Thriving in life doesn’t happen unless we choose it

Every now and then I reflect on the idea of a life verse, a passage from Scripture that will guide my choices – my thoughts and actions – through each day. I tend to settle on one, but then I don’t actually tend to use it. But I want to. I want my life to reflect my heart and I want my heart to reflect my relationship with Jesus. For that to happen, I need to nurture my relationship with Jesus. In other words, my relationship with Him needs to be active, not passive.

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With that in mind, I thought perhaps I would test drive a few life verse options with the idea that I will find one that fits the circumstances and season I find myself in these days.

Here are the ones I plan to try: Whatever you do, live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:27); I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! (Psalm 27:13); For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose (Philippians 2:13); Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (Matthew 22:37); Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24); and Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known (Jeremiah 33:3).

I believe each of these will provide me a deeper focus each day, but I’m going to start with the first Philippians verse (quoted above). Because here’s the thing – I realize if I am not diligent, if I am not intentional, life will squeeze Jesus out of my mind and, more importantly, out of my heart. My focus will shift to the things of this world: me, my efforts, my needs, my ability to influence or encourage or stand out. And the thing is, the bigger these things grow in my days and in my life, the more oppressive they become.

Whatever you do, live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:27

Because the truth is, my efforts pale in comparison to what God can do in and through me.

That sounds trite, doesn’t it? It sounds like an overused, tired cliché. Like words tossed around too lightly and too often until they loses their meaning. But for me, they hold deep meaning because I’ve seen them play out in my life as they did in the story in the Gospels where Jesus fed large crowds of people with but a few loaves of bread and a few small fish. I’ve watched God show up for me when I had nothing to give but tears. I’ve seen Him show up when the only effort I could make were one-word prayers. I’ve felt Him show up when I was lost, confused, or seeking more than just going through the motions and existing, not living or thriving.

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I’ve felt Him crack open my hard heart more than once and I’ve felt Him pour His grace into me, into my broken, cracked places, redeeming my poor choices, my denial of Him (it’s why I’ve long identified with the disciple, Peter), my hurt. Jesus is the friend who sees me at my worst but sticks around anyway. He never tires of my faults, never stops loving me because of them, but won’t abandon me to my brokenness. And He believes in me and who I can be a whole lot more than I do most of the time.

Just like He did with Peter. Bold, impetuous Peter. Peter who was the first to say he believed Jesus was the longed-for Messiah and the first to deny Him when Jesus was on trial. Peter who was the first to be called to follow Jesus and the first to get out of the boat when Jesus called him. Peter who made mistakes but still became the rock on which Jesus said He would build His Church.

And like Peter, all I know is my life is better in the moments Jesus helps me and rights my path, providing me a deeper purpose and focus. I like knowing my life has a purpose beyond my mistakes and brokenness; even because of them sometimes.

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I’ve often wondered what Peter’s life looked like after Jesus ascended and returned to the Father. Unlike me, Peter got to live his life in the physical presence of Jesus for three years. How did that affect Peter once Jesus was no longer by Peter’s side?

Did Peter just go about his life as if nothing were different for having known Jesus? Did he go back to life as he knew it before he knew Jesus? Was he satisfied to go back to a life of fishing and mending nets and nothing more? Or was he changed?

Did Peter live out his remaining days in a manner worthy of the Gospel? The book of Acts indicates he did. His words, his actions, his life and even his death pointed others to the risen Christ and the Gospel of Grace.

Reflecting on Peter’s life with and after Jesus’ time in the world regularly encourages me to consider how I am living out my days. Am I living with an eternal purpose or with an average purpose? Am I pointing others to Jesus and His grace or am I calling out, “Look at me, look at me, look at what I’m doing”? If I am honest, too often, it is the latter.

And so today I’m asking God to show up and help me live a life worthy of the Gospel. Because it’s time to thrive, not merely exist.

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