Life tends toward complexity. Complexity is tiring and overwhelming. Most of us are already overwhelmed with more information and demands than we can handle. It seems like every week we need to take stock and cut out, afresh, the complexity from our lives. Simple, on the other hand, is cool. Simple is better. Simple is more effective. Simple is attractive in this day and age. Simple is refined. Simple is leaner and meaner (in a good way). Simple is possible. What complexity do you need to cut out of your job, relationships, finances, health, schedule and faith? There’s been no better time than right now to get simple, get clear and feel more effective in life.
Don’t live on the periphery of what God has put you on the planet for. Live in the Bullseye. Too many of us settle for far too less than what God intended for us.
Imagine a blank A4 piece of paper folded a dozen or more times into a very small square and placed in your pocket. You carry it around with you day after day, year after year until finally you die. Imagine standing before Jesus and he has in his hand that little screwed up and folded up piece of A4 paper in his hand. Jesus then proceeds to unwrap the tiny A4 square piece of paper until it’s completely unfolded to a full piece of paper.
He looks at you in love and says to you, ‘You settled for this little square corner of life, when I called you to stretch, grow and live and contribute far more than you could have imagined.’ How do you think you might feel in that moment. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, ‘Oh Crap’.
The pain of regret is the worst pain of all. It’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to pursue that dream. It’s never too late to say sorry or forgive or believe again. But you’ve got to make a decision to stop living on the periphery and start living in the bullseye of what God has really called you to.
There is a spiritual battle waging for your soul, whether you can see it or not. Being a Christian and having a Biblical worldview exposes me to the reality of the devil and his agenda on the earth. We must avoid 2 extremes when it comes to Spiritual Warfare. Too many of us either, attribute too much credit to the devil’s influence in our lives or we don’t acknowledge his presence at all and write him off as just being pure fantasy.
Someone once said, “One of the greatest lies Satan ever convinced us with, is that he doesn’t exist”.
The Scriptures exhort us to remember, our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. The 1st lesson of spiritual warfare is to know thy enemy. Unlike the common caricature of horns, pitch-fork and pointy tail, the devil masquerades himself as an angel of light, he distorts the truth and the bible says that he is an accuser of God’s people and continually opposes Gods purposes on planet earth.
Keep in mind that Satan is not like God in any way. He is not omnipresent, omnipotent or omniscient. Only God is completely and utterly holy and sovereign. Our approach to spiritual warfare must be shaped by a biblical worldview. The reason Ephesians 6:10-20 exhorts us to stand and defend against Satan’s attacks is because the decisive battle over Satan has already been won by Jesus. 1 John 3:8 says, the reason Jesus Christ appeared was to destroy the works of Satan. Christ has disarmed the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame.
God hasn’t called us to be cowboys when it comes to spiritual warfare because Jesus has already done the heavy lifting against Satan rendering him a defeated foe. Our job as believers is to enforce the victory Christ has already one and drive out the kingdom of darkness from the world through the weapons of Gods truth, prayer, faith, the gospel, salvation and our righteousness in Christ.
Satan doesn’t have any new tricks up his sleeve. He just tries the same old well-worn attacks he has used for centuries. He attacks the mind with strongholds. He attacks the body through physical sickness. He attacks relationships with strife and he attacks the church with doctrine, disunity, persecution and apathy.
Our response to these attacks is to root out anything in our lives the devil could use as a foothold to enter in and destroy us. We are to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us. When you stand strong in God, you won’t fall when Satan attacks you.
Too many of us are caught up with ourselves always on our mind. When you are pre-occupied with yourself, you have no room to be interested in others. The bible exhorts us to, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). When you are always on your mind, you only ever see life from your limited perspective. Your world becomes bigger when you start to seek first to understand rather than trying to always be understood. God has plans for you that are about your well-being and success (Jer 29:11) but as long as you are always on your mind, you will never understand or embrace the plans that he longs to reveal and outwork in your life.
If we want to follow Christ we must deny ourselves – Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If you want to come after me, you must deny yourself…” This is a hard saying because it is difficult in our day and age to swim upstream and not be on about your agenda. Everything we are taught at school, in the media and in the culture around us promotes the idea that we are the centre of the universe. But Jesus calls us to live with the spirit of the kingdom of God in our minds and hearts, not the spirit of the world = self! You’ve got to leave yourself behind.
Leaving yourself behind looks like Sacrificing yourself for the Call – Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” You can’t follow Jesus and follow yourself at the same time. You have to choose. No one can serve 2 masters, you either follow one or follow the other. When Jesus took up his cross he sacrificed himself for others. Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master.” If Jesus is our master and he is our ultimate example, then who are we to think we can follow Jesus and excuse ourselves out of the cost of discipleship. Everyday we have a choice – live for ourselves or live for Christ. Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done” and he has been exalted to the right hand of the Father. Satan said, “I will be like God” and the bible says, “He fell like lightning from heaven.” Who you sacrifice for will determine your ultimate destiny.
The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom – The spirit of the world says, “Live for yourself and you will have true life.” but Jesus says, “Die to yourself and you will have true life.” We are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds to think like Jesus thinks and order our lives after the pattern of the kingdom of God. One of the reasons why the world looks at the church and thinks that we’re weird is because we operate by a different law. The law of the Spirit of God is now in effect and what people perceive as normal, God perceives as weird and what the world perceives as weird, God perceives as normal. Living for God and others will be seen as weird but go ahead and live with others on your mind anyway.
It’s dangerous to live for yourself and achieve your goal – Jesus said, “What will it profit you, if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” The answer = nothing. You could live completely for yourself and even achieve your goal but be completely miserable because you are the only in your small little world. A Day is coming called the Day of Judgment when your work will be tested by fire and if it survives the test, you will be rewarded but if it is burned up, you will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:13-14). What profit are living for – Temporary or Eternal?
Genesis 37:19-20 “They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
Beware of the dream killers in your life. The enemy of your soul wants to steal, kill and destroy the dream God has put into your heart. It may even appear like he has succeeded at different points along the journey but the entrustment you have received from God must be protected whatever attack comes against it.
Joseph was a dreamer. He was young, bold and had big dreams for his future. His family didn’t understand or believe his dreams and ridiculed him for it. Truth is, some of the greatest opposition to the dream in your heart will come from those who are closest to you. It happened to Jesus, it will happen to you. Jesus hometown of Nazareth couldn’t believe the words of authority and miracles that He ministered with and they despised him for it.
Jealousy is a dream killer – Jealousy of others can cripple your dream. You have to guard your heart against it by avoiding comparison between yourself and others. Just get on with pursuing your dream and stop looking over the fence at how others are doing. Beware of people who are jealous of you enough to want to hurt you. Josephs brothers were so jealous that it drove them to thinking about murder. Extreme I know but jealousy can have this effect on people.
Pride is a dream killer – Joseph was bold and brash. He was obviously excited about the dream God had given to him but he shared it in a tone that revealed he thought he was better than others. Your dream doesn’t give you license to elevate yourself above others. Let God do the elevating and just get on with pursuing your dream. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves all of you with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Personal attacks are a dream killer – Josephs brothers stripped him of his robe of many colours that his father had given to him. This robe represented Josephs identity and a point of identification with his father. This was a blatant attack against not only Joseph but his fathers favor on him. Satan loves to attack your identity in Christ and undermine what God has declared over your life. See the attack for what it is and remind yourself of who you are in Christ and who you belong to, no matter what the enemy tries to strip you of.
Josephs story inspires us to hold onto the dream no matter what comes against it. There are dream killers out there. Beware of them and guard your heart against the enemies attacks on your dream.
Living on purpose and living with passion go hand in hand because passion is connected to your holy discontent. In John 2:13-17 Jesus found people using God’s house for something it shouldn’t have been used for = commercial trade instead of relationship with God. Holy discontent rose up in Jesus heart and he became passionate about restoring the house of God to its original purpose.
A lack of passion in your life might suggest a disconnection from calling. I think ‘The Passion’ is a fitting title for Jesus death on the cross because it represents a fulfillment of calling for Jesus in seeking and saving the lost. When you connect to your calling, you will have your own ‘passion’ moment because it will be a natural byproduct of you walking in your purpose.
Passion will inspire you to get creative to resolve your holy discontent. Jesus saw the state of God’s house and he got intentional about changing it. The text says, ‘He made a whip of cords and drove out the money changers’. Passion inspires creativity within you to bring about change. Passion enables you to attempt things you would never have attempted on your own. Passion inspires you to pioneer new ministries, write books and songs and go where others haven’t gone before.
Passion isn’t insecure about what other people think. Jesus told the money changers where to go with their pigeons and business. Jesus knew what the call of God on the Father’s house was and he wasn’t going to let anyone bring a distraction to it. When you get a revelation of what God’s call on the House is, you will get passionate about protecting it. You can’t be passionate about God’s house and be worried about what people think of you. I can’t preach God’s word and be insecure about whether or not people approve of my preaching. I can’t build a church and be constantly checking with everyone, if they are OK with what we are building.
Passion is a God thing, not a personality thing. Never make passion about your personality. I’ve seen some of the most introverted people be extremely passionate when it comes to their call. Never let your wiring get in the way of your passion for God and his House. Don’t wait for the preacher or pastor or someone else to stir your passion. You stir up your own passion. Paul said, ‘Stir up the gift within you.’
Our best passion must be reserved for God’s House. Jesus saw Jesus’ passion in the temple and remembered the words of Psalm 69:9 “Zeal for your house will consume me.” God and his house deserves our best passion and energy. Passion is contagious and whatever you are most passionate about will be passed onto others. Connect to your purpose and passion will follow.
Jesus is our supreme example for life and faith. Jesus stuck to his call and he did not deviate from it. An ancient proverb says, “If you want to defeat them, distract them.”. In the wilderness Jesus was given several lucrative opportunities to use his talents in a way that did not relate to his mission.
However, Jesus resisted them because none of these opportunities fit with his mission statement. Just stop for a moment and think about what Jesus did not do. After all, he was the Son of God and could have done anything he wanted, with guaranteed success. He was endowed with limitless power from on high and yet he did not build a temple or a synagogue. He did not write or distribute books and yet the Gospel of John records that if everything he said and did were recorded, all the books in the world could not contain them. Jesus did not even heal all the sick people in the world. He did not go down to the graveyards and raise everyone from the dead.
Jesus call was very specific and he stuck to it. He said, “I have come to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Can you summarize your call as specifically as Jesus did? Can you identify a current list of opportunities that might really be distractions. What are they?