Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Matt Heard’s book Life with a Capital L: Embracing Your God-Given Humanity (Multnomah Books, 2014).
Does it seem like you’re stuck just existing rather than really living – simply trying to get through your routines every day without enjoying your life or feeling that what you do matters?
Too many people go through life that way. God wants you to do more than just survive your life; he wants you to thrive by discovering how to live up to your full potential as a human being made in his image. When you embrace your God-given humanity, all the ordinary moments of your life will take on extraordinary significance. Here’s how you can do so:
Shift your focus away from religion and toward significance. No matter how carefully you may observe religious rules or rituals, those efforts alone won’t bring you any closer to your human potential unless your outward behavior is connected to an inward search for significance in all areas of your life. Embracing your humanity involves embracing the significance embedded in the many different experiences you have every day. Keep in mind that Jesus came not just to forgive you for your sin, but also to take you back to the original purpose for which God made you, so you can become the person God intended you to be.
Listen to the lessons your longings can teach you. What do you deeply desire? You may experience longings such as significance, truth, beauty, goodness, identity, security, and well-being that lurk beneath the surface of your daily life. Make time to reflect on, and pray about, what you’re longing for. Evaluate the clues those longings give you to who you are in God’s universe and what God-given purposes you can fulfill during your lifetime.
Start living the eternal life Jesus has given you right now. You don’t have to wait until you get to heaven to enjoy the eternal life you have as a Christian. It starts now! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize and seize opportunities to live each day to the fullest, experiencing all the God intends for you for the rest of your life on Earth, before you reach heaven.
Embrace grace. Accept and open the gift of grace that God is offering you. Through grace, God gives you what you need instead of what you deserve, as well as what you long for deep in your soul but not necessarily all that you think you want. Humble yourself to begin the journey of transformation to become a healthier human being, and let grace give you the confidence that God is for you in the fight.
Pursue freedom. Find your way out of the prison cell that sin has placed you in by regularly confessing sin in your life to God and repenting by turning away from it and back toward God. Realize that giving God your obedience won’t constrain you; it will actually liberate you. Choose to obey God when you make decisions every day; when you do, you’ll be free to experience the best outcomes – those that God intends for you, with your best interests at heart.
Engage your heart. Guard your heart – the core of your thinking, feeling, and decisively acting – by relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you every day. Care for your heart by avoiding sin that can damage it. Don’t let your heart become numb to what matters to God; pay attention to how the Spirit leads you and engage with it. Do your best to think clearly, feel deeply, and act intentionally.
Relish beauty. Notice and appreciate the beauty around you each day. Recognize that beauty in creation gives you glimpses of the Creator, God, by reflecting some of his beautiful qualities. Use your God-given gift of creativity to create beauty in every part of your life, from your relationships to your career.
Turn to the Bible as your source of illumination. Rather than reading the Bible just as a reference book, use it as your guiding light to navigate through the darkness of this fallen world. Study it, meditate on it, memorize it, listen to it, and apply it to your life in every situation. When you incorporate biblical principles into your life, you’ll grow closer to your full human potential and thrive in life as God intends.
Understand how your story fits into God’s story. Realize that your life is not just a series of disconnected events; it’s connected to God and other people in significant ways. Ask God to help you understand his purposes for your life, which will reveal the unique role you play in the larger story that’s about God’s glory in the world. Embrace your God-given role in his greater story with confidence that you can trust him as the author and finisher of your faith.
Focus your worship in the right direction. Every human being worships someone or something. Are you devoting yourself primarily to God, by investing most of your resources (such as time and energy) into your relationship with him? Or do you have an idol that is currently consuming attention that you should be devoting to God? Possible idols include power, money, possessions, careers, sex, fitness, leisure, success, appearance, drugs, relationships, reputation, education, titles, sports teams, and even religious activities. If you identify misdirected worship in your life, confess it in prayer. Then acknowledge God’s worth by devoting every part of your life to him to express your gratitude for who he is and what he does.
Receive God’s love and give it to others. Welcome God’s love into your life regularly, but don’t stop there. Invite God to pour his love through you into the lives of other people who need it, as you follow God’s leading to serve and forgive others.
Use your time well. Pay attention to the blessings God is giving you in each present moment, and schedule your time around priorities that are based on accomplishing God’s purposes for your life.
Let brokenness mature you. When you encounter the inevitable trouble that comes from living in this fallen world, engage the brokenness instead of trying to escape it. Seek to learn from the brokenness you experience, trusting God to use bad circumstances to accomplish good purposes in your life.
Live each day with heaven in mind. Look forward to heaven – when you’ll reach your full human potential – by pursuing what has eternal value every day. Live each day with the ultimate end of your earthly lifetime in mind.
Adapted from Life with a Capital L: Embracing Your God-Given Humanity, copyright 2014 by Matt Heard. Published by Multnomah Books, a division of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, Co., http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/.
Matt Heard and his wife, Arlene, live in Colorado Springs and are the privileged parents of three adult sons. A speaker and writer, he was the senior pastor at Woodmen Valley Chapel for 12 years. Whether standing in front of people with a microphone or in a trout stream with a fly rod, whether sitting around a dinner table with friends or serving a need in his city, he loves exploring and experiencing Life with a capital L.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. She produced a site about angels and miracles for About.com. Now she writes about the power of thoughts on her “Renewing Your Mind” blog.
Publication date: November 24, 2014