Most of us have uphill hopes and downhill habits.
For example, “I hope my finances improve this year… Hey, let’s go find a new car this weekend! We can probably afford the payments.”
But, imagine what would happen if we aligned our habits with our hopes.
Instead of hoping our finances improve while continuing with wasteful spending, we write a budget and actually follow it. We deny short term pleasures for long term gain.
Romans 12:2 MSG – Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Today, we are continuing our series called Uphill Habits: New Direction for a New Year.
Last week, Chris Rose from Don’t Look Back prison ministry introduced Habit #2: Control my thoughts. Often, there is one thing keeping us from connecting with God’s plan for our lives, and it’s what goes on between our ears.
Your thoughts will determine your destiny. So, if you are struggling with your thought life, it’s worth the effort to get things sorted out. Go on our website and listen to Chris’ message from last week, and considering purchasing the book, Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer.
In the first week, I introduced Habit #1: Focus on what I do first. We talked about putting God first in everything by giving Him the first of everything.
This is why giving the first 10% of our income back to God is so important – so we can keep him first in our finances. Our one motivation for this should be to put God first, and when we do, He shows up in a big way.
We also talked about giving God the first of our year by committing to 21 days of prayer and fasting together as a church. Today is day 15, and I hope it has been as impactful for you as it has for me.
When we put God first in every area of our life, we can expect God to bless the rest. Actually, it’s like the stars align when we choose to put God first because of the way His blessing starts to show up in every area of our life.
So, make a decision to put God first in everything you do, regardless of how hard it is. There’s going to be times you don’t want to do it. There are going to be times that other people tell you not to do it.
But, make the decision that nothing will distract you from putting God first. No expense is going to come before your tithe. You’re not going to pick up your phone first thing in the morning. You’re going to put God first.
And this brings us to week 3 in this series.
Habit #3: Keep my life aligned with my purpose.
In other words, I have to keep my life in alignment with my purpose. Because, the world is doing everything it can to get me misaligned with my purpose and aligned with its purpose.
So, why is this habit so important? Let me give you three reasons.
Because I have a purpose.
Psalm 139:16 NLT – Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Before you were even born, God had a plan for your life. He wrote it out in a book and He wrote the exact purpose for your life.
Some of you are thinking, “Well, I’ve done messed up the book. I’ve added chapters that were never God’s plan for my life.”
But, here’s the deal. Even when we add our own chapters, as soon as we turn back to God, He just picks it all up where we left off. Somehow, He makes His plan work even when we deviate.
And it’s not a plan B. It’s not a inferior plan. It’s the original plan being accomplished in our life because we chose to turn from our own way and back to His plan for our life.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT – For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Here is confirmation that God has a plan for you life before you were even alive. He didn’t make you first and then wonder what your life was all about…
“Hm. I wonder what I can do with Kade. He’s kind of a nerd and awfully skinny. He’s pretty shy… I don’t know. What are we going to do, Jesus?”
No! This is not what it was like. God’s plan was in place before you even took your first breath! Not only that, but His plan works even when you think you’ve messed it up.
Now, don’t misunderstand. Just because God wrote a plan for your life doesn’t mean that everything that’s happened in your life was the will of God. He gave you the ability to choose.
In other words, anything in your life that has happened contrary to God’s character and His word was not God’s doing.
Now, I think we would all agree we were not doing the good things God planned for us before we met Jesus. But now that we are completely new in Jesus, no matter how long it took you to come to Jesus, God’s plan is now being accomplished in our lives.
In other words, God has a purpose for my life. And anything that has happened up to this point that was not according to His purpose was just stuff the devil tried to do to get me off of God’s purpose for my life.
Second reason why this habit is so important:
Because there is competition for my time and attention.
Have you realized that credit card companies have a plan for your life? Have you noticed that Facebook has a plan for your life? Actually, everyone and everything around you has a plan for your life.
And if you let someone else define your life, they will. And they’ll have a good time doing it. If you don’t decide how you are going to live your life, the rest of the world will define it for you.
Some of you just have an aha moment. It just hit you that the world around you has designed your life they way it is right now. And you’re ready for change.
And honestly, every single one of us has work to do in this area, including myself. Because most of us are just doing too much. We’re buying too much, we’re doing too much.
And all of this is because the world tells us that more is better and bigger is better.
If one dollar is good, two dollars are better. If one car is good, two cars are better. If one child is good, two children are… well. If one wife is good, two wives are… wrong.
I heard this story about a Bible school student who asked his professor, “Why did Solomon have so many wives?” His professor replied, “It was in hopes that when he came home from work, one of them would be in a good mood.”
Have you ever added something to your life and quickly realized it didn’t belong in your life? And then, you probably kept doing it because those around you expected it from you.
And, it may still be in your life today. And you are miserable because you know it doesn’t align with your purpose. It is unknowingly stressing you out, not necessarily because it is a bad thing, but it’s just not the right thing for you.
An overwhelmed schedule will often produce an underwhelmed soul.
When we feel depressed, discouraged or just stressed out, we are often just looking to cover the symptom when we need to fix the problem. And the problem may just be that there is too much on your schedule.
You’re working too much. You’re involved in too many activities, even though they may be good activities.
You’re on your phone too much trying to stay connected with those around you when the phone is exactly what is causing you to feel disconnected.
Ecclesiastes 4:6 AMPC – Better is [one] handful with quietness than [two] hands full with painful effort, a vain striving after the wind and a feeding on it.
When we subscribe to the world’s thought pattern that more is better, it is like trying to chase down the wind. It’s going to be painful and you are going to end up tired. Still, your desire will never be satisfied because you can’t catch it.
The world tells us that being exhausted from working long hours is a badge of honor. Turns out, God is not impressed with this behavior. Only those around you act impressed because they get to benefit from your painful effort.
Keeping your life aligned with your purpose means that you are going to have to fight off the competition for your time and attention.
The third reason this habit is so important:
Because time is short.
I believe that Jesus is coming back soon. Everything that is going on in our world today points in that direction. And, whether you believe that Jesus is coming back soon or not, time is short.
In the past couple of years, I’ve seen different families say goodbye to a 2-year-old, an 18-year-old and a 50-year-old. And, even if you make it to 90, that is a very short time in comparison to eternity.
We all have limited time. There is no room for us to live casually and apart from our purpose just to please or impress those around us, or to try and satisfy a craving for more and better.
James 4:13-15 NLT – Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
We like to put things off until tomorrow. “I know my kids shouldn’t be involved in so many sports and activities. We’ll just make sure it doesn’t happen next year.” or “I know I shouldn’t be working this job, but I’ll just wait for another opportunity to come my way.”
Instead, our motto for life should be, “If the Lord wants me to, I will do it.” And if the Lord doesn’t want me to do something, even if it is a ‘good thing’, I am going to eliminate it from my schedule as quickly as possible.
We should live each day as if it were a day that would be remembered forever.
Last week, I was invited to serve on the board of a non-profit that is doing great things in our community. It’s a honor that they even thought of me for the position, and on the surface, it seemed like something I should do.
But, as soon as the leader of the organization offered the invitation over the phone, I could sense the Holy Spirit saying no. Even though it is a good thing to do, it is not what the Lord wants ME to do.
So, I’ve given you three reasons why keeping your life aligned with your purpose is important:
- Because I have a purpose.
- Because there is competition for my time and attention.
- Because time is short.
Now, let’s get into how to master this habit of keeping your life aligned with your purpose.
Step 1: Decide what is important.
A few years ago, I discovered that my life was not defined by the important. I thought it was. I mean, I was a go getter and would cross a lot of tasks of my list every day, thinking that my life was aligned with my purpose.
And then, I read this book that introduced me to the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. Basically, it’s a concept that helps you differentiate between two things: important and urgent.
Because, if your like me, I thought that was was urgent was important. So, whatever task came across my desk that needed to be done quickly, I’d just jump into it without a second thought.
But, check out this quote from President Eisenhower
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
Let me give you an example. How many would agree that exercising is important? Almost everyone. How many would agree that exercising is an urgent matter – something that would take priority in your schedule?
How many would agree that notifications that come up on your phone feel urgent? We all feel that way. Now, how many have found the notification to actually be something important? Rarely.
You probably starting to see it now. The urgent tends to sweep in and take our attention and energy away from what is important.
Like when our boss or coworker texts us during family time. We run to our phone and respond to something that could have waiting until tomorrow, and in the process, we communicated that our family was second place.
I heard a story about a man was at the Super Bowl and had the perfect seats, lined up with the 50 yard line. There was one empty seat next to him, and someone asked him who it was for. He responded, “It is for my wife. She passed away.”
This was very moving that he would keep the seat in his wife’s honor, especially with how expensive it was. But, when asked why he didn’t give the seat to one of his relatives. The man responded, “Because they are all at the funeral.”
This is funny and sad all at the same time, but a perfect illustration of how our priorities get so easily out of line.
Philippians 3:7-8 NLT – I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.
In other words, here’s what the Apostle Paul was saying. When I was doing my own thing, I thought it was greater than the God thing. But now that I have done the God thing, I realize it is surpassingly greater than what I used to do.
Following the world’s way and working your tail off so you can have another dollar in your bank account pales in comparison to living out God’s plan for your life, which results in peace, wisdom and all your needs being met without striving.
You have to throw the world’s plans and ideas in the garbage. They are worthless and they don’t work.
And people will make fun of you and say you are crazy. But, I can guarantee that living out God’s plan for your life is surpassingly greater than living out someone else’s plan for your life.
And the only way you’ll ever realize God’s purpose for you life is if you dive in. You put your own agenda and ideas aside to pursue God’s plan for your life.
Step 2: Give calendar time to the important things.
So, we just talked about the difference between urgent and important and how the urgent tends to take over our lives and schedules. You don’t need to put urgent tasks on your calendar because they will push their way in.
But, for the important to even have a chance, you have to give it calendar time. And this time must be a safe place for the important where it doesn’t have to be worried about being bullied by the urgent.
I’ve been working on this very concept for several years now and it is a daily battle, but one that is worth fighting. I used to work all the time, and even when I was with my family, I was thinking about work.
Now, I force my work to fit into a certain place in my schedule. It gets Mon-Fri from 9am to 5pm. And as soon as 5pm hits, it’s over. To help get work off my mind, I take a few minutes to write down what I accomplished and what needs to be done tomorrow. This frees my mind to fully engage in family time.
That’s just one example and one that I have almost mastered. But, more recently, I have been working on prioritizing the important over the urgent within my work time.
I fell into this habit of starting my work day by checking and responding to emails and then tackling my list of urgent tasks for the day. I thought this was a good plan so I could ‘clear the path’ for the rest of the day.
But, turns out, the urgent finds a way to take your whole day. So I would end my day frustrated because I never made it to the more important things in my planner, like writing out a marketing strategy or prepping for my next sermon.
So for the past several weeks, I’ve been starting work by doing my most important task first. Many times, I open my email as soon as I sit down out of habit. And I have to tell myself out loud, “Nope. Your not doing that right now.”
After I’ve made the progress I intended to on my most important task for the day, then and only then I take care of emails and such, which usually happens right before lunch.
To say this is working is an understatement. I end my days much more fulfilled because I successfully prioritized God’s purpose over someone else’s purpose for my life.
It’s not that I ignore the urgent, because there are urgent things that need to get done. I just put the important before the urgent. And I also take a moment to decide if the urgent is even worth doing, or if I should just let it go.
I tell you all of this to paint a picture of what it means to give calendar time to the important things. Now, let’s talk about three important things we all need to schedule and prioritize.
Make time for renewal.
The best way to do this is to set aside one full day every week for renewal. You’ll often hear this referred to as the Sabbath throughout the Bible. Here’s what a day like this could look like.
You get up, come to church ready to serve and worship. After church, you go with a few people to lunch to encourage them and build meaningful relationships. Then, you go home, take a nap, play with your kids and take a walk.
You say no to your phone. You say no to getting in a little bit of work. You simply rest, worship God, and love on others.
You know starting your week like this would make a huge difference, not just for you, but for those around you. So, why not make a decision and do it? And be so determined that you don’t let anything distract you.
Because here’s the deal. You can get more done in 6 days by setting aside the first day to God – resting and allowing him to renew you – than working your tail off all 7 days.
Make time for relationships.
Let me preface this by saying I am not talking about spending more time on Facebook. And, this may be a little strong, but I believe Facebook degrades more relationships than it actually nurtures relationships.
I’ll end my rant on Facebook there, but I know we would all agree that quality relationships are a necessity in life. They bring us fulfillment, joy, and loads of excitement. And the reason is, God created it that way.
Jesus led the example by prioritizing his group of 12 disciples. He spent loads of time developing deep and intimate relationships with these guys.
And you know what? We could call that His small group. For us to think we can live limitless life in Jesus without being deeply connected with a small group of around 12 believers is pretty silly.
We’ve ventured into small groups in the past and they just kind of fizzled out. And it makes sense that it is a struggle to get them right. Because the last thing the enemy wants is for us to have thriving small groups here at church.
Imagine how much different your life would be and this church would be if everyone had a close group of people lifting them up, encouraging them, and helping them grow in their relationship with Jesus.
So in 2019, our one focus here at NoLimits is to create and maintain thriving small groups. I want every single member of our church to be involved in a small group. Actually, I foresee more people attending small groups than our weekend services.
Small groups are not only going to be a source of strength for you personally, but they will serve as an outreach to those around you.
Small groups are essential to us as individuals, and they are a crucial element of the church if we want to live limitless life in Jesus.
You’ll learn more about them over the next couple of weeks. We are going to launch in the middle of February. So get ready!
We’re talking about three important things to put in your calendar. The first was, make time for renewal. The second, make time for relationships. And here’s the third.
Make time for reward.
One day we are all going to stand before God and He’s going to ask us what we did with our earthly life. And, anything that was contrary to His purpose for our life will be burned up.
The church often uses this as a scare tactic, but fear is a lousy motivator and God knows that. I think the reason He tells us He’s going to burn that stuff up is really to relieve us. Our past is just going to disappear in a split second.
But, what about the things we did accomplish that were according to His purpose? He is going to reward those things. Because God knows that rewarding right things is a great motivator.
So, make calendar time to do things that are going to bring reward in Heaven. Go out and help people. Come early on Sundays or stay after the service and find ways to serve your church. Make time to call and encourage others.
Alright, let’s move on to the next step in mastering today’s habit.
Step 3: Eliminate the non-essentials.
All of us have non-essentials in our lives and on our schedules. We need to be on a continual mission to get rid of them.
We’re talking about the things you are doing that someone else should be doing. And we’re even talking about the activities that may be considered good but they don’t align with your purpose.
And, we’re even talking about the things that have taken over all your free time even though you never intended it to, like TV, video games, and for most of us, our phones.
Instead of making a to do list, many of us need to sit down and make a not-to-do list. I need to get rid of everything that doesn’t align with God’s purpose for my life. And the Holy Spirit is going to lead me in that.
Hebrews 12:1 NLT – Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Step 4: Regularly take inventory.
Let’s take a moment this morning to reflect. I want you to ask yourself, “Where is my life out of alignment? And could it really be that the reason I am stressed out is because I am doing too much?”
And, here’s a prayer to get us started.
Psalms 39:4 NLT – Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.
Let’s let this truth motivate us to throw off the non-essentials, to say no to the urgent in favor of the important, and to continually make adjustments that keep our life aligned with God’s purpose for our lives.
Take a moment right now and let the Holy Spirit reveal to you what needs to go on your not-to-do list. And go ahead and write these things down, either on your phone or on a piece of paper.
Some of you already know what it is because it was revealed to you earlier in my message. Go ahead and write those things down. And even write down a deadline for getting these things off your schedule.