This week I attended a leadership conference run by the authors of Emotionally, Healthy Spirituality, Peter and Geri Scazzero. It was an eye-opening experience on many levels, but there is one thing in particular that left an impact on me. Geri and her husband talked about how most of us live reactively – we get annoyed, we react; we are tempted, we react; we are tired, we react.
Scripture, however, highlights many admirable people who lived with intention. Joseph and Daniel are two such examples from the Old Testament. Regardless of his present situation, Joseph decided to live inside the knowledge that God was sovereign over his life. This is why he was able to say sincerely to his brothers (who sold him into slavery and pretended he was dead), “but as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Daniel and his three friends are further Old Testament examples, who refused to conform to the rules and cultural practices of their new surroundings in Babylonian captivity, but chose to honour God above all (Dan. 1:8; 3).
After Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit) in the New Testament, we can also see such a transformation in the apostles. Saint Peter and Saint Thomas are two apostles known for their doubt and denial pre-Holy Spirit, who then become the leader of the early church and an extraordinary missionary respectively. Another example is Saint Paul, once the most violent persecutor of the church, who became its greatest advocate. We see in these disciples a transformation from living reactively to living intentionally and with purpose.
To Live intentionally, We Must Know Our Purpose
The key to living intentionally is then to know our purpose, what we are living for and how we are to live. As Christians, the Holy Spirit works in us to transform us into the likeness of Christ. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Further, we know that our lives are to be characterized by love, for God is love and we are to become like God (1 John 4:8).
What is love? “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Thus, we know our purpose here is to become like Christ and live out of and inside His love.
Practical Application: Living Intentionally from Principles
I know some of you are thinking that this all sounds great in theory but not in practice. One activity that I did after this conference was to create a list of 10 values. These values are based on our purpose as Christians, mentioned above. I will be praying for God to grant me the grace to live inside these principles and they will also serve as a reminder of how I want to be living, instead of living reactively.
Here are a few examples from mine, in no particular order:
1. Sincerity. To me, this means to be free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. It is like honesty, but kinder because honesty without love can be cruel, insensitive, and damaging.
2. Meekness. To be meek is to be content in both times of honour and dishonour. It is characterized by patient endurance and a lack of resentment or bitterness.
3. Joy. I’ve always struggled a lot with joy until I found this definition from Kay Warren, “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
I encourage you to make your own list!! These principles are obviously beyond our human capabilities, but with Christ all things are possible. We are already conquerors in Him.
There is one thing that is important to note. In order to live intentionally, there are many things we will have to let go of and change. For instance, it is necessary to draw boundaries, spend regular times of rest and solitude with God, pray diligently for strength and self-awareness, learn when and how to say no, express our feelings and tensions with kindness and integrity, repent regularly, and constantly reflect on our weaknesses. Living intentionally is a gradual process. I am definitely not expecting to change overnight, though I may desire to. I hope by making these things clear that there is no pressure to be perfect. This is a journey. There is death and struggle involved in every new birth: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).
God is with us on our journey. He will give us all the grace and strength we need!!