Our solution is life on God’s terms!Every day, I hear the complaints, laments and confessions of people who are tired, worn out and burned out. I am concerned because I hear these messages more than at any other time in my life and work. Being absorbed in the daily hassles of surviving; driven by the tyranny of the urgent and competing demands upon their time, energy and passion, life is demanding. Contentment feels as if it is life on another planet or perhaps only in eternity.We live frayed. We live fragmented. We live divided and we call this way of living the “abundant life.” Deep down, we know that any sense of abundance has eluded us and we resign to live our lives in a quiet resignation of desperation.[tweetthis]The solution to our dilemma is life on God’s terms. [/tweetthis]The fateful dilemma that we have found ourselves living in at this present time is assuaged when we realize that there really is another way of living and a solution offered to us. If we could live a life marked by robust sanity, we'd be crazy not to live our life in a way that promises us a true solution.The life of a person who is following Jesus is first of all a life! It is not ascribing to a doctrinal list of beliefs. Following Jesus is a new way of living—not just going to church; not just saying that we believe; not just adding Jesus into our already crowded lives. Jesus offers us a way of living that cultivates life—a life that is free from the brutal tyranny marked by exhaustion, speed and busyness.The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all” (Romans 8:3 MSG). Our disordered mess is something Jesus came to address, rescue us from and offer us an alternative way that would be radically different from tending the grave clothes of our lives and calling that tending—life.In my work and every day in my work with people, I hear almost the exact same words that Paul again penned for us that describe so well, our every day lives:“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?” (Romans 7:24).The solution is life on God’s terms.Life on God’s terms is marked by several characteristics, that if embraced and practiced —actually yield a life that is marked by peace from our inner angst; well-being rather than sub coming to the malaise of our current condition and a life that is satisfying and fulfilling. The life lived by Jesus, described by the writers of the New Testament and actually lived out by men and women in other generations can be ours today. Many of us are so absorbed and exhausted by our day-to-day lives that we have forgotten and possibly ignored the fact that there is a solution for us.To live this life—to attain this new life—we must wake up from the lull of our sleep and the numbness our current condition has resulted in and start to live in a whole new way. We can live oblivious to this way of life and daily choose to try to survive—rather than thrive.The life lived by Jesus and revealed in the Scriptures is marked by several important distinctions.
- A life of rhythm. A life of rhythm is a life where we engage in our work and activities but then we dis-engage. We are not always on, available and obsessed with the doing of our lives. We discover a rhythm that is sustainable; a rhythm that fosters life within us not one that we endure with a slow, steady leak—draining us without any re-filling. Our obsession with work/life balance shows our predicament. We would rather try to “manage” our lives which few can do, to live in a rhythm where we are “on” then learn to truly “cease.” We see in Jesus’ own life a clear way of living that sustained and strengthened him to finish well—not burn out or give up or resign to a fate that was not his own choosing. Choose a daily and weekly rhythm. Choose to honor this rhythm and live in this rhythm for a month--a full 30 days and see what a difference you will experience.
- A life with attention to the soul. Our interior life needs attention. Otherwise we will ignore the place where true life begins and emerges from—inside us. When we examine the life lived by Jesus and offered to us, we learn that Jesus used silence and solitude to foster the life within. He pulled away from noise, people and things and entered lonely places (Luke 5:16). There, in the quiet and stillness around him and within him, a deeper way of living is born—a life more meaningful than all of this hurried existence we experiences. Inner silence is that place where peace, contentment and satisfaction is cultivated. Without attention to our inner life—we will live obsessed with outer markers of success and live divided; rushed; and annihilating our souls. All spiritual writers agree on this one and fundamental point. Silence and solitude promote well being and without silence, it is virtually impossible to live the life Jesus came to offer us. A healthy life—a life that is living well—is a life that honors the interior life. What results is an active life—a life of giving out but a life also of intake, receiving and being. Practice 15 minutes of quiet every say and one hour of silence and solitude every week. Build this into your life. Turn off your technology and fast from being on and available.
- A life of priority. Jesus made it clear—first things first. By this he raised our consciousness to live with a vertical perspective—a life continually focused with a Kingdom perspective. This is a perspective that we first establish in our lives—to live for what really matters. We then learn to re-focus and return to this way of seeing life as we lose focus, get consumed and need to return to our real and right priorities in life. We simply get back into the way of living with God as our solution and the ways of Jesus as our proven ways that nourish life. We can lose perspective and we can get off track—yet, we can also return and change our direction. We move away from “managing our lives” and spinning plates to a whole and other way of living. Wake up to the spiritual dimension of life and grow your soul by doing first things first!
- A life of prayer. When we learn to live by prayer, we live in a deeper, more reflective and less reactionary way of living. A life of prayer is a life of going to our inner room—our hearts and learning to pray with words and without words. We experience the God who is truly with us in our day-to-day living and we turn often and quickly into a posture of prayer that becomes a place of life and encounter. So many of us struggle here. Having never been taught how to pray, we limp along. And implement new ways of being with God through prayer.
- A life of living in a healthy way. True life is living with true health in mind. We honor our bodies. We rest them. We tend to them. We give the body what it needs to live and to live well. Since we are what we eat—we live with this in mind. We learn to make choices with our body that sustain us—rather than deplete us. We receive through good sleep, good movement and good nourishment. Since our bodies are the “temple” we live in a way that matters and does not abuse the physical address of our souls. Eat. Move. Sleep. These are the big three ways of honoring the physical dimension of our lives.
- A life of forgiveness. We live making mistakes, messing up and stained by sin. The life of Jesus is a life of continual turning from the results of our failures with God, others and self and living clean. Forgiveness is at the core of the teachings of Jesus. We forgive our enemies. We forgive those who hurt and disappoint us and we learn that we can forgive ourselves. The journey towards forgiveness is a necessary pilgrimage to live a life of peace. There is no peace without forgiveness. We let go of hurts and failures. Sin is assuaged and we live without self condemnation that plagues so many of us. Sit quietly and see if your attention is drawn to someone you need to move towards and take the initiative to forgive today.
- A life of serving others. The Dead Sea in the Middle East is dead because there is no outlet. The waters pour into this basin but there is no place for the sea to give out. A healthy life is a life of making outlets to give our lives to others and then we realize that this paradox happens. As we give—we are the ones who also receive. The hymn writer said, “Because I have been given much, I too, must give.” The life of Jesus is not an escape from human need and misery. It is a life of giving love, mercy and a simple cup of water to those in dire need. Choose to give to something to someone every day and certainly every week.
Each of these seven distinctions require choices and action steps. We come to realize that this distinctive and living this way may not really be our normal way of living. But we can create a new normal—a life that is marked by these very normal and realistic, yet life altering ways of living. We sometimes live our lives on auto-pilot thinking that we do not have to give attention to some or all of these markers of true life. Yet, as we practice each marker—as we give each distinctive daily, weekly and monthly attention, we live our own healing and participate in our own transformation. As we live a whole “other” way—we discover that we are living a whole and other kind of life—a life marked by the ways of Jesus and a life sustained by God’s Spirit within us.What we need is a plan---a way to do this new life. I believe that if practiced and embraced, these seven distinctives will yield the life we long for--the life we are attempting to live. Take each of the seven distinctives and make a plan to begin to practice each one. These are not things to "add" to an already over committed life. The answer may well be to take away other things that over promise and under-deliver the life you want to live.For each distinctive, consider taking something out of your life and life style so that you can replace it with the markers that will sustain you and cultivate the life you long for right now.It's time to wake up and start living!