By Randy Gariss
So if I lived a whole life—a full and complete life, not a “piecemeal” one—what would it look like?
A paraphrase of Stephen Leacock’s quote, “He rushed madly out the door and flung himself in all directions,” is the metaphor of our day. But I don’t want to live a fool’s life; I want to live the life of a wise man, a man of substance and not shadow. I don’t want to live by crisis, I don’t want to play for the crowd, I don’t want to hop on the merry-go-round of fads . . . I want to hear his applause.
The following areas would appear to be the things I am accountable for in God’s sight. And each would seem to be essential; that is, to leave behind even one of them would be to leave behind the life of wisdom. To leave even one behind would spoil the rest.
1. A Heart of Worship. We were made for intimacy with God. In all of creation we are the only thing that was “made in his image,” after “his kind.” To be a human being means to love him, follow him, pursue him, know him . . . anything else is to lose both him and ourselves.
Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you? . . . To walk humbly with your God.” This is far more than simply having daily devotions or a prayer time; it is to anchor my life to the conviction that “I am the sheep of his pasture,” and “he is my shepherd.” It is this truth that will drive every other aspect of my life.
2. A Handful of Godly Friends. We are told to be the “companions of the wise.” Even if you are Elijah and can raise the dead and call down fire from Heaven, the absence of godly companions will be part of the reason you are weeping in the desert and so discouraged you want to die. It was Elisha who played a key role in Elijah’s finishing strong. It is Jonathan and “David’s mighty men” who explain much about David.
Needing friends is not a personality trait, but a core component. Recently in a conversation with a tired and discouraged veteran kingdom worker, I asked about his close, dear, godly friends. The heartbreaking response was, “I thought friendships were a luxury I had to give up.” I think Jesus wept again.
Of course, life is fluid and there will always be change. We’ll regularly have to be giving up “these friends” for the making of new ones. But friendliness will not substitute for friends. Investing in friendship is a lifelong pursuit.
3. Faithfully Living Out Your Role in Your Family. We were born and we will die in a family. There is both privilege and responsibility in that. Whether you are 13, 33, or 93, there are vital roles you must understand and embrace. God takes an incredibly serious view of this family thing!
In Malachi, he did not accept their worship in his house because of what is happening in their houses. He calls their marriages “his”; regardless whose names are on the marriage license, the marriage covenant is with him.
Peter tells us how to stop our prayer life with God—just violate my role with my wife in my marriage.
The tragedy of Eli is far more than about his sons. It is the tragedy of one who desires to advance the kingdom, but neglects to do what is right in his own family.
4. Take Up the Towel and Basin for the Cause of Christ. The horse wasn’t made for the stable; he was born to run—just as a man was made to serve God. Peter was told, “If you love me then feed my sheep.” Paul says there are “good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.” Life doesn’t have enough trinkets and bobbles to ever substitute or make up for this calling.
“So send I you,” Jesus said: sent to the lost sheep, to the saved sheep, to the wounded sheep, to the little ones, to the imprisoned ones, to the least of these. It’s there, he said, you will also find your life.
5. Work Hard, and Learn to Enjoy Your Work. Work is a part of how God made us and far precedes sin and the fall. In fact, Adam is at work even before he meets Eve. Solomon describes work as “a gift of God.” In Proverbs we are repeatedly reminded that the fool always struggles with work.
There is no doubt work is an acquired taste, and one must stay at it long enough in order to discover the pleasure in it. But the wise do so and fools do not. (Like “smoke in the eyes,” the lazy are described.) When you make your list of spiritual things, sweat needs to go on the list, and a question you must ask at the end of the day is, “Did I work hard?”
6. Rest. Why didn’t God design us so that 20 minutes per night would get us through the next 24 hours? But not only did he create us with the need for sleep, he even designed our week with one day of rest. Mark Buchanan, author of the The Rest of God, is right when he warns, without enough rest you can’t even care about the things you care about. A heart will lose its way in exhaustion about as easily as it does so in wickedness. In Mark 6:31, Jesus says to the disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Rest—it too is part of who we are.
7. Solitude. It plays a significant role in the making of disciples. The examples of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Paul, and others show a pattern too obvious to ignore.
Notice the example of Jesus: from the 40 days of fasting, to the patterns of his mornings, to the way he spent the last year of his ministry; all these things remind us of his regular use of solitude. He teaches it as an essential for prayer.
Life lived in the middle of an eight-lane highway will cause the trivial and the important to all look alike. In solitude we are able to sort out what we believe and what we value. Without it, life is pureed and lost.
8. Stewardship of Your Body. Your soul and spirit are placed in this frail jar of clay called a body, which will house them all of the days you’re on earth. If your soul and spirit are to go anywhere on this soil, your body is the vessel that carries them, and it must last you to the end. To neglect its care is to destroy your ability to live life and do ministry. To neglect this stewardship due to a lack of self-discipline is to sabotage your future contribution to the kingdom and the people you love.
9. Stewardship of Your Possessions. Multiple texts remind us that if you can’t be faithful with temporal things, you can’t be faithful with eternal things. The trash on the floor of the car, and the unrepaired screen door, are both indictments of an undisciplined life.
Elisabeth Elliot, though blunt, was right: “Don’t tell me how much you’ll love and serve Jesus if you won’t discipline yourself enough to clean under your bed.”
10. Creativity. When God made us in his image, he tore off a bit of his creative nature and gave a piece to us. It explains art, music, and books, and yes even why my father, though retired, still trains colts. It also explains the psalms from David, and Romans from Paul . . . what incredible variety! Have you noticed that God left no definite liturgy for worship? It is our creative nature that prevents worship (and everything else we do) from becoming rote, routine, and mechanical. Creativity is one of his sweetest gifts to us.
Can we ever “completely succeed” at any of these? Of course not, but I know these are the things I must advance today. And no matter how great the opportunity or high the demands of any one area, I am a fool if I long neglect the care of the whole.
For the angry, the unsettled, the discouraged, the fearful, and the restless . . . perhaps there is a warning bell going off. You have left part of you behind.
Randy Gariss is preaching minister with the College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri.