Living A Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…”Run Well, Finish Well”

This is the final post in a 9-part series I’ve been sending out every Friday,  relevant to the theme of this year’s ENGAGE Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference (only 1 weeks to go for Christchurch, 2 for Auckland!!!). Here goes with the ninth and final post…

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Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…

“Run Well, Finish Well”.

In the last post, we talked about the importance of being able to say ‘no’ to certain things, because we have said ‘yes’ to the more important things. The purpose of writing this series of posts, has been to help us experience more of a grace-paced life, than we may currently be experiencing in this crazy-paced world. In this final post, we will look at the encouraging truth, that this kind of living is not something we have to try and get, rather it is something we already have, in Christ.Let us consider the main text that this theme is centred around – Hebrews 12:1-3…

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. – Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV

Preventative Measures

As we consider the truth of God’s Word in this passage, we can read it forwards in a way that is preventative, and we can read it backward in a way that is restorative. Let me explain.

If we take God at His Word, and recognise that just like the many saints of old who have gone before us, we too can run well and finish well in our race of faith – then we will be careful to lay aside the weight (not bad stuff, but hinders us from running well), and the sin (bad stuff because it disobeys God’s Word) that slows us down and cripples us from running with endurance.

We will make Jesus our goal, looking to Him, and centering our lives around Him. We will acknowledge His sovereignty over all things, and accept even suffering, trials, and hardship as His will for our lives.

We will also be diligent to intentionally, and consistently, consider Him, reminding ourselves of gospel truth over and over – knowing deep down that our worth, peace, contentment and joy does not come from what we do, but from what He has done.

Living this way, we will avoid weariness and discouragement. But more than this, our Christ-centred perspective, will direct our priorities, and we will be productive and effective in God’s kingdom.

Restorative Measures

However – if we are already overwhelmed by, or on the way to a season of weariness and discouragement, then we go backward through these verses and find the only answer that can help us to get back to where we need to be.

First, we must take the time to consider Him. If Christ’s finished work upon the cross is far from our hearts and minds, we will never truly overcome weariness and discouragement. This is because much stress is created in our lives, from trying to live the Christian life in our own strength – it can’t be done.

Next, we make it our aim to look to Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith. Worry and anxiety wear us down, when we forgot this, and allow ourselves to feel like helpless victims of circumstances we have no control over. Knowing, and trusting that Christ is Lord of all, all the time, brings us to that place of peace, even in difficult times.

Finally, if we are still struggling in our lives to run with endurance, and to keep our pace up in the race of faith – it will nearly always be a result of either sin, weight, or both that is hindering us and slowing us down. Be willing to confess sin, remembering the hope we have in the gospel, and be willing to lay aside weights – anything that is not helping you to run.

…much stress is created in our lives, from trying to live the Christian life in our own strength – it can’t be done.

You Can Live a Grace-Paced Life

At the risk of sounding too simplistic, I just want to leave you pondering on the truth of these verses, and encourage you that you can live a grace-paced life in this crazy-paced world because of Christin Christ, and for Christ. 

He has already given you everything you need.

You will be busy, but busy with a purpose, and busy with a peace that you begin your days with, instead of frantically trying to achieve it by everything you cram in.

Less really is more. Less weight and less sin, more endurance and more glory to God from the way that you live.

So now, run well, and finish well by understanding, embracing and devoting yourself to God’s priorities, and as you do, enjoy the life, and the people He has blessed you with – not crazy-paced, but grace-paced. 

For thought, prayer and application: Something that often prevents people from making progress in their walk with the Lord, is not taking the time to stop and take action on whatever it is that needs to be done. Why not set aside an evening, to prayerfully consider, reflect, and act upon the content we have covered in this series. If you are coming to ENGAGE 2017 we will be giving you lots of practical help, in how you can run your race of faith well, be less distracted, and more effective as a follower of Christ in this world. At the end of the day, it’s not about us – it’s about the glory of God. However, the blessing we get to experience is that when we put God and His ways first, it is always best for our lives too. It’s not always easy, but as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found out – it’s better to be in the fiery furnace with the Lord, than outside without Him!

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Living A Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…”The Cost of Crazy-Busy”

This is part 7 of a series of posts I’ve been sending out every Friday,  relevant to the theme of this year’s ENGAGE Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference (only 3 weeks to go for Christchurch, 4 for Auckland!!!). Thanks to those who have given feedback on the previous posts, it’s good to know they are helpful!  Here goes with the seventh post…

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Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…

“The Cost of Crazy-Busy”.

Galatians 6:8 NKJV – 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

In the last post, we talked about distraction, and the difference between what is good, and what is best. Today we will be considering the price we pay when we allow our lives to get crazy-busy.

If today your life is in a crazy-busy mess – it’s important to know that it didn’t just happen overnight.

The What and the Why.

Over the last 8-9 months, we have been hearing a loud ‘thud’ each time we used our shower. It took multiple times over many months to try and locate where it was coming from – as it only happened once when the shower was first used. Eventually, after taking turns placing our ear against various sections of the wall in our bathroom, we felt we had narrowed down the area, and at the same time discovered a very slow leak that had gone under the timber and onto the carpet in the next room!

Our next task was to find out why this was happening.

I won’t bore you with the details, but we just got the problem fixed, after having the shower ripped out and discovering a very small area of the liner that had not been sealed with silicone. A 30-second job that was neglected, led to months of annoying sounds, hours of investigation, multiple phone calls, and an expensive repair job. The shower company managed to locate the original installer (who was probably over-worked and crazy-busy!) and told him how much of a big cost his small mistake had reaped.

What’s the point here?

If you are suffering in the midst of a crazy-busy, stressful, distracted season of your life – you’re probably not going to “fix” that by focusing on the symptoms of the problem. You’re going to need to do a little bit more investigation, pull apart some areas of your life, and then you may see what you need to fix.

Victims…Really?

Lest I lose you in the theory – here’s a quick example…

Your week is full of activities and events – driving the kids here and there, rushing back and forth to meet deadlines, flying out the door often saying, “quick we’re late!”, putting the kids to bed irritably, because there’s “stuff” to do once they’re asleep – and then it’s the same thing all over again the next day!

In this scenario there will be second-hand stress, that “leaks” into your families life, and you may not even realise it. There will be tension that leads to “thuds” of noisy, angry outbursts of frustration.

Then, to make matters worse you are driving yourself crazy by constantly saying to yourself, “What is happening?”, “Why are things like this?”, Where is this stress all coming from?”.

If you are suffering in the midst of a crazy-busy, stressful, distracted season of your life – you’re probably not going to “fix” that by focusing on the symptoms of the problem.

At times like this, we can act like victims of our circumstances, excusing ourselves from God’s priorities, when in fact we are the ones who have created those circumstances. We have reaped what we have sown. We are paying the price for saying yes when we should have said no, and for missing little areas of our lives that needed attention a long time before today. Priorities neglected when we were just a little busier than we should have been, have now caused us to be crazy-busy.

So what should you do?

If you don’t stop and bring your schedule to a halt, it will bring you to a halt.

If you don’t evaluate who and what is dictating how you spend your time, you will spend your life pleasing people who won’t cry at your funeral.

If you don’t prioritise that which God considers to be a priority, you may end up with a saved soul, but a wasted life.

If you recognise all of this, acknowledge it, but fail to act upon it, you will look back one day with deep regret that even though you knew what to do, you just didn’t carry it out.

Remember, God wants us to be busy, just not crazy-busy. If crazy-busy is our lives right now,  we need to ask ourselves, “what is happening, why is it happening, and what do I need to do to fix it?”. God is the only One who can effectively carry out such a “fix-it” job in our lives, helping us to sow to the Spirit, instead of to our flesh.

So if this is speaking to you today – don’t wait….investigate…before it’s too late.

For thought, prayer and application: The hardest part of getting off the crazy-busy treadmill, is actually stopping for long enough to assess the situation and evaluate what needs to be done. The Titanic needed to start turning a long time before it reached the iceberg – and if it had, many lives would have been spared. One suggestion is to give yourself a time block of 30, or even 15 minutes, every day for the next week. Make it a sacred, non-interrupted time (apart from emergencies). This is not easy when we are busy – it can almost seem impossible. However, if we use that time to prayerfully consider our situation, how we got there, and what the Lord would have us do – we will make progress one day at a time, and God will help us climb out of the miry clay. As the ancient proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today”.

Living A Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…”Our Enemy: Distraction”

This is part 6 of a series of posts I will be sending out every Friday,  relevant to the theme of this year’s ENGAGE Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference (only 4 weeks to go for Christchurch, 5 for Auckland!!!). The posts will be short, to the point, and practical – designed to help you/your family in preparation for the conference (you will still benefit if you’re not coming to the conference!). Here goes with the sixth post…

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Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…“Our Enemy: Distraction”.

Proverbs 4:25-27 NKJV – 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.

In the last post, we talked about the importance of acknowledging God in all situations, and how “grace-paced” living is essentially living a life centred upon Christ. I have no doubt most of us reading this would agree, and desire this in our lives – yet we have an enemy that constantly holds us back, and hinders us from doing this.

The enemy I am referring to is that enemy called distraction. 

By the time some of you have read even this far in this post, it’s highly likely you’ve had the “urge” to check your email inbox quickly, or respond to that Facebook notification, or answer that text that just came through.  If so, you would share those urges with many people in today’s technology-saturated, 24/7 notification, information-overload culture.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing these things in, and of themselves – unless they are leading us into sin of course. But the frequency and placement of even “good” things, can end up being the enemy of the “best” things.

“Good” things become “bad” things when they hinder you from the “best” things.

When the best thing is being mentally and emotionally present with your family at the dinner table – a “good” text message can become something bad.

When the best thing is spending time in prayer and God’s Word – a “good” news article can become something bad.

When the best thing is getting to bed at a decent time, so you can function well the next day in your responsibilities – a “good” movie can become something bad.

When the best thing is focusing on the work you are responsible for carrying out – a “good” Facebook post (which so easily leads to 10 “good” Facebook posts!) can become something bad.

“Good” things become “bad” things when they hinder you from the “best” things. 

For example, think about the time when Martha was rushing around like crazy to get everything ready for dinner with Jesus, furious that her sister Mary was just “hanging out” with Jesus. Martha would have agreed that what Mary was doing was “good” – she just didn’t think it was “best”.

However, Jesus didn’t see it that way…

Luke 10:42 NKJV – 42 “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” 

We see something very vital for us to understand here.

So often in our lives at any given moment, one thing is needed. But so often (and I am speaking from experience!) we trade that one thing, for something far less important. The end result of this is that we miss out on God’s best for our lives.

As Proverbs 4:25-27 encourages us (see the beginning of this post) – it is very wise for us to stay focused, think carefully, and diligently stay on course in whatever best thing we are responsible to do, or whatever best path we are responsible for taking. We can only do this by defeating the enemy of distraction, which then allows us to live victoriously in that which God has called us to be and do.

For thought, prayer and application: Try to be hyper-alert today, to the many distractions that come your way, when you are doing the things that you are responsible to do. Ask yourself at that moment, “Do I need to respond to this?”, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I wait?”, “Will I pay for it later, by giving into distraction now?”, “Am I escaping responsibility by giving into this distraction?”. Ask God for His grace and strength to change established habits in your character so that you can learn to be more like Mary, and less like Martha.  There’s a time and a place for Martha activity – just not when it takes you away from Jesus and what He is wanting you to do.