There are times when it’s healthy to stop and reflect on one’s life in a deeper way than may be usual. This week I turn sixty years old. As is true for other milestones on one’s journey, birthdays provide a great opportunity to consider what’s gone before, and what the future may hold.
Of course none of us know how much time we have left before us on earth. Yet whether it’s five days or another sixty years, I do know that I want to use whatever time I have left here to honor God. As I consider this, my mind goes back to December 2010. After just turning forty nine, I spent a great deal of time evaluating my life and my relationship with the Lord. I came up with a list of seventeen areas in which I wanted to grow or change.
As I look carefully at this list today, I am so thankful that by God’s grace and empowerment I have grown and changed in fifteen of these areas. Some of these I will never fully achieve while on earth. As an example, number one on my list back in 2010 was “To walk intimately with the Lord on a moment-by-moment basis.” Again, by God’s grace I have grown more intimate in my relationship with the Lord. And yet, I know that I can grow so much more in this area.
Other areas listed back in 2010 were more directly measurable. As I consider these, I am so thankful for the growth I have experienced, and look forward to more. I am a different person than I was in 2010, and for that I am grateful to God and thankful for the differences.
Now at sixty years old I sense I need to continue working on this list, and to perhaps add a few more items. The two areas in which I have failed most over the past eleven years have to do with health and wellness. These are closely related to a unhealthy work-life balance. I have never been good in this area. I am just now at the point in life where the impact of overworking is becoming apparent. I sense that with a good balance and a determined focus on my physical condition, there’s a good chance that I can remain reasonably healthy unless something unexpected takes place. I also sense that if I don’t change in this area, I could become physically unhealthy before long.
The difficult part about change in many areas of life is that it’s not enough to sit down one day and make a decision to change. Real growth and change in many areas involves dozens or more decisions on a daily basis. Unless one’s thought patterns and habits change over time, little significant change takes place. I suppose a good metaphor is that to really grow and change one needs to run a marathon rather than a sprint. Another might be that we need to fight many battles in a long war as opposed to taking a single hill.
The battle metaphor is the one that means most to me. I suppose this is due to the fact that the Bible speaks so much in these terms. Here are a few verses in the NIV to consider:
1 Peter 5:8-9: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Galatians 5:16-17a: So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5: For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
These passages of Scripture speak to the warfare that every Christ follower must wage on earth. As we draw near to God in prayer, as we seek direction and nearness to God through his word, and as we depend on the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, we can identify and wage war against the areas of life in which we struggle.
I like to refer to this as a spiritual “Search and Destroy” process. On a regular basis, I pray along these lines:
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will search me and know me fully. I seek to hide nothing from you. As you find anything within me that is pleasing to you, I pray that you would strengthen and add to these areas that I may be more pleasing to you. As you identify any areas within me that are not pleasing to you, I pray that you would destroy them directly, or that you would give me the wisdom to see them and the power and obedience to destroy them. Either way, I pray that they would be demolished, and that any part of me they held would be redeemed by the blood of Jesus, washed clean, and would belong to you. Amen
God has honored this kind of prayer in my life in many ways. And yet, there are areas that have yet to be overcome. As long as we are in the flesh, there will be such areas. Sometimes we overcome them for good, and at other times they seem to reappear to fight another day. Paul made mention of such things in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. He noted that he struggled with a particular area in his life and pleaded with the Lord over and over to take it away, and yet God chose not to do so for Paul’s good.
Now at sixty, as I sit down and again reflect deeply on my life, I’m trusting God to show me more ways in which I need to grow and change in order to please and honor him. I know I have a long way to go, and yet am committed to fight. I invite you to do the same no matter what age you may be. As we are guided by his word and his Spirit in this process may God grant that we will learn to love him more, and to love others in ways that are more pleasing to Him. Amen.