You can put so many irons in the fire you put out the fire. If you burn the candles at both ends, you are not as bright as you think you are. Your life’s already overcrowded, but not everything in your life is of equal value. So you need to ask, “What am I going to stop doing?” Any time you take on a new activity in your calendar, you should say, “What am I not going to do?” at the same time. Any time you take on a new habit, a new skill, a new commitment you should say, “What am I not going to do?”
Maybe you’re going to need to give up and hour a week of T.V. That might kill somebody, I don’t know. You can go home and watch Friends, or you can to a group and make friends. I don’t know which one you’d rather do. If you say, “watch Friends” – you’ve got a problem. You need to say, “What am I going to do?” Maybe you need to go to bed 15 minutes earlier so you can get up 15 minutes earlier to do a 15 minute devotional to start your day. You just can’t keep adding stuff on. To some of you, maybe this will seem like heresy. Maybe you need to cut back on your workout and work on your spiritual workout. Maybe, because one day your body is going to decay and die. But your spirit is going to go on forever. The Bible says, “Take the time and trouble to work spiritually on your exercise”. There’s always a cost of putting God first in your schedule, but the rewards are worth it.
Now, there’s another discipline I think you might consider and that’s the discipline of putting first things first. A good example is this verse Luke 10:40-42. It talks about a couple of friends of Jesus, Mary and Martha, who are sisters. Jesus had come to visit at their home. And the Bible says, “Martha was distracted by her many tasks”. Let me stop there. Do any of you identify with that phrase? Martha was distracted by her many tasks. She didn’t have a Day timer in those days. So, she came to Him (Jesus) and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” You see, Mary had gone and just sat at the feet of Jesus. But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you’re worried and distracted by many things”, in other words, she had spiritual ADD. He said, “but there is a need of only one thing” and Mary has chosen the better part”. What’s He talking about? Jesus said, “If it comes down to spending time with me, or washing the dishes, there’s no competition”. When it comes down to getting the house ready, fixing the meal, or spending time with me, cause “I’m here” Jesus said, there’s no doubt what should happen.
Let me ask you, do you find yourself like Martha? Do tasks on your to-do list distract you from focusing on God? Is your life so busy, you don’t have time to stop, even for 40 Days and focus on God? You will live an average of 25,550 days. That’s what the average person lives. Don’t you think it would be smart to take 40 of those days to figure out what you should do with the rest of them? I think so. I think that’s pretty wise. You get distracted by tasks, but as you know, not every task is of equal value.
Notice the phrase there, “Mary has chosen the better part”. You know why I like that? Because it means it’s a choice. You say, “Jeff, I just can’t get it all done”. You’re right. But let me let you in on a little secret – it isn’t all worth doing. You don’t have to do it all. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head, saying you have to do it all. God doesn’t expect you to do it all. A lot of things in your “all” are self-imposed and they’re really not mandatory. You just do them – out of expectations or other things. You’ve got the time. You’ve got the time to grow spiritually. Do you want to make the time? Will you make the time, make the choice? Will you, like Mary, choose the better part?
Let me give you two verses to write down. Psalms 39:6 in the New Living Translation says, “All our busy rushing, ends in nothing”. That one ought to go on the dashboard. “All our busy rushing, ends in nothing”. In Proverbs 10:27, in the Living Bible. You want to have more time, here’s the secret in the Living Bible – “reverence for the Lord adds hours to each day.”
Put God first, and He says, “I’ll bring everything else into focus”.
I know what some of you are thinking…you say, “ I know this. I’m just not a very disciplined person”. Let’s have a little true confession. How many of you would have the courage enough to admit, “I’m not really a disciplined person”. I will lift my hand first. Anybody else want to join me? Oh, look at all of these recovering non-disciplinarians. I, by nature, am not a disciplined person. You try writing bible studies when you’re not by nature a disciplined person. It is sheer willpower, character and dependence on the grace of God that gets me through. I’d rather be talking with people, hanging out with others. Not hanging out in a room by myself. So, I’m not a disciplined person. Well, don’t worry, God will help you.
Look at the next verse. Philippians 2:13 “God is always at work in you, to make you willing and able to obey His own purpose”. Willing and able – He gives you the desire, and then He gives you the willpower. “Not by might, not by power, but my Spirit says the Lord.” What am I saying? If you get serious and you make the choice and say “God, there are some things I will cut out of my life in order to make time to develop some new habits so that I might grow closer to you, and that you might have all of me, not just part of me, but all of me.” If you’ll just make the choice to let some stuff go by, to put some stuff on hold, to put God first, to focus on some things and say, “I’m going to come home to my first love” – God will help you and you’ll find amazing things happening in your life.
What does God want? He wants all of you, every part of you. That’s what he wants. What’s it going to take to grow? I’ll tell you what it’s going to take to grow. It’s going to take discipline. You can’t be a disciple without discipline.
Question #3: Why should I do it?
Why should I make the effort to grow spiritually? Why should I let go of some things to make time for God in my life? To make space for God in my life. Well, there are many benefits and we can spend the rest of the day just talking about those. Benefits today in your life right now, and benefits forever in eternity. But even if there were no benefits, to doing to what God tells us to do. Even if there were no benefits at all, right here on earth – I can tell you the reason why you ought to do it in two words – the Cross. Because of the Cross. Jesus gave His life completely for you and He expects your life in return.
2 Corinthians 5:15 – “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again”. He died for all. For every one of us. Jesus gave His life for every one of us in this room. Some of us have trusted Him and recognized that and enjoyed His forgiveness in our lives. Others of you, it may the first time you’ve heard this – that Jesus died for you. He loved you enough to die for you. To offer you forgiveness. He died for us so that all of us who live lives in this world – just normal, everyday lives, routine, struggles, problems, you’ve got it all, I’ve got it all – that every one of us, whatever you’re going through in your life right now, so that we wouldn’t do it just for ourselves. We no longer live lives just for ourselves.
We live our lives to the fullest. How do you live your life to the fullest? You live for Him, who died for us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. You live for Him, who died for us because He cares about us more than we can ever imagine. And in the depths of His love and care for us, He has a purpose for our lives that cannot match anything we can ever dream of. You can never bring the kind of fulfillment to your life, or joy to your life that He can bring to your life. And so we serve Him.
We couldn’t celebrate one day of purpose in our lives, except for the fact that Jesus Christ chose to leave Heaven and come to earth and give His life for us. He didn’t have to do that. He did that because He loved us. He did that because He wants us to enjoy His purposes in our lives. Just think about how amazing it is that God loves not only the world, but that He loves you, individually, right here, right now, He loves you. His blood spilt for you. He wants each and every one of us to take what happened at the cross personally. Jesus died for you. Jesus was resurrected for you. He wants to give you forgiveness. He wants to give you purpose in your life.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 1:7 – “Through the blood of His Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of His overflowing kindness”.
I know this has been a long post but as I come to a close lets look at this– Romans 12:1 says this, “Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to Him”. Now listen, it cost Jesus to die for you and it’s going to cost you to live for Him. But He deserves it, because you would have no destiny if it weren’t for the Cross. You would have no destiny. But because of the Cross, you will live forever and you owe Him your life. God is already working in our lives, even before we were born, its true.
People matter to God. It’s far more important than anything else to do on your to-do list – the eternal destiny of people. Now I urge you, If you’re not in a group, get in one. If you don’t have the time, make the time. The Bible says this, 2 Corinthians 6:1, “We beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us”. “Only one life will soon be passed, and only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Nothing else is going to matter. You ever wanted to be a part of a miracle? Well now’s your chance. Habakkuk 3:2, – “Lord, I have heard the news about you; I am amazed at what you have done. Lord, do great things once again in our time; make those things happen again in our own days”. God has given you the opportunity of a lifetime don’t let it pass by. Don’t sit on the fence. Don’t watch from the sideline.