Parents today have a great deal of responsibility and enormous demands coming at them from every side. Perhaps it has always been so . . . but I can only speak about the present
- The cost of living is greater than ever. More hours on the job are required (60-70 a week are not uncommon). Many households require two incomes. The price of college alone is enough to overwhelm you.
- There is an avalanche of knowledge to keep up on. Everywhere you turn there is more you “need to know”. There is so much of it out there that it is impossible to keep pace.
- There are the increased pressures, temptations and dangers to our children. Fast cars, powerful drugs, pleasure focused advertising, false teachers, unscrupulous people.
- We are called to be sensitive but tough
- We are asked to work longer hours and do more at home
Much of our life is spent trying to keep from drowning. We don’t know which way we are swimming we just know that if we stop we will drown.
This morning I take you to John 15 to the words that Jesus gives to His disciples. In these instructions our Lord gives us four “life principles” that can help us get focused. My intention is not to pile on more responsibilities to your life. My hope is that these principles will be a foundation which will help you deal with the other pressures of life.
Principles for Hectic Lives
Develop and Maintain an Intimate Relationship With God
In these verses (1-17) the word “remain” is used 11 times. Jesus stresses the importance of keeping a strong relationship with Him. Our relationship with God becomes the anchor for our lives. When the anchor begins to slip . . . our lives begin to drift.
Noted Counselor Gary Smalley contends that men function according to a “hunter mentality”. That is to say, they pursue what they want like a hunter pursuing his prey. This is seen sometimes in marriage. Often the man will put great effort into the “hunt”. He will be charming, attentive, sensitive. Once he has successfully “caught” his mate he begins pursuing something else (career, hobbies, sport, etc.). Before long the wife is asking, “What happened?”
I don’t know whether this is true of men or not but I do know that this same kind of thing can happen in our relationship with God. When things are new, when we are discovering the richness of His grace, we work hard and focus intently on Him. However, when we achieve that basic knowledge which qualifies us as “solid” to our peers, we feel we have reached our goal and often begin pursuing something else. When we do intimacy with God wanes and our foundation begins to crumble.
Chuck Swindoll in his fine little book INTIMACY WITH GOD talks about maintaining (or regaining) a sense of God’s presence in our lives. If I may summarize, Swindoll says that what we need it to:
- unclutter our lives and live more simply.
- build times of quiet and reflection into our lives
- learn to listen to and listen for God.
When was the last time you gave any attention to your relationship with God?
Carve Out Time for Private Prayer
In verse 17 we are told that prayer is a vital and valuable tool in the lives of those who remain in Him. Times of prayer help us make decisions, it brings perspective to our busy lives, it brings God’s provision and care into our lives, it is a time where we tap into God’s supernatural strength and guidance.
But most Christians (including me) struggle with prayer. We have trouble finding time (there always seems like something else is more urgent); We have trouble finding a quiet place (and that’s why some of the best pray-ers are those who no longer have children at home or are at home alone); and we don’t know what to say.
Men, (and women) we need to find time that belongs to God alone. We need to find a special place where we can be uninterrupted in our quiet time of prayer.
A great concern I see in terms of vital praying is that the average person spends most of their prayer time interceding for others. This is obviously a good thing but it is not the ONLY thing. We need to make time to talk with God about our relationship with Him.
We see this happen in many relationships. Two people get married and have children and careers. When they do have time to talk to each other, they are talking about the kids or their jobs. They forget that they need to talk about their relationship as well. What happens is that two people drift apart. . . .they are comfortable but lack that something vital in their relationship.
Many of us never take the time to talk with God about our fears, frustrations, struggles. We need to talk about that anger that wells up inside of us. We need to discuss that bitterness, or the anxiety that keeps us awake at night. We need to talk with God about our lack of contentment.
I have found that one of the best ways to do this is to keep a Journal. I guess it would be something like keeping a diary except instead of simply listing what happened that day you write down what is going on in your soul. In the process of thinking about these things you begin to interact with God’s Spirit and He sharpens your perspective and helps you to see what you were too busy to see. I like to journal on the computer. You may want to get a notebook that you can keep your thoughts in. You may want to talk into a tape recorder. You may never go back and read those things, but the very process of addressing your life with God will be of great help to you.
We Must Determine to Govern Our Lives by God’s Directions….We Must make Faith Practical.
Jesus mentions several times in our text the importance of obedience. Faith is not mere assent to a body of truth. It is a belief in this truth that is so strong that it dictates how we live our lives from here on out.
What is needed is not more religious people. What is needed are more people who will follow Christ in their lives. It is not enough to read about forgiveness, holiness, justice, mercy, love. . .we are called to practice these things in our living.
Several years ago, an interesting study was done of playground behavior in young children. The children came from several different schools, but each school had essentially the same size play area and the same ratio of teachers to students. Yet, there was one major difference between the two types of schools being studied: one group of schools offered children a fenced playground; the other groups had a play area with no fence.
When the study was over, guess which students showed more cooperative play, had fewer playground fights, and exhibited lower levels of anxiety during recess? Here’s a hint: it was the same group that used more space on the playground and had better attitudes toward school work following recess.
“Easy!” you say. “The kids who played in the wide-open spaces. Right?”
The Children who played behind the protective boundaries of a fence were far happier at play and better adjusted after recess. When it comes to playground behavior, children playing inside a fence feel a security that other children do not. And when it comes to grown-up kids living in the fast lane, having “Fences” around their behavior is just as important.
God gave us his great ten commandments to keep us inside the fences of his love and blessing. (Seeking Solid Ground, Trent & Hicks p. 22)
It is important that we remember that God’s commands are designed to:
- free us . . . they show us our bounds. We can enjoy life within those boundaries without reservation because we know we are in God’s will.
- protect us . . .we can let go of fear when we live God’s within God’s protective boundaries. He has promised us safety there.
- instruct us . . . regarding how life works best.
I challenge you to read God’s Word with an eye toward application. We need to once again learn to ask “So What?” of every text we study.
We Must Remember That the Chief Command (and privilege) is to Love
Love is talked about, sung about, romanticized and fantasized. But in it’s simplest terms “there is no greater love than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends.” We read similarly in 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
True love at it’s most basic is “giving of ourselves to each other.” The real question for us each day should not be: “Have I Made Any Money?” or “Did I get anything accomplished?” The key question to evaluate our living is: Did I extend love to someone today?
It is too easy to get so wrapped up in our tasks that we forget that it’s not about tasks . . . it’s about people. Wouldn’t our children be a good place to start? What if we asked every day: “have I shown my children that I loved them today?”
Each of these commands is valuable for helping us maintain perspective and focus in our lives. But notice also that Jesus says there are some specific and tangible blessings attached to each of these things:
The Blessings of a Focused Life
We will develop Godly Character
If we remain in Christ we will bear fruit. As we talked last week that fruit is a Christlike Character.
We will know Joy
Jesus tells us these things so that His joy might be in us and that our joy may be full. (15:11) Our Lord is concerned that we enjoy life. Please read that slowly . . .. God wants us to enjoy life. That’s a revelation to most people. They think God is concerned that we “keep in line”and “don’t do anything wrong”. His primary concern is for our joy. Joy comes when we walk with Him.
We will be friends of God
Wouldn’t it be something to be able to say that you were a friend of Michael Jordan or Bill Gates? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to go over to his house and play pool, eat dinner, and have some pleasant conversation? As wonderful as that might be . . . it is nothing compared to what Jesus offers us.
Jesus tells us that “we are his friends if we do what he commands us”. We are His friends! A friend to the Savior and Ruler of the World! A friend to the one who Created the world.
We will see our prayers answered
“If you remain in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (v. 7 cf. also v. 16). If we walk with the Father then our hearts will become like one. What we want will be what He wants for us and He will be delighted to give those things to us.
There are great blessings attached to keeping focused in our living.
- Evaluate Your Walk with God. Where are you in your relationship with God: 1) You have no relationship with God and aren’t particularly concerned about it. Friend, we’re glad you are here today. 2) You don’t have a relationship with God, but would like one. If that is where you are, you can begin a relationship with God today. Talk to God right now. Tell Him you want His forgiveness for the things you’ve done wrong. Tell Him you want Him to lead and direct your life. Thank Him for His mercy and grace. Then begin the process of getting to know Him. 3) You have a vital and growing relationship with God and life is fruitful. May your tribe increase. 4) You have a relationship with God but you are drifting. It is time to get re-focused in your relationship.
- Develop a regular “Quiet Time”. Find time every day to be quiet before God. Talk to Him, read His Word and listen. A true quiet time is not about how much you read . . . but about how tuned in you become to the Father. Don’t forget to “be still, and know that He is God.”
- Read the Bible with a constant eye toward practical application. Ask every text: is there a sin to avoid or repent of? Is there a command to obey? Is there a promise to stand on? Is there some wisdom for my life?
- Begin a spiritual journal
- Take new leadership in the spiritual life of your family.
- Look for a chance to express love . . . even before this day ends.
Fathering, Parenting, Living is difficult today. . . . It is like those hidden pictures that are camouflaged in a mesh of color. . . .only if you look at it a certain way can you see what is hidden there. Life is like that . . . unless you know how to focus all you see is confusion. God wants you to see the beauty of life and in our text He tells us how to get focused. All He can do is give the directions . . . .it’s up to you to decide what you will do with them.