I have seen and heard a lot of vitriol recently in my social media feed regarding our government, the coronavirus response, and quarantine life in general. Although some of the vitriol has come from non-Christians, I have seen a disturbing number of professing believers also being just as vicious in their messages, and, as a follower of Christ, that makes me so upset and sad. Just to clarify, I have also seen some believers being very gracious and kind in their responses to those who disagree with them, especially my former pastor who responds with the grace and dignity that I can only hope that more people, no matter their religious affiliation, would emulate. However, here are some things that I have heard and/or witnessed myself with some of those who profess belief in Christ that have grieved me, and that believers (myself included) should make sure we never do or stop doing, if we struggle with these issues.
Not showing grace to those who disagree with them.—Years ago, before I was a true believer in Christ, I have to admit I was guilty of this. I condemned and cursed those who would even criticize my favorite musical group. Thankfully, I have grown from that, and I aim to show grace to those who disagree with my views on life. Unfortunately, I was reading one of my friend’s social media feeds (The friend is a strong believer), and their friends (also believers) seemed to be attacking one another and not showing very much grace to one another. I would be horrified to hear what non-Christians who witnessed this would think of us believers now in light of this! I would advise believers like myself to refrain from engaging in arguments or discussions if you are unable to keep from condemning or otherwise bad mouthing your opponent. This silence will keep your witness from being marred or even destroyed and from giving the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14).
Loving their neighbor, but hating their enemies.—Going along with the first point, we should strive to love those around us, even our enemies. I know it’s tough, and I also struggle with this. However, when we see even our enemies, as fellow image-bearers of God with real dreams and goals, we can make a new friend out of them! When I decided to humble myself before God and follow what Jesus said in Matt 5:44, which says,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” winning them over is eventually what happened in numerous situations. For instance, I had trouble getting along with one of my now-former managers. In fact, at some point, I would actually have been honest in saying I hated them! However, after God revealed to me the unnecessary bitterness and anger in my heart towards them, I eventually saw them with eyes of love and compassion. Now, I hold them close to my heart as one of my good friends.
Being prideful or self-righteous in any situation, especially when being confronted with sin in their lives.—I can usually tell if a person is a mature Christian by the way they respond to criticism and when they are confronted with their sins. For instance, when confronted with criticism over an article he linked about obeying government, my pastor did not respond with vitriol or pride. Instead, he humbly and gracefully explained his position, which caused some of the people who criticized him to examine the issue further and not get upset. However, I also had a friend who I had to confront because they had violated my boundaries more than once, and instead of humbly apologizing or respecting me, they got upset and told me I was “crazy.” Both my pastor and my friend would claim to be professing Christians, but the way each of them responded reflects how true their belief in Christ really is. Unlike what society around us may say, pride is not an attractive quality in anyone. Humility is, because it shows that you can be real with someone without playing the victim or feeling attacked.
Being one person in public, and another behind closed doors.—Believing one thing and doing another is called being a hypocrite, and being two-faced will grossly undermine any credible witness you may have. In order to combat this, strive to be transparent with others about how you are living your life. This may include sharing your struggles with at least one or two close friends, and inviting their accountability and encouragement to do better. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. In Galatians 6:2 (KJV), it says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” I believe when this verse says to bear one another’s burdens, it also includes letting other people bear yours! Yes, I understand that trusting others is difficult sometimes, but do you trust God to do what is best for you through them? God will never let you go, and He has a good plan for you always, for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).
When we as a Body of believers resolve never to do these four things, we can have a major impact for the Kingdom of God! We can be the authentic, cross-bearing, Jesus loving believers we were created by God to be!
I am saddened and dismayed by the political vitriol and discord that has gone on in my country, and frankly, around the world as well. Unfortunately, I have taken part in heated and aggressive arguing before. It was about twenty years ago in an online forum. I may have considered myself a believer in Christ, but I doubt I really was at the time. Worse yet, one of my hateful messages became a featured message on that particular website! I regret writing that message to this day, and hope it is not still up there. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I know it didn’t build up or respect anyone at all. Thankfully, God did not leave me hate-filled and aggressive like I was before, and He has taught me, through many respectable and grace-filled Christians, how to speak my mind more gracefully. Here is what I learned, and continue to learn:
When confronted with a person or person with an opposing view, make sure you understand what they are actually saying, and define terminology. —I was in an online discussion on a social media platform that got heated because both sides seemed to not understand what the other person’s view actually was. That’s why I asked them to define terms. For instance, I’ve seen and heard people arguing against the stay at home order in their state. Other people accused them of being “selfish” because they are arguing against it. In order for either party to share their beliefs with grace, they need to try to understand where the party with the opposing belief is coming from. The party that called the people protesting or arguing about the stay at home order “selfish” could instead see what part of the stay at home order they are against. The people protesting may not be against all stay at home orders, but just the more restrictive parts of it. The people who are for the stay at home orders may just come out of a concern and care for others’ well -are and safety and are not intending to be “tyrannical,” as those protesting the orders may think. Also, it would be useful for both parties to define clearly and precisely the term “stay at home order.” What would it include? What would it not include?
Focus on what you agree on, not on what divides you.—In my example about the stay at home order, it may be useful to focus more on what unites you, not only what you disagree about. Both parties in arguing about the stay at home order issue seem to come out of a concern for what they feel is the greater good. The party that supports people staying at home until COVID-19 passes wants people to stay safe and not potentially spread the virus, especially to the most vulnerable in society. The party that supports lifting some restrictions on the stay at home order in their state may want the economy to recover so that less people would be out of work and have income to buy food and other necessities.
Never name-call or denigrate the other side.–What I see in many bitter and contemptible debates is that people tend to demonize and denigrate the opposing side. They do not see the opposing side as humans with goals and dreams like us, but instead as a demon or even the devil himself! If we want to speak our mind with grace, we can never demonize the other side. We must remember that no matter what side a person is on, they are humans, created in God’s image, like we are. They have hopes, dreams, and families, like we do. If someone, especially in an online forum, starts resorting to name-calling or otherwise denigrating you, you can shut down the conversation by not responding to their comments and getting out of the forum. This will allow both parties to cool down, or, at least stop the verbal escalation from getting worse. Sometimes, I even refrain from sharing my beliefs, not so much because I’m afraid to, but because I do not want to get into a name-calling, hateful debate with others.
I find that when we try to understand where our opponent is coming from, when I focus on where I agree with my opponent instead of only what divides us, and when I treat my opponent with respect and grace, that we will understand and love each other better. This pandemic alone won’t unite people, but a heart that respects and gives grace to even our opponents, can and will. Let’s feel free to share our beliefs, but let’s do so with a humble and a gracious attitude.
I am willing to be friends with almost anyone, but every
person that I consider to be my close friend embodies these characteristics.
No, they are not perfect, and may fail at times, but they have consistently
embodied these traits. Not only do I prefer these following character traits in
close friends, but I think, everyone, me included, of course, should strive to
embody these traits every single day, so we can make a true difference in this world:
The most important trait that my close friends all have is
authenticity. This means they always present themselves as honest, trustworthy,
and genuine. They do not act one way towards
others, and another way towards you. They don’t do things with ulterior
motives. All my close friends do not do things for people just to get something
from them, but because my friends really want to help and bring joy to their
lives. Also, another part of how they
are authentic is their honesty. For
instance, when one of my close friends gives me her wisdom, she always tells me
the truth, even if it hurts. Some people have been afraid to tell me truth
because they are scared that I will get upset at them and they will be looked
upon as harsh or mean. Nothing could be further from the truth! I appreciate this about my friend because her
honesty shows that she values me and having integrity—a rare, but needed
trait in our society today! By telling me the truth, she is inadvertently telling
me that I am worth what is true. Sure,
some of the things she has said may “sting” a little bit, but I appreciate that
because it shows that she values honesty.
Another trait that my closest friends all have is a
servant’s heart. All of my close friends
have lived in one capacity or another to serve the Lord and to serve
others. Some are serving the Lord as
missionaries. Others are serving their families when everyone else has
abandoned them. Still others are serving
their community through their resources, gifts, and talents. I strive to do the
same. When we have a servant’s heart, we emulate Christ, who went so far as to
die on a cross for us, and to wash every one of His disciples’ feet, even those
of the one who would eventually betray Him!
They are constantly thinking of others above themselves, working to make
the world a better place for everyone.
Also, another trait that my closest friends all have is the
willingness to be vulnerable. I define
vulnerability as being willing to share openly not only one’s triumphs and
victories with a trusted person, but also one’s trials and struggles. When I
see someone that is unwilling to admit to me or to the world that they are not
always “perfect,” I feel like they are lying to me in a way, because I know no
one, except God, is really perfect. Mark
Hall, of the contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, once said, “[I]t
doesn’t bother the world that we sin. It bothers the world that we act like we
don’t.” (CBN.com) One of my friends, Veronica,* is so passionate about being
vulnerable, it saddens her when others are not willing to open up to her. In years past, I admit I have struggled with
being vulnerable because I did not want people to judge or ridicule me. However, I have realized over the past five to
ten years or so, that being willing to be open about one’s struggles opens up other people to not be afraid to share
their struggles. It shows unity in our human-ness, and creates a deep bond
between people who are like-minded in their willingness to open up to each
other. It also enables others to help us
through our struggles, and us to help in theirs, so we will not feel alone in
our pain and struggles.
Another ultra-important trait my close friends have is
thoughtfulness and care towards others.
Along with having a servant’s heart, they are truly intuitive to the
needs of others. One of my close
friends, Erica,* knowing that I have struggled off and on with the loneliness
that comes with long term singleness, gave me a book that she thought would
help me (as it has helped her as well) with my lonely and unfulfilled feelings
that I sometimes struggle with, for my birthday. I will always treasure the thoughtfulness of
that gift and her friendship, even though we are not able to see each other
very often right now. A few days ago, when I was distraught and anxious about
several events that were going on in my life, my friend *Bonnie was willing to
take time out of her busy life to answer my texts and encourage me, as she
sensed that I was hurting and sad. I aim
to do the same for her, when she has issues, and also for anyone else who wants
moral support in a time of need. All my
close friends are willing to take the time to attend to others’ needs and to give
them the encouragement they need, especially in a tough time.
Last, but certainly not least, all my closest friends have
spiritual and emotional depth in them. This is what I aim to have in my life
more and more, though it is often a struggle for me, as it is even for these
friends. This does not mean they shut themselves off from the world around
them. However, this does mean that they are able to relate on a deeper level
with people. For instance, when I want to discuss why there is injustice in
this world, they can give me spiritual insight in wisdom into why God allows
this and how we can remedy it. In contrast, some people either don’t care about
these things or aren’t able to understand these things. For believers in Christ
to have spiritual depth to them is an essential ingredient in being able to
relate to others in their church and to get others, even those who don’t go to
church, to think about their purpose and goals in life and how they can relate
better to the world around them.
I’m so thankful to have these great, close friends—you
know who you are—who embody these characteristics. I pray that we all would strive to embody
authenticity, a servant’s heart, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and depth to our
lives so we can bring love and joy to others, and lead them to freedom from
their pain and fears.
A recent study by Cigna found that about half, or one out of every two Americans, feels lonely. (1). In the age where everyone and everything seem more closely connected than ever, especially by the Internet and social media, this statistic is particularly alarming. Moreover, a study by the CDC, found that suicide rates are also increasing by as much as 30% over the past decade (2). In fact, during junior high through my sophomore year in high school, when I felt the loneliness, I often had suicidal ideations. Thankfully, God, in His mercy and sovereignty didn’t allow me to go through with that option.
We were all created for community. Even when Adam was
surrounded with animals, God acknowledged his need to be surrounded by at least
one other person when God said in Genesis 1:18 (KJV), “It is not good that the
man should be alone.” So, after that God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Even
Jesus, in order to fulfill the purpose which the Father had for Him, had to be
surrounded by people, at least some of the time. Believers in Christ or not, we are all
created to be with at least one other person. This doesn’t have to be in the
context of a romantic or marital relationship, but we do need some kind
of relationship with another to truly be content with our lives.
When I was growing up, I didn’t really feel connected with
my community at school and I rarely attended church. As I consequence, I
struggled on and off with loneliness throughout most of my childhood. Many people, especially the younger
generation, sadly feel the same way I did when I was growing up.
Though we are, in some ways, more connected to each other
than ever, through phenomena like globalization and the Internet, we can also
be more isolated. While we may have more
virtual connections, our face-to-face connections as a society have
suffered. Because many people may see
that their face-to-face connections are suffering, instead of confronting this
problem head on, they may be tempted to retreat into virtual reality. For instance, in my personal life, I found
that when I am stressed and/or feel lonely, I tend to isolate myself more.
One of the things that God has taught me through all that,
is not to isolate. For instance, about two weeks ago, I was so depressed I
couldn’t get out of bed to go to church!
However, later I decided I should try to go the evening Sunday school
class at church, so maybe I’d feel better.
Not only did I feel better, but some of my friends were able to help me
through what had been causing me to feel depressed in the first place! Also, when we are part of a community, there
is place for both accountability and vulnerability. (Yes, there are toxic
communities where people will not feel safe to be vulnerable or accountable. In
that case, I would find another, more genuine community, and not give up until
I found the right one.) . In a community, we can learn from one another, be
accountable, and can encourage one another. That is why, in Hebrews 11: 25,
Christians are encouraged not to forsake the assembly of believers (i.e…Don’t
neglect your local church community).
Another thing that God has been teaching me about combating
loneliness is the connection between being lonely and the temptation to forge
idols. I know several people who have
turned to idols, whether it be smoking, workaholism, alcoholism, gambling, or a
number of other life-dominating vices, because they sensed a void, or
loneliness, in their lives. One of my
pastors said that the reason that many people turn to idols because they have a
mistrust of some aspect of the character of God.
So, God has been teaching me, that In order to combat true
loneliness, I need to forsake any idols that I have used as a “filling in” for
any of my perceived feelings of loneliness.
One thing that I have realized combats both the loneliness and idolatry
is basking in God’s presence and learning about and believing His character. In my class that I attend Thursday nights at
church, when I learned about God’s steadfast love and that He would never leave
or forsake me, through Scripture, I found that I became more joyful and more
aware of His presence in my life. It goes without saying, that I no longer felt
stressed or lonely that day, in dealing with life. Also, I was surrounded by a
community of believers that were able to help and/or teach me to overcome some
of my temptations to idolatry, so I would be less likely to fall into that trap
God has also been teaching me that some people are lonely
because they feel afraid to forge connections with others, even though they may
crave it. This may be due to a number of
reasons, but one of the major reasons I found in what I have observed with
people around me, is that people don’t want to forge connections because they
are afraid of getting emotionally wounded by another person again. They have been wounded, manipulated, and/or
betrayed by so many people in their lives; they would rather risk loneliness
than be abused again. I don’t blame them for this reaction, but ultimately it
will ruin them as well. I used to be one
of these people who was afraid to be vulnerable and really connect with others,
and thus, I was constantly depressed and lonely. However, I found that when I
became vulnerable and was able to be myself that I not only became less lonely,
but I also became more confident of who I was and where I was going in
life. So, how was I able to be more
“real” and “vulnerable” with others?
First of all, I surrounded myself with people that really had my best
interests in mind and were supportive and caring, even in my darkest
times. I also strived to forgive those
who had hurt me somehow. For instance, I forgave several managers at work who I
had bitterness and anger against for a long time. Since a lot of people
respected them, I sometimes felt alone.
However, when I let go of my bitterness and start to consciously think
good things about them, not only did I not feel alone anymore, my relationships
with these managers also started to improve dramatically! Also, in order to not feel lonely for a
prolonged period of time, we must persevere in forging relationships with
others, even though it may be difficult at times. People may irritate us, be
rude to us, or treat us unkindly, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on
relationships completely. Also, God may
want us to learn something, even if it is how not to be, from these rude or irritating people.
We were not created to be alone. That is why children and
adults who are isolated from others for a long period of time, may have
irrevocable damage and trauma from that experience. However, when we experience
true unity among one another, we can find love, joy, fulfillment, and community
in our lives that gives us purpose and hope for this hurting, broken world.
All my life, I had wanted to be happy and be
loved. According to Pastor Mark Jobe, it’s a desire of 95% of people you may
meet randomly on the street. I even remember reading an article ( I don’t
remember which one.) that quoted A.J McLean of the Backstreet Boys saying, “
What do people want? They wanna be happy!”
However, the longer I have lived, the more I have realized that the
pursuit of happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I found that for many
people that their pursuit of happiness often turns into self- indulgent
hedonism that can quickly spiral out of control if one isn’t careful. But being
happy isn’t a bad thing. Moreover, if these things are true in your life, you
may be well on the way to true and
In order to be truly happy, we must live with
an other- centered focus. If we live with a self-centered focus, we will most
likely sprout seeds of discontent in our lives because there will always be
some people and situations that won’t comply with our wishes! We will also miss
opportunities to truly make a positive difference in others’ lives because we
would be too busy thinking about ourselves. A self-centered focus always
demands more for itself, and thus is never satisfied with what one already has.
However, if we live to see that others are happy as well, we will be too busy
serving them to even think selfishly. Moreover, we may even see the fruits of
our service to others, and there is great satisfaction and joy in that. For
example, my former pastor served faithfully at my current church for over 40
years, and, as a result of the relational investments and services he made to
others, many people he mentored are either now in leadership positions in my
church or on the mission field. These people are likewise also actively serving
in their communities. Thus, we are able to make a great impact on the world and
the heavenly Kingdom as well.
Another thing we must practice in order to be truly happy is being grateful for all God has given us. I have observed and realized that people who constantly complain are one of the most miserable people on the planet because they only focus on what is wrong in their lives, completely ignoring the positives. Gratitude is why the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:11, is able to say, “[I] have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (KJV) One way to be more grateful is not to compare yourself with people having “ more” of what you desire than yourself, but to compare yourself with those having less than you. This thinking has not only helped me be more grateful for what I have, but also be more compassionate to others in need.
In order to be truly happy in life, along with being grateful and other-centered, we must strive to try your best in life. One area we could do this in is our jobs. Most people I encounter approach their work and/ or careers as simply a means of earning a paycheck. But what if we approached our work as a way to serve others and make a great impact on changing our world for the better? What if we served God in our jobs wholeheartedly, instead of only doing the minimum required to “get by”?
Why should we give our best, not only at our jobs, but in all aspects of life? Not only because we will feel better about ourselves and reap the rewards of doing right, but because we will greatly please God and glorify Him. We will also reap much greater rewards if we know we have done our best we could in serving God with our whole lives than if we just did the minimum or accomplished something with minimal effort because we will be able to have a much greater impact and influence when we are passionate about living life positively the best we can.
True happiness, otherwise known as “joy,” had
eluded me for many years. I have struggled with depression on and off for more
than half my life. However, thanks to God, and to all my past and present
teachers of God’s pure and unadulterated Word, I have learned these secrets of
joy– having an other-centered focus, being grateful for all I have, and giving
God the best in my life, and serving Him with my whole heart. May you,
likewise, live in true happiness today by applying these secrets of joy to your
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I am blessed that
God has provided me with two wonderful pastors, and one Pastor Emeritus who
have served and labored over my local church for many years. I have been in several different churches,
but my current church has been the best so far.
I have learned more in the past three years, than I have in the previous
sixteen years in the Lord. I owe all this to God and His sovereignty in placing
the people in my life today, especially the pastoral leadership of my church.
One of the major things my pastors taught is how to more
effectively relate to others. About
three years ago, I had a tumultuous work relationship with one of my managers
at the time. One day, things became so
bad between the manager and me, that I actually went into one of the services
upset and very bitter towards this person, even though I was not scheduled to
work that day and hadn’t even made contact with this person in a few days. So, I decided as a last-ditch effort to maybe
quell my intense emotions and be able to concentrate on the sermon that night,
that I would talk to Pastor John* about what was going on. (You can read the whole story here.) Pastor
John gave me a few poignant Bible Verses. I told Pastor John, “I tried to be
nice to him [meaning my manager], but I don’t think anything is happening. “ Then, Pastor John told me something I will
never forget: He said, “Patricia, you have to trust God’s timing. Just because your manager hasn’t responded
now, doesn’t mean God will not work in his heart later.” This not only convicted me to be more patient
with my manager, but also helped me to see that I hadn’t really been trying
that hard at all at being kind to him.
That night, I wrote an apology note to my manager, asking him to forgive
me of my bitterness towards him. The next day, I was able to see my manager as
a person in need of grace and love, rather than the monster that I crafted into
my mind for one and a half years. Thus, Pastor John was instrumental in helping
me reconcile with my manager, whom I’m pleased to say I’m on good terms with my
now-former manager and he’s happy where he is at now. Pastor John recently helped me to think
differently about my job, through one of the sermons he preached. Instead of
thinking of my job as a “necessary evil,” especially when I’m stressed, God spoke through my pastor, and they helped
me realize that I am at the job I’m in for a reason—to give hope to others
and to spread Christ’s love there. Yes,
my job gets very stressful at times, but as long as I’m doing what God (and
those He put over me at work) commanded me, God’s sovereign will and His
faithful love will cover me during those times.
Pastor Don* and Pastor Todd* also taught me how to more effectively
relate to others through how they are patient with others and willing to serve
wherever they are called.
Another thing that my pastors have taught me is how to be
more authentic, both in my relationship with God, and others. One of the things that I always appreciate
about people in general is their willingness to admit fault and to be
vulnerable, and not try to maintain this “perfect fake image” in front of
others. All my pastors model this to a
good degree, but I have especially appreciated this coming from Pastor Todd.
One time he admitted on the pulpit that he got pulled over for speeding!
Thankfully, because the police officer liked our church, Pastor Todd got off
with a warning. I found this
vulnerability and honest confession refreshing in an age where there are many
church leaders who will try to hide their sins and flaws; with the appearance
that they know “everything” and that they are “holier-than-thou.” There were
other times too that Pastor Todd was open about his personal struggles with sin
and temptation. This is refreshing to me because I feel that Pastor Todd’s
honesty makes him more relatable to someone like me, who also struggles with
sin and temptation on a daily basis. In other words, his vulnerability and
authenticity makes him more human and trustworthy!
One of the most important things that my pastors have taught
me is how to be more passionate about Jesus Christ. All of them have emphasized, over and over
again, God’s love and sovereignty over the whole world. I learned from Pastor John that God’s
sovereignty intervenes in our whole lives, down to the bosses we will have and
the parents we have. I learned from
Pastor John that if we loathe our bosses and constantly complain about them, we
also have a problem with God, because it is He who put them there in our midst,
possibly to teach us something or for God’s sovereign and good purposes in our
lives! This has taught me in order for
me to be more passionate about Jesus that I need to trust Him even in the
tougher circumstances of my life, and not to complain about the people He
decides to place in my life. I learned
from Pastor Todd that in order for me to be more passionate about Jesus, I need
to learn that Jesus loves me very much and He always has good in mind for me,
according to His purposes. I learned
from Pastor Todd’s teaching on the book, “God is More Than Enough,” that when I
become discontented with my circumstances, I need to check my heart to
eliminate any worldly and selfish desires on my part, especially the want for
something more than what Christ has already graciously provided me. Pastor Don, Pastor Todd, and Pastor John all
have taught me the importance of spreading the Good News and to show God ‘s
love to all those around us, even those we may consider our enemies.
Because of my pastors’ commitment to teaching exactly what
Jesus taught, and because they strive to live authentic and blameless lives,
they have helped strengthen and shape how my faith is today. Of course, none of
us are even close to perfect, but I will always appreciate the good that these
three men have done in our church and in my life.
I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that
nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I
have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to
life in eternity with God. I have sensed
in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia,
you don’t have much time left.” The
following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I
believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:
I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and
final—but it doesn’t have to be. Dying
well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One
can have that, and still not die well.
Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love
you. To me, dying well means to have
lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when
you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one
needs to find out what it is! I believe
that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter
Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy
Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose
However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you
will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the
people He puts in our path. For
instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and
continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting
people around me and to strengthen my character. In this job, I am learning, not only some
marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and
at peace with life. I have learned that
anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does.
When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to
fulfill His purposes for me. When it is
my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments
He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.
Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She
became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used
people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her
character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be
recounted long after she had departed this earth. Although Rachel died what many consider a
tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to
her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have
in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and
fulfilled her God-given purpose.
I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact,
in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must
deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose
it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Jesus is saying that in order to live, and,
ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires,
ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others.
I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly,
I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before
me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry,
resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires
and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my
circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly. I also find the same is true for those around
me. Those around me who complain the
most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not
submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God! What a miserable way, not only to live, but
to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable
life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am
tempted to believe this very lie!
However, in reality, the opposite is most often true. When we are willing to sacrifice for others,
we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be
content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.
Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve
others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves,
it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we
are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to
focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and
service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather
than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means
having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not
just out for yourself.
In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to
fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to
live to serve God and others with a whole heart. As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You
don’t have much time left.” Yes, we
don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use
what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.