Recently I spoke on some themes taken from the end of 1 Corinthians. We’ve shared the audio from that talk here at Into the Harvest (you can listen to it here) but for those of you who are visual learners, I wanted to share thoughts from that talk here on our blog.
This is Part 2 of an article on how we can always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. (You can read Part 1 here.)
One Purpose for All
In my last post I began by talking about Paul’s call to action in 1 Corinthians 15.58:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Gaining a Godly perspective allows us to do the things laid out in this verse, like: “standing firm”, “letting nothing move us,” and “giving ourselves fully.” Only when we take hold of the truth that Jesus is at the center of all life and that everything needs to revolve around him can begin give ourselves fully.
So with that foundational perspective in mind, I want to give you three ways, or rather three qualities, you can pursue to make sure you’re giving yourself fully to the work of the Lord.
And I want to emphasize these qualities by decade. So we’ll start with the 20s, then the 30s, and then the 40s and beyond. Because these qualities build on each other.
Intensity in Your 20s
If you’re in your 20s, the main quality you should cultivate so that you give yourself fully to the work of the Lord is Intensity.
Your 20s are the time when you can stretch yourself and develop a radical devotion to Jesus. And in a sense, that’s all you have to offer. You don’t have much experience or skill. You’re still learning the craft. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to make disciples. But it does mean that the main thing you have to offer others is the sincerity and intensity of your own devotion to Christ.
Your 20s are a great time to be recklessly extravagant in your devotion to Jesus. Here are some of the things I did in my 20s to cultivate intensity:
- Every career and geographic move our family made when my wife and I were in our 20s (and there were several) was based on what would help us better engage in the work of the Lord.
- I set a goal to read through the Bible at least once a year. This allowed me to enter my 30s having read through the Bible more than 10x.
- I learned to give generously, supporting full-time workers who were discipling us but also learning to budget so we had money available to host dinners, spontaneously give to others in need, etc.
- I learned to spend half days and full days alone with God in prayer.
- I learned to share my faith by doing things like 30 days of evangelism, where the goal was to share the good news with at least one person every day.
- I learned to memorize Scripture by using the Topical Memory System, establishing a system of regular review, learning to memorize passages, and then entire books of the Bible.
Now here’s the thing: No one was making me do these things. I wasn’t even joining others who were doing these things. These were goals I set to push myself and grow.
Look around. Do you see someone your age who is chasing after Jesus with more intensity than you? And if so, ask yourself, “Why?” Why aren’t you the most devoted person you know? What needs to change? Then start making those changes.
The enemies of devotion in your 20s are: Apathy. Indifference. Lack of imagination. Playing it safe. Only doing what’s expected. Standing with one foot in the door. Not going all in.
I urge you instead to go in the other direction: Cultivate intensity by pursuing a radical devotion to Jesus.
Focus in Your 30s
If you’re in your 30s, the main quality to cultivate so that you can give yourself fully to the work of the Lord is Focus.
As you move into your 30s, the reality is that your margin for error disappears. You more than likely have a family now. You have greater responsibilities at work. But most dangerous of all, you have money and opportunity.
People in their 30s are usually in debt. Financial debt and time debt. You simply don’t have time to give yourself fully to the work of the Lord. Many don’t have adequate time for their families – or even to maintain their own health! You end up being crippled by opportunity and over-extending yourself.
But the hard truth is that you’re over-extended by choice because you refuse to focus your life around what you say are your highest values. You think that because you can chase it all… maybe you can really have it all.
But you can’t.
In your 20s you’re learning to push yourself and say “yes” to chasing after Christ. In your 30s you must learn to say “no”… so that you can continue to chase after Christ.
The greatest threat to the devotion of the American Christian is not the devil. It’s the American dream.
The enemy in your 30s is distraction. Covetousness. Envy. Misplaced ambition.
So I urge you to go in the other direction instead. Cultivate focus. Purposefully limit your activity and be ruthless in managing your time. This is what will enable you to give yourself fully to the work of Jesus.
Perseverance in Your 40s
The 30s are brutal and not many people enter their 40s still giving themselves fully to the work of the Lord. But if you’re one of the few who makes it, the quality you should be cultivating now is Perseverance.
See, in your 40s you’ve been there and done that. You understand the odds stacked against you in this work you’ve chosen to give your life to. You realize that you’re giving your life to the impossible mission. (Mark 10.26-27)
You’ve also had your share of success and because of this it’s tempting to throttle back and take the view that you’ve done your part. Let the next generation take up the baton. Now is the time to allow yourself to give yourself partly to the work of the Lord so you can relax a little and live the good life!
The enemy in your 40s is fatigue. Discouragement. Bitterness. Or maybe in the other direction, self-satisfaction. Complacency.
So, instead, go in the other direction. Cultivate perseverance. Odds are you have another 30-40 years ahead of you. Make the most of them! It’s not time to ease off the throttle. The Lord still has work for you to do and the joy is in the journey.
Perspective Leads to Purpose
I don’t know which decade you find yourself in, but I hope you are willing to ask yourself some hard questions that help you “go against the grain” when the enemies of devotion come. When apathy, distraction and complacency start to slip their way in, remember: Stand firm! Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.
You’re still on the plane and the destination is what puts the journey in perspective. Don’t get distracted by the peanuts of life.