ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SOMETHING?
I remember the week I lost my sunglasses. I was on the verge of panic. You see, these weren’t just any sunglasses. They were outlandishly expensive Oakley(c) sunglasses, and my mom had given them to me as a Christmas present. I wore them every day of my life for over a year, and now I had lost them. I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid, and for a whole week, I was totally obsessed with finding them again. I prayed about it. I dreamt about it. I talked to people about it. I asked everyone I knew if they had seen anything, but nope, no one had.
I eventually found them. It was a real miracle, in fact. I’ll have to tell you the whole story sometime, but the fact is that I got my sunglasses back. I probably don’t even have to tell you that I was relieved!
When was the last time you lost something? Your keys? A shoe? A child? Do you remember what it felt like? Were you passionate to find that thing? Did it consume you? I was like that with my sunglasses, but I’m not always that way, sometimes I lose something and it’s like water off a duck’s back—I just don-t care.
You see, losing things is a regular occurrence for me, so I-ve gotten used to it by now. It doesn-t affect me nearly as much as it once did, so when I lose something now, I-m rarely as focused on finding it again. “It’ll show up eventually,” I tell myself, and it often does. My passion to regain what’s lost has faded.
This is true for all of us. There are some things in life that we will passionately pursue when we realize they are lost, and there are other things that we simply don’t care enough about to waste the time looking for them.
Sadly, for many of us, this is also true when it comes to spiritual matters. Most of us have been through at least one phase of life when we got passionate about spiritual things. We might think about God throughout the day. We may try to live a morally upright life. We may hang out with other people who share the same passion.
However, most of us have also been through phases of life when we couldn’t care less about spiritual things. Perhaps the pressures of life and the desires of our hearts have gotten in the way and distracted us from our spiritual search. We might have no passion at all about anything spiritual. We’ll just live our lives however we think it should be lived. We’ll hang out with people who won’t bug us about spiritual things. We’ll fill our minds with work, entertainment, and whatever else distracts us from thinking about eternity.
We’ve all experienced these spiritual ups and downs, and we’ve probably experienced more of the downs than we have of the ups. I know I have.
The simple truth is that we face these ups and downs in our spiritual lives because true spirituality is something we have lost. Most of us have very little connection with God on a daily basis. Many who seem spiritual on the outside are really just doing what they think they need to do to “Find God” and many who are living totally unspiritual lives are doing what they do to distract themselves from their sense of need for spiritual fulfillment.
If I stop and take some time to just pay attention to what’s real, what’s happening inside my heart without all the distractions, I begin to realize that something’s missing. Something deep down inside my spirit longs for something more out of life, and whether I ignore it or distract myself with other things, it’s always there as the subtext of my life—a longing for that spiritual something.
All of us have this deep spiritual hole in our lives, and you can see this is true just by considering the fact that no one is completely satisfied with his or her life. If anyone were truly whole, wouldn’t that person also be truly satisfied? But we aren’t. Let me explain what it is like for me, and perhaps you can relate.
There is always at least one thing in my life that makes the top of my priority list. Sometimes, that top priority might be Accomplishment. On days like that, I wake up with a desire to finish something even if it’s as insignificant as a playing a video game or reading a pamphlet. When I wake up the next day, though, my top priority might be Significance. I won’t care whether I accomplish anything or finish any tasks so long as I make a difference in someone else’s life. I’ll want to be able to review that day and think of the two or three things that would have been worse off if it weren’t for me, but then, on the next day, my priorities might be different.
This is all subconscious for me, but it happens all the time. In fact, I won’t even know my priorities have changed because I’ll just keep myself busy trying to fulfill my latest one. But if I take the time to stop and think, I’ll realize that in the last few days, I’ve switched my priorities around between love, relationships, recognition, entertainment, excitement, comfort, physical health, intellectual growth, self-image, or something else. Every one of my decisions throughout my day is based on which priority is at the top of my list at that moment.
This is the whole point of advertising in our world. Sometimes I feel that the corporate world is out to get me. You see, I know that pizza is bad for my cholesterol reading, but just last night, right after my wife left the room to start making dinner for us, a commercial came on the TV for a special price on a large pepperoni pizza. My top priority at that moment was food and ease of preparation, and right then, the TV tried to tell me my priority should be pizza! Seeing a TV commercial or a Billboard can make my top priority change from significance to hamburger. I’ll see a chocolate bar in a store and my priority will change from personal fitness to nougat and peanuts. My priorities get shuffled around all the time. Can you relate?
Oprah tells me one thing, so I’ll change my priorities.
Dr. Phil tells me something, so I’ll change my priorities.
My friend tells me something, so I’ll change my priorities.
My doctor . . . the next diet fad . . . a self-help book . . . my kids . . .
But no matter how many times I change, I still feel that something is missing. As soon as I accomplish something, I’ll realize that I’m feeling lonely. If I’m in a stable relationship, I’ll start to feel a need for adventure. If I’m having fun, I’ll start to feel a desire to make a difference with my life. It just goes on and on.
I know I’m not alone in this.
I bet you can relate.
I’d like to share with you just briefly what I’ve discovered to be the final answer to this problem, but first, I want to ask you a question:
What if you could know a truly fulfilling life where all of your personal needs could be met by focusing yourself on four things? Would it be worth it to you to investigate? Would you be interested to discover them? What if these four things could bring you spiritual fulfillment, relational fulfillment, personal fulfillment, and the awareness that you were making a lasting difference?
In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey outlines the four major things that people need most in life: to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. People have flocked to his seminars, paid lots of money for his products, and started support groups to implement his principles, but as he himself will admit, those weren’t his ideas. Psychologists almost universally recognize these as the most basic human needs. What interests me, though, is that these four things line up perfectly not only with the habits of effective people but also with what the Bible teaches about life. Before Stephen Covey and before modern psychology, the Bible had already described the four most fundamental needs human beings have and had also described the truths about how they are satisfied.
When Stephen Covey uses this word, he is of course referring to the fact that one of the “secrets” to living well is to stay alive. (I hope that wasn’t really a secret to you.) Life requires basic maintenance such as food, water, air, hygiene, and bodily protection such as clothing and shelter. However, more than any of those things, life requires a source. Without your parents, you wouldn’t be alive today. But your parents needed parents, and so did they, and on and on. The Bible teaches us that God is the ultimate source of all life and the ultimate provider of all that’s needed for life.
The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)
God, the LORD, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath and life to everyone in all the world. (Isaiah 42:5 NLT)
God is the source of your life. He made you and he gave you life, but he hasn’t left you to yourself. God has provided for you with abundance. You have food, water, and air. You even have wisdom to take care of yourself.
One of our problems in life is that we take this physical life for granted and don’t acknowledge the God who gave it to us, but perhaps a bigger problem is that we often begin to believe that this physical life is all there is. It’s not. In fact, the Bible teaches us that there is a spiritual side to life that he has also created and will also sustain.
Real life is both physical and spiritual, and God has made provision for us to have both. He is the source of all life. It all comes from Him. It’s all sustained by Him. Therefore, all life owes its existence to God. We owe our lives to God.
Did you get that? All of life is from God, for God, because of God, about God, etc. Do you get the picture?
True life begins when a person comes to the point of saying, “God is Number One!” In the teaching of the Bible, this thought is expressed with the word “Worship.” Our most fundamental need is to have true life—physical and spiritual—and it all begins with worship.
If you want to live life the way it’s meant to be lived, then live a life of Worship.
The second major need people have is the need to love and to be loved. It’s the need to experience true reciprocal relationships. You see, it’s not just enough to have someone to love or to have someone else love you, the deep human need is for a reciprocal relationship. Some people are blessed with a few of these relationships, but we all need at least one. I’m sure I don’t have make a big case for this. Just consider North American culture and you will find a glut of songs, books, movies, TV shows, and even support groups with this kind of reciprocal love at the center of attention.
The Bible addresses this issue head on and even one-ups the popular culture and modern psychology. While most of society talks about how to have healthy relationships with other people, the Bible teaches how to have a fully reciprocal love relationship with God Himself! The Bible also teaches that such a relationship with God is exactly what’s needed for people to have healthy loving relationships with each other.
Way back in the beginning of human history God made the choice to put “relationship-ability” into the wiring of human beings. He said it wasn’t good for one person to be alone, so he created two humans to start with—Adam and Eve. Then, he spent time with them, walking with them and talking with them. According to the Bible, it has always been God’s plan to have a fully reciprocal relationship with human beings. After all, that’s why the Creator put the ability and the desire for relationship within us!
That’s why it’s so strange that we struggle with relationships. We have a deep need for relationships, but we isolate ourselves from others. We shield ourselves from making true commitments to people and we especially shield ourselves from making true commitments to God. For whatever reason, we want love and fear it at the same time, and it’s all because we know that love costs. Love always requires us to give of ourselves.
But that’s the point! In order for us to experience life the way it was meant to be lived, we have to come to a point where we understand true love, where we understand sacrificial commitment to other people and especially to God. God made us that way, and we’ll never find fulfillment in life if we try to do it all alone!
Rather, fulfillment can only be found when a person comes to the point of saying, “I’m not alone.” We need to admit that we need each other, that we need God, and that it’s no good being alone in any way anymore.
The Bible uses many words to describe this concept, but the best word in English today is “Community.” God intends for each person to be in a life-giving, love-giving community with other people and also to be in communion with God Himself!
If you want to live life the way it’s meant to be lived, then live a life of Community.
Stephen Covey talks about the need that people have to learn. However, I’ve found that this need really goes beyond just mental learning. It refers to a deep personal need we all have for personal improvement and progress. I call it simply, growth.
I have two young children, and I am constantly amazed at the things they are capable of doing. Just yesterday, one thing was true about them, but in the span of one day, they are both capable of doing far more it seems. Language is constantly developing, motor skills, knowledge, critical thinking. It’s amazing! People were built to know, to learn, to grow. The moment someone stops growing is the moment that person starts dying. It’s true with children. It’s true with adults. It’s true with businesses. It’s true with the church. It’s true locally. It’s true globally. Stop growing and start dying.
That is a major part of God’s plan for people in this world. God could have made a static world where nothing ever changes, where babies are born as fully formed adults, and where no one ever grows, but instead, he created a world with progress and process. God created people with more than just the capacity for growth. God created people with the desire for growth and the need for growth. God wants people to grow in every possible way they can.
However, learning and growth are hard work. You’ve heard the phrase: “No pain, no gain!” Unfortunately, it’s true. Growth only comes through struggle and exercise, but the good news is that exercise really does produce growth. As it’s been said, “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” Scientific studies have continually shown that someone who exercises the body will have a stronger body and will live longer on average than the local couch potato. Likewise, people who exercise their brains have a much lower tendency to develop brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. It only stands to reason that a major way to maintain spiritual health is to exercise the spirit.
So how does a person exercise the spirit? The Bible teaches that two things are necessary. Just like anything else in life, it begins with a personal commitment—a commitment to change, a commitment that says, “I refuse to stay the same!” However, the commitment is only one half of the story. You know what it’s like to maintain a commitment to any self-improvement program. It’s tough!
The Bible addresses this reality by teaching that life change requires spiritual power. The Bible claims that God Himself provides that spiritual power. It teaches that the Holy Spirit of God actually dwells with people to bring about life transformation. God is working to transform people into glorious beings who increasingly become more and more like the perfection modeled by Jesus Christ.
When a person makes the commitment to grow according to God’s plan, he works in and through them to make it happen!
If you want to live life the way it’s meant to be lived, then live a life of Growth in every possible way!
TO LEAVE A LEGACY
Human beings universally have an inner sense that life has meaning. We sense that there is a purpose for our lives, and we have a desire to be significant and to make a difference in our world.
As people age, the need to leave a significant legacy becomes more and more prominent. Age makes us more and more aware of our mortality. The simple fact is that we aren’t going to be around forever. It’s a sobering thought. However, it can also be a motivating thought. If we want to leave a legacy for the future, we have to do something about it today!
If you spend some time thinking about it, you’ll most likely be able to summarize the main characteristics of your life in just one or two sentences, and then you’ll have to ask yourself if you like them.
Write your own obituary. What do you want people to say about you when you are gone? What kind of image do you want people to have when they hear your name after you’re not around to defend yourself anymore? What if no one ever mentions your name again once you are gone?
Let me ask you another question: Have you discovered your life purpose yet? Have you discovered the thing that satisfies you & motivates you? Have you discovered the one thing that if it were a job, you’d never want to retire? What is it?
Whether you’ve discovered it yet or not, you probably know enough about it to know that it involves making someone else’s life better. That’s what a legacy is! A legacy is something left for the benefit of others.
Here’s the great news: God wants everyone to be able to leave a legacy. He has designed every person for significance. He wants to use our lives to benefit other people and in the process give us total fulfillment like we can’t imagine. In fact, God wants this so much that he promises full access to his riches and power. To those who are in his family, he promises to give everything needed for them to make a positive difference with their lives.
The Bible teaches this power comes from the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit can fill a person and empower him or her to do amazing things. Not even adrenaline can compare to the power of the Holy Spirit of God in a person’s life (see Ephesians 1:15-23)!
It gets even better! The significance that God has in mind for people is eternal significance. God wants to empower you and me to make a difference in the lives of others that lasts throughout the ages into eternity! We can leave an eternal legacy—make an eternal difference!
The biblical word to express this thought is “ministry.” Unlike some archaic notions of ministry, ministry actually happens anytime someone takes action to positively impact another person’s life. You see, in God’s eyes, every human being has the calling to be a minister—that is, to touch another human being’s life so that both are forever changed for the better. How I minister and how you minister might be different things, but real ministry always involves a demonstration of the goodness of God in practical ways.
Someone who lives a life of ministry is someone who can say, “I will make a difference.” It’s a statement of commitment and a statement of confidence! People who take this perspective are people who powerful and lasting legacies of a lives well-lived.
If you want to live life the way it’s meant to be lived, you need to live a life of Ministry.
A LIFE WORTH LIVING
How well are these four fundamental needs being met in your life? Are you living a life of total fulfillment, joy, and hope for the future? Or do you have a sense that your life could be richer and better than it currently is?
Listen to what Jesus said nearly 2000 years ago.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
2000 years isn’t enough time to reduce the impact of this statement. Jesus said it was his personal goal for people to experience “full” life (“abundant” life as some translations put it)! Jesus claims that such a life is not only possible, but it is also available somehow from him.
At another point, he made this claim.
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus claimed that ultimate truth, real life, and the pathway to God were to be found only in him! That’s a pretty dramatic claim, and it’s worth investigating more deeply. It’s especially worth investigating because Jesus claims that full, abundant life can be a reality for you and me and everyone in the world! That’s great news. Can it be true? Are you interested in finding out?
Here’s the point. No matter what kind of life you are currently experiencing, it could be better. In fact, it could be awesome! You could be living the best possible life for you. Or you could settle for second, third, or even fourth best. What do you think? Are you a second-best person? Or are you, like me, someone who always wants what’s best?
As far as I’m concerned, second-best just isn’t worth it. I’m only interested in the best out of life. I’m looking for true fulfillment. If there is the possibility that my life could be better, I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. If it takes making personal changes in my life and my relationships, I’ll do it. I want to know real life, I want to know true love, I want to learn, and I want to leave a lasting legacy. What’s more, I want to be spiritually connected to my Creator the whole time I’m doing it. For me, that’s the only life worth living.
What about you?
If you want that kind of life, God is promising you that you can have it! You can get started today. Make your life a life of Worship, Community, Growth, and Ministry.
It’s the life most worth living.
It’s the life God designed you to have!