How to Make the Most of Your Life
How to Make the Most of Your Life
‘People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like,’ writes Shane Claiborne in his book The Irresistible Revolution. ‘Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery, like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed.
Each morning I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. One day a Sister explained, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbour as herself deformed her feet.’
When people are asked about the person whose life they most admire, so often the answer is ‘Mother Teresa’. She made the most of her life. It is a paradox, because her life was a life of self-denial, taking up her cross and following Jesus.
Life is an extraordinary and wonderful gift. In the Bible we are constantly urged not to waste this gift, but instead to make the most of our lives.
Master self-disciplineProverbs 6:1-11
The book of Proverbs gives you practical wisdom on how to make the most of your life and how to avoid wasting it by falling into various traps. In the passage for today we see two examples:
- Master your finances
One of the areas of life that requires self-discipline is our finances. There are always plenty of financial traps and snares – such as unmanageable debt, unwise investment and foolish pledges. The writer urges you that, if you have got yourself into a financial muddle (vv.2–5), you should do everything in your power to get out of it as soon as possible: ‘Don’t waste a minute’ (v.3, MSG).
You may have to humble yourself (v.3b). You may have to plead your case (v.3c). Do everything in your power to free yourself from these snares (v.5). If we don’t get our finances sorted out it can have a very detrimental effect on our lives and on our families.
- Master your time
We can waste our lives through a lack of self-discipline. Without accountability we can easily become lazy, and this can have disastrous consequences (vv.9–11). We can learn self-leadership from the ant; nobody tells it what to do. ‘It has no commander, no overseer or ruler’ (v.7), yet it works extremely hard: ‘It stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest’ (v.8).
Of course, it is important to get enough sleep. Our bodies need rest. But we need to be careful not to waste our time in unproductive activity.
Lord, give me wisdom in the handling of my finances and my time.
Give your life awayMark 8:14-9:1
Jesus warns his disciples against the ‘yeast’ (8:15) of the Pharisees and of Herod. ‘Yeast’ was a common metaphor for the evil tendency in human beings, which, although it might seem only a small thing, nevertheless corrupts the whole person. The disciples still did not understand because they were so caught up with the physical that they could not see the spiritual.
Not that there is anything wrong with physical things in themselves. The blind man wanted to touch Jesus (v.22). Jesus did something very physical – he spat on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him twice (vv.23–25). He prayed twice before the man was totally healed. This encourages us to keep on praying more than once for those who are sick.
Finally, the disciples understand who Jesus is: ‘You are the Christ’ (v.29). ‘Christos’ means ‘the Anointed One, the Messiah’. In the time of Jesus, the term was particularly associated with the expectation of a new Davidic King. In the Old Testament, however, kings, priests and prophets were all anointed. Jesus is the fulfilment of them all. He is the King, the Great High Priest, the Prophet.
Yet this title, ‘Messiah’, was not adequate. Jesus preferred to use the title ‘Son of Man’ (v.31). ‘Son of Man’ was an even more majestic, and therefore more suitable, title. It contained the idea of suffering (Daniel 7:21). The ‘Son of Man’ was also a representative figure identifying himself with human beings.
Then Jesus begins to speak about the cross (Mark 8:31). We can’t understand the cross unless we understand who Jesus is. His teaching is so paradoxical, counterintuitive and surprising that Peter takes him aside to rebuke him (v.32).
There is a parallel here with the healing of the blind man, which acts as a visual parable of the gradual eye-opening of the disciples. First, Peter’s eyes are opened about Jesus’ identity (v.29). However, he only half-understood. He did not yet see Jesus’ mission (vv.31–32). Peter can ‘see’, but he can’t fully ‘see’.
Jesus has to explain to his disciples the extraordinary paradox involved in making the most of our lives – of which he is to show the supreme example. He says if you want to make the most of your life, you have to give it away. You have to abandon your life to his service and the gospel – ‘whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it’ (v.35).
In contrast, he then says that it is possible to ‘gain the whole world, yet forfeit [your] soul’ (v.36). The actor Jim Carrey said, ‘I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they dreamed of so they can see that it is not the answer.’
Even the biggest multi-billionaires only own a proportion of the world. Jesus warns us that if we are tempted to set out in that direction, even if we topped their success and gained the whole world, we could still totally waste our lives and forfeit our souls (v.36). He says the way to find life is to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him (v.34).
The words ‘deny yourself’ mean saying no to yourself. The Christian life involves the challenge of daily denial. The world thinks that the way to life is to deny yourself nothing. Jesus says that the opposite is true. The way to find life is to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him.
You are called to love. You are to live for God and for other people. And as you give yourself away, God will take care of your life.
The teaching of Jesus is radical and revolutionary. It is exactly the opposite of what we would expect, yet we see how it works out in practice. Those who seek their own satisfaction end up disillusioned and dissatisfied having wasted their lives; those who follow Jesus’ teaching find life in all its fullness.
Lord, your words are so challenging. Help me each day to learn to deny myself in little things as well as big and to take up my cross and follow you. Thank you that as I give my life to you, I find life in all its fullness.
Serve God at workExodus 37:1-38:31
You do not need to leave your job in order to serve God wholeheartedly. In the life of Bezalel, we see an example of someone who made the most of his life by serving God in his place of work. His daily job was his primary ministry.
God fills his people with his Spirit for the workplace: ‘I’ve filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him skill and know-how and expertise in every kind of craft to create designs… he’s an all-around craftsman’ (31:3–5, MSG).
Bezalel was a sculptor. He was chosen by God to build the tabernacle (37:1; see also 31:1–5). He responded to God’s call and ‘made everything the Lord commanded Moses’ (38:22). He worked in a team, which included a designer called Oholiab (v.23) and accomplished great things for God. The key to his success was that he was a man filled ‘with the Spirit of God’ (31:3; 35:31).
It is possible to be a talented musician, writer, or artist without being filled with the Spirit. But when the Spirit of God fills people for these tasks their work often takes on a new dimension. It has a far greater spiritual impact. This can be true even where the natural ability of the musician or artist is not particularly outstanding. Hearts can be touched and lives changed. No doubt something like this happened through Bezalel.
Lord, thank you for all those who serve you wholeheartedly – with their artistic abilities, in healthcare, education, business, retail, law, banking and every other area of the workplace. May we all be filled with the Spirit of God, like Bezalel, and do everything you command us. Help me to make the most of my life.
‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…’
I think this sounds rather nice. But verse 11 comes as a nasty shock:
‘… and poverty will come on you like a thief.’
We don’t want to be caught napping and miss out on all that God has in store for us.
Verse of the Day
Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, (Zondervan, 2006) p.121
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.