‘God blesses everyone who has wisdom and common sense.’ Proverbs 3:13 CEV
The key to success lies in doing the right thing at the right time. Theologian Tryon Edwards said, ‘Have a time and place for everything, and do everything in its time and place… you’ll not only accomplish more, but have far more leisure than those who are always hurrying.’ If you’re tired of living with constant stress, theology professor Dr Howard Hendricks draws our attention to four major sources:
(1) Saying yes to far too many things. Dr Lewis Sperry Chafer once said, ‘Much of our spiritual activity is little more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.’ All our ‘going and doing’ fails to address our core emptiness.
(2) Not stopping to recharge our batteries. We dutifully pull out our day planner and fill the spaces between activities. But let’s not fool ourselves; avoiding overlapping activities isn’t planning. As a result, we’re a stressed-out, short-tempered crowd, commuting between poorly planned activities that add little to our spiritual well-being.
(3) Failure to enjoy what we accomplish. ‘A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.’ (Proverbs 13:19 NKJV) With always too much to do, we dash off to the next obligation, often without finishing the previous one or taking time to stand back and savor a job well done. No wonder we worry that our existence seems meaningless.
(4) Owing more than we can repay. Next time you’re faced with a credit card purchase—wait! Don’t necessarily say no. Just present your so-called ‘need’ to God and see what He says about it. If you’re serious about developing your spiritual life, use your common sense and put these four principles to work.
‘The Lord looks at the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT
Pastor and author John MacArthur says: ‘Jesus’ exposition of the law is a devastating blow against the lie that image is everything. Secret sin is especially abhorrent because:
(1) God sees the heart. In fact, if we realized He’s the only audience we’d be less inclined to write it off. It’s folly to mitigate sin by keeping it private… it’s double-folly to think you’re better than others because you sin privately… and it’s the height of folly to conceal it. “He who covers his sins will not prosper.” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV)
(2) Sinful thoughts originate from the same source as sinful deeds. When Jesus said hatred carries the same guilt as murder, and that lust is essentially adultery, He wasn’t saying there’s no difference in degree… He was saying that a lustful person has no right to feel superior to a fornicator. The fact that somebody thinks such thoughts proves they’re capable of immoral acts, and someone who hates his brother already has murder lurking in his heart.
(3) Hypocrisy compounds hidden sin. Why? Because it means covering it up. Jesus called hypocrisy “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1 NKJV) because it compounds itself like leaven. It sears your conscience and paves the way for other character-damaging sins… When somebody tries to tell you appearances are everything—don’t buy it! Your secret life is a litmus test of your character: “As he thinks within himself, so he is.” (Proverbs 23:7 NASB) If you want to know who you really are, look at your private life. Then gaze into the mirror of God’s Word and let Him disclose and correct the thoughts and intents of your heart.’
‘You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ Psalm 32:5 NLT
David said, ‘I confessed all my sins to You… And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘If you’re tired of pretending you have it all together, it’s time to act. For too long Christian women in particular have believed they’re the only ones dealing with shameful issues, agonizing regrets, and skeletons in their closet. Once we open up to God, ourselves, and others, we experience exhilarating freedom and peace. A woman wrote to me: “I had an abortion when I was eighteen. Nobody knows. For years I marked the date on my calendar and grieved for the child nobody knew about, and the young woman who bore the guilt alone. No more! Now I know I’m not alone, and for the first time in my life I truly believe God is bigger than my secret—and He’s willing to forgive.” Secrets only hold power when they’re hidden. Once they’re revealed in the light of God’s love they lose their control. However, there are some things to consider before opening up to someone:
(1) If that person repeats things others have shared in confidence, guess who’s up next for discussion?
(2) Beware of someone who’s apt to offer unsolicited advice, then take offense when it’s ignored.
(3) Stay away from somebody who tries to “fix” you, and tells you not to worry about your secrets.
Instead, look for someone who:
(a) has good sense and knows when to “back off” and/or move forward when you’re upset;
(b) is up-front about their own struggles; (c) is quick to listen and slow to speak; (d) undergirds their words and counsel with Scriptural truths.’
‘You will rebuild those houses left in ruins for years.’ Isaiah 58:12 CEV
Lie number two: God won’t use you now. Julie Ann Barnhill continues: ‘Women long to have their lives count for something more eternal than their jean size, or updated qualifications on a CV. Yet many times we judge ourselves by these superficial standards. Think of all the times you’ve gazed in a mirror and despised the woman staring back at you; times you’ve bought into the lie that because of your failures God can’t use you. I’m living proof that He can and does use us despite our past mistakes. David said when “I confessed my sins… You forgave my guilt.” (Psalm 32:5 NCV) The worst sins in Scripture can never drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love, if you confess them and seek forgiveness. God’s truths can dispel the enemy’s deceit.’
Take hold of His promise that you will rebuild the ruins of your life. (Isaiah 58:11–12) ‘Lie number three: When people find out what you’ve done, they’ll never love, understand, or forgive you. Some you considered friends may leave… It happened to me… Friends dropped me when they learned the depth of my messes. And I once dropped a friend after learning some uncomfortable details about her life. Friends come and go, but a true friend sticks by you like family (see Proverbs 17:17). I wasn’t faithful to my friend, but Jesus always is. Time and again He promised never to leave us.’
Even ‘if we are not faithful, He remains faithful, because He cannot be false to Himself.’ (2 Timothy 2:13 GNT)
‘You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.’ Proverbs 28:13 GNT
Julie Ann Barnhill continues: ‘The “father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV) wants us to believe there are things we’ve done that can make God’s love for us end. And on occasion I’ve swallowed three of his favorite lies. Lie number one: You’re the only person who ever did that. Few things can send me down the road of condemnation and guilt like anger issues… While outwardly I came across as “together”, I knew the verbal and physical boundaries I crossed behind closed doors. I confessed to friends, hoping to hear I wasn’t alone. But there was dead silence, and the enemy whispered, “I told you nobody else had done those things. You’re beyond help.” I believed this until God drew me back to Bible truths I learned and believed since childhood. (a) If I confess my wrongs, He’ll forgive me time after time. (b) If I allow Him, He’ll change my thought patterns and strengthen me to do what’s right. (c) And even if I fail, Jesus remains faithful; it’s impossible for Him not to… Three years later… before a packed audience, I told hundreds of mothers where I’d been, and assured them they weren’t the only ones who’d said, done, and thought whatever they were currently beating themselves up about. Women lined up to speak to me. Some stood quietly with their heads bowed. Others fought to maintain their composure as the enemy’s lies were exposed and defeated… I never grow tired of hearing another person say, “Thanks for being honest!” The Lord has shown me I’m not the only one who’s done the things I’ve done.’ Now that’s real freedom!
‘There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.’ Luke 12:2 NKJV
Inspirational speaker Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘I tend to be a stealthy sinner—a cloistered screw-up. Most of my life I’ve managed to fly under the radar… to keep 99.9 per cent of such things hidden. As someone who attended church and appeared to manage a happy family, I avoided glaring attention to the shadow-side of my life—but at great cost. Lying about my spending led to financial problems in my marriage. Covetousness robbed me of friendships and contentment. The teenage anger that sent me reeling in fits of self-mutilation, exploded years later in outbursts of abusive anger towards my children. And when alcohol beckoned during periods of loneliness and depression, I heeded its call. Maybe you’re thinking, “So, you’ve told us a few secrets from your life—they don’t compare to mine.” Seeing who has the most horrifying secret isn’t the point; we need to embrace the truth that we aren’t alone in our secret places… Confession for confession’s sake easily turns into tabloid moments like daytime talk shows. It’s not enough to spill the beans. Genuine confession leads to radical forgiveness that’s only available through Christ. It covers whatever we’ve done, no matter how bad it is. Jesus knows our secrets and they can never stop Him from loving us. They can, however, create a barrier between us and the shame-free life He desires for us. We confess our sins so we can find redemption, rescue, and eternal life. We share our secret places with trusted friends so we might know the reality of divine healing through flesh-and-blood relationships with those we love.’
‘Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ Ephesians 6:4 KJV
We keep being shocked by stories of children killing teachers and other children in school, and then turning the gun on themselves. Two boys, aged twelve and thirteen, beat a man to death outside a convenience store just for the pleasure of watching him die. Another boy shot a man sitting in a car at a stop sign. When asked why, he replied, ‘Because he looked at me.’
What is causing this? Easy access to guns? Hours spent watching violent videos? Those may be factors. But after extensive research, scientists are concluding that violent behavior is often related to early childhood abuse and neglect. When a baby spends three days or more in dirty nappies, or when children are burned, beaten, or ignored, their blood is filled with stress hormones—cortisol and adrenaline among others. These hormones bombard and affect the brains of those children. So for the rest of their lives they will not think and feel what others do. They actually lose the capacity to empathize with those who suffer. The same research has concluded that babies and young children are incredibly vulnerable between birth and three years of age. If their families don’t protect them, love and care for them, society will pay a terrible price for it in years to come. The Bible uses the word ‘nurture’. It means to love, protect, encourage, compliment, and try to bring out the best in your child.
‘Father, I have sinned.’ Luke 15:18 NIV
The prodigal son didn’t get into trouble until he left the safety of his father’s house. Jesus pointed out four things about him:
(1) ‘He wasted his substance.’ Satan is a fraudster. If you heed his call to come out and play, you’ll end up losing the very substance of who you are and what God’s called you to be.
(2) ‘He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country.’ Want to know where you are spiritually? Look at who you hang out with and take advice from. Who do you call; who calls you? Solomon writes, ‘My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.’ (Proverbs 1:10 NIV)
(3) ’He began to be in want.’ Something’s wrong! In his father’s house he never missed a meal, now he’s eating what pigs eat. He’s trying to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Are you doing that? David said, ’The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.’ (Psalm 23:1 NAS) Who’s that promise for? Those who live in the safety of the sheepfold and stay close to the Shepherd.
(4) ‘He came to himself.’ When his elevator could not go any lower he decided to get off. Mercifully, he still could. Some never can.
The Bible says: ‘Today, [not tomorrow] if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’(Hebrews 3:15 NIV) It wasn’t too late for the prodigal—and it’s not too late for you. The moment he changed his prayer from ‘give me’ to ‘forgive me,’ His father opened His arms, welcomed him home and restored him to son-ship. And God will do the same for you, if you let Him.
‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’ Hebrews 13:6 NIV
Let’s look at two more common fears:
(1) Fear of not being good enough. It’s not about being as good as others; it’s about being yourself! Stop comparing yourself to other people and instead spend your time discovering your God-given strengths. You were born for a purpose, and that purpose may be unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.
(2) Fear of not being accepted. This is one of the greatest sources of loneliness in society today. And the internet hasn’t solved the problem because deep down we all long for intimacy, not information. You’d be surprised at how many people go home to an empty house, eat dinner for one, watch television, and climb into bed alone. Even when we’re surrounded by a crowd we still feel isolated—like an island in the middle of the sea. But, in truth, it doesn’t have to be that way—particularly if you’re a member of God’s redeemed family. The key to being accepted is to reach out and accept other members of your spiritual family. When you allow them into your private world, you’ll find they welcome you into theirs. Take a look at your life today. Nobody’s looking, and the person who’ll benefit most from it is you! Insecure people can be the most difficult to reach because they’re desperate to hide what they perceive as inadequacies and failures. If you need the help of a professional counselor, doctor, or pastor, reach out and get it! You owe it to yourself! Rise up today and say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid of rejection, or of not being good enough.’
‘They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.’ Psalm 112:7 NIV
Let’s take a look at some of our most common fears and how we can overcome them.
Fear of failure. This is the most common fear of all, and it keeps us from fulfilling any vision God may give us. If you look closely at the actual consequences of failure, chances are you’ll laugh at the power it wields. Not only are your mistakes survivable, they’re teaching tools that sharpen and make you a better person. So what if you make a mistake during your presentation? Nobody’s going to shoot you, right? So what if you miss the mark on the project, or make a mistake in your calculations? We all want to be perfect, but the fact is we’re all flawed. In reality, your irrational fear of failure and your refusal to embrace mistakes create far more errors in the long run. When people refuse to accept the possibility of making a mistake, often they’re reluctant to have someone else check their work or review the project they’re working on. Consequently they end up making more poor choices and mistakes, which in turn feeds their existing insecurities.
The path to success is through multiple failures. Failing doesn’t make you a failure, quitting does; not learning from it does; refusing to get back up when you fall does. The psalmist says, ‘They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.’ Using the gifts God has given you, step out and take a risk based on faith, trusting Him for success. If you do, ‘You will have good success.’ (Joshua 1:8 NKJV)