For many of us, September is a time to regroup, reorganize, and recommit ourselves to living a better life. The routine of school and after-school activities gives families the opportunity to set aside time and recommit to eating dinner together during the week or on the weekends because for all of us, eating with family and friends is part of a better life. For some, the fall provides the cooler weather we need to get out and walk, run, or hike which can lead to a better life. Or maybe now that the season of picnics and ice-cream is over, there is a renewed commitment to more healthy eating, or maybe for you it is a renewed focus on better stewardship of time, or financial planning for 2020. No matter what makes a better life for us, the fall is a great time to recommit ourselves to this kind of living, so we are going to take this month to look at 5 things that help us live a better life.
When many of us think about a better life, we often look back to what we might consider better times. A study on the global quality of life has shown that 1978 / 1979 were the best years ever with the perfect balance of work, wealth, and happiness. 40 years ago, I was just starting my junior year of high school, it was a good time. Gas was 86 cents a gallon, Michael Jackson had 4 top ten hits from his Off the Wall album.
The top electronic gadgets, maybe the only electronic gadgets, were a Sony Walkman or an Atari video computing system, which both sold for about $200 ($750 today).
While 1979 may have been the best year ever, our nation has known many good times and bad times, we have gone through prosperous times and lean times, violent times and peaceful times. One thing we learn from our own history is that a better life often comes after the storm. Think about this, 1979 was after we went through the challenges of Vietnam and Watergate. We went through dark days as a nation, but we stepped out into the light. We were able to experience a better life because we were Resilient.
When difficult times hit us as a nation, from the civil war, to the great depression, to world wars, and global conflicts, we have found the strength of spirit to keep going. We stood strong. When difficult times hit us as individuals, or as a family, the key to finding a better life is to stand strong, and to be resilient. As a nation we are facing a storm of division and discord, and today you may be facing a storm in your own life, what we need to remember is that a better life is found after the storm so we can’t give up. Instead, we have to STAND UP, STAND FIRM, and STAND BACK UP. This is what it means to be resilient, and this is what can lead us to a better life.
Throughout this series we are going to look at the book of Ephesians and a key verse is going to be Ephesians 6:10-14a – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm.
4 times the Apostle Paul tells us we need to stand up and stand strong and Paul knows something about this. When Paul turned away from his life as a leading Pharisee and religious leader to become a follower of Jesus, he had to take a stand. When God then called Paul to share his faith and spread the good news of Jesus in many different nations, he had to make another stand and then stand firm in the face of serious opposition from all sides.
So a better life is found when we learn to STAND UP, but what we stand up for makes all the difference. If we stand up for more money, or to get more stuff, or to gain more power and prestige, life might not get better at all, but if we stand up for our faith and our families – we will find a better life. What makes a better life is standing up for, protecting, and develop the most important relationships in our lives, and the primary relationship we need to stand up for is our relationship with God.
Are we willing to stand up with God and for God? If we look at the Old Testament, and the teaching of Jesus, we find that what it means to stand with God is this, Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, and with ALL your soul, and with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength. Loving God with all that we have, and all that we are, requires us to make a stand.
Have we taken a stand and declared God as our creator and Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. To make this statement in the world today is to take a stand that separates us from many others. Just this week a study came out saying that younger people do not see faith in God as being important, so in a culture moving away from God, to say we not only believe in God but strive to love God with all we have and all we are will require us to boldly stand up.
We might need to make a stand at work, or in school, and not hide our faith but be willing to acknowledge it and share it. Among our family and friends we might need to take a stand and be clear that our worship of God, and growing in faith are things that are important to us and will be priorities in our lives. It might mean we take a stand with our schedules and make sure worship, Sunday School, small groups, and serving in the name of Jesus are a priority we are going to make in this new season of the year.
Taking a stand in our faith might mean evaluating what we say, and how we treat people so that our words and actions reflect more of Jesus. We all need to evaluate where we are and ask ourselves:
● Where do I need to STAND UP with God?
● Where do I need to STAND UP for God?
The other relationship where we might need to stand up and stand strong is with our families. The beginning of school and the busy schedules families face in this season of the year make it too easy for family time to slip away. We don’t eat together because everyone is on the run. We don’t talk with each other because we are all too busy. Where do we need to STAND UP and make our family a priority? What changes have to take place for us to strengthen all of our family relationships? Where do we need to care more for your spouse, devote more time to our children, stay connected to grandchildren, support those in our extended family and church family? We need to stand up and stand strong in the relationships that matter to us
Next month we are going to be looking more in depth at the primary relationships that help us grow in faith: our relationship with God, our relationship with the church, and our relationship with the world. As part of this series there will be individual and small group opportunities for us to assess how we are doing in these 3 relationships, and how God might be calling us to stand up in each one. You will be hearing more next week and we hope you will be part of this exciting campaign.
Standing up is important, and it is something we need to intentionally do in our faith, but please hear this, once we stand up in any area of life, we will be challenged. We take a stand in our faith at work, or in school, or among our friends, and we will be challenged, maybe even ridiculed. Once we make a stand to spend more time, and quality time with our families, there will be activities that will immediately try to tear that time apart. So it is not enough to stand up, we have to be ready to STAND FIRM in the face of opposition. To stand firm we need to draw not from our own strength and power, but from the strength and power of God.
In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Paul says, Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Standing firm means asking God for the power of the Holy Spirit to help us each and every day do those things that are important to us. It means asking God to help us stay focused on what we have said are our priorities.
What can also help us stand firm is the word of God. Paul says in
2 Thessalonians 2: 15: So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
When we face obstacles, God’s word helps us stand firm because it gives us inspiration, courage, and direction. Taking time to read God’s word is important but we also need to give God’s word the space to speak to us and shape our hearts and lives. We need to listen to it, reflect upon it, and maybe discuss what we hear with those who are close to us.
To stand firm, we need God’s word. and we need God’s spirit, but at some point we know what’s going to happen, we are going to fall. We will make a stand, but then we will fall, and it is in those moments when we feel like giving in and giving up. We tell ourselves, I just don’t have what it takes to stand up and stand firm. If that is where you are, if this is what you are hearing and how you are feeling, then here is what God says: STAND BACK UP.
We all make mistakes. We all fail God, and we fail ourselves, and we fail others. We all make bad choices, and get tired of doing the right thing so end up doing the wrong thing, and at times we all feel beaten down by others, but the good news is that when we fail – God forgives. When we fall down for any reason – God is there to help us stand back up. Falling down can never be the end because God is always willing to forgive us and help us stand back up.
When Peter failed to stand firm with Jesus on the night he was arrested, Jesus gave him a chance to stand back up. We get this same chance. Forgiveness and a new start is available to all of us and the truth is that a better life is often only found after we stand back up. Let me say that again, a better life is often only found after we stand back back up because it is then that we more fully understand God’s grace and mercy. It is only after we have been forgiven, and given a second chance, or a third chance, or another chance, that the love of God for us is truly experienced and we begin to see the better life God has for us. It is only after we fall that we can see the power of God to help us stand. For all of us, part of a better life is knowing we are forgiven, and knowing we get another chance at faith and faithfulness, so if you are feeling beaten down today, or down for the count because of some failure and sin, God is here to forgive and say, STAND BACK UP.
We find a better life when we are able to stand up for God and for what is important in life. A better life is found when we stand firm in the midst of opposition and struggles, and a better life is found when we experience God’s grace, mercy and love which gives us the strength and courage to stand back up. Being resilient is part of a better life. As a nation, we have been resilient. After the civil war, we stood back up and worked together to form a more perfect union. After the great depression we stood back up with courage and worked for a better life and a better community and world. After Vietnam and Watergate we stood back up and experienced the quality of life found in 1979. Being resilient has led to a better life.
A better life and a stronger faith for us and our families will be found when we are resilient and stand up, stand firm and stand back up again.
A Better Life – Resilient
- Where do you need to stand up for a better life in your: Faith? Family? Finances? Friends?
- Identify one thing you can do in each of these areas to experience a better life.
- Pray daily for the Holy Spirit to help you stand firm in the face of obstacles and persecution.
- Read God’s word and give it the time and space it needs to speak to your heart and shape your life.
- Ephesians 6:10-20
- 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
- 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Stand Back Up
- When have you had to stand back up because of past failures?
- Thank God for His forgiveness.
- Where do you need to stand back up today?
- Ask God for His forgiveness and strength.
This October we will be discussing 3 Relationships that all followers of Jesus should be growing in to live a full life of faith. These 3 are: A Relationship with God, A Relationship with the Church, A Relationship with the World. Make a stand now to be involved in this church-wide campaign and commit to weekly worship, self-assessment, personal growth, small group study, and prayer. Look for more information next week.