How to Live a Powerful Life

An energetic and somewhat ornery little boy once tried to get his mother to give him some money in exchange for his good behavior. His mother answered, “Why can’t you be like your father and be good for nothing?”

Nobody wants to be “good for nothing”. We all want to live meaningful and productive lives. Fortunately, the Bible is filled with information on how to do that.

In Acts 20, Paul the apostle was making his way toward Jerusalem when he called for the elders of the church at Ephesus to come and meet with him. He sensed that this would be the last time he would ever see these men with whom he had served; men whom he obviously loved. He wanted to speak to them one last time, and, as usual, his message was about how to live a powerful life for Jesus.

He said to them, “…You know how I lived the whole time I was with you…” (v.18). So first of all, a powerful Christian life is a life lived together with other Christians. I cringe every time I hear someone say that they can live for Jesus just fine without the church. The Bible clearly and consistently refutes that assertion. There were no “Lone Ranger” Christians in the Bible, and, unless you are stranded on a deserted island, there are none today. A Christian life is a life shared with other believers.

Secondly, a powerful life is one of service. In verse 19 Paul says, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.” Some think that they are saved by what they believe, but if their faith is not accompanied by works, it is dead (James 2:26), and a dead faith can’t save you.

Notice that Paul says that he served with great humility. There is a danger of thinking too highly of yourself when you are doing the Lord’s work. A lady once told me that she thought I was a model preacher. I felt kind of puffed up about myself until my wife reminded me that the dictionary defines a model as “a small imitation of the real thing”. Whatever you do for the Lord, remain humble about it.

Notice also that Paul says that he served with tears and was tested severely. Serving Jesus is not easy! Jesus says that in this world we will have trouble, but that we should take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). Though serving the Lord can be extremely difficult, he will give us the strength to persevere through any hardship.

A third characteristic of a powerful life is to boldly share the word of the Lord. Verses 20-21 say, “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” You may not have been called to preach in the same sense that the apostle Paul was, but every believer has been given the assignment to be a witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8).

Finally, in order to live a powerful life, we must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and finish the race that the Lord has laid out before us. Let the Spirit guide you and you will not go astray. Stay the course and complete the race.

Years ago a marathon runner in the Olympics was injured with several miles to go in the 26.2 mile race. Rather than drop out, he persevered all the way to the finish line, finishing long after the other competitors. Someone asked why he didn’t quit. No one would have blamed him because of the severity of the injury and the pain it caused him. He replied, “My country did not send me here to start a race. They sent me here to finish a race.”

The Lord wants us to finish the race he has laid out before us. And he wants us to live a powerful life as we do so.

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Instant Heroes

A tour group once visited a picturesque village. As they walked by an old man sitting by a fence, one of the tourists asked in a very patronizing way, “Were any great men born in this village?”

The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”

The flippant question had brought a profound answer. There are no instant heroes—whether in this world or in the kingdom of God. Growth takes time, and spiritual leadership must be earned.

“They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.”—1 Timothy 3:10.

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Facing Our Giants

1 Samuel 17 records the famous encounter that David had with Goliath. The battle lines were drawn between the Philistine and Israelite armies. Goliath, a well-armed and experienced soldier who was nearly ten feet tall, was the Philistine champion. He issued a challenge to any Israelite soldier to fight him one-on-one in a winner-take-all battle. No one accepted the challenge because the Israelites all feared this giant.

The shepherd boy David visited the front lines and found out about this standoff. Even after hearing some discouraging words from his older brother Eliab, David volunteered to fight Goliath. King Saul also tried to talk David out of this fight, pointing out David’s youth and inexperience compared to such a seasoned warrior as Goliath.

Not to be deterred, David recounted his experience fighting off predators who intended to carry off the sheep he was keeping. He gave God the credit for rescuing him from lions and bears, and he proclaimed that God would also rescue him from the hand of this Philistine giant, Goliath.

Saul finally relented, and dressed David in the king’s own armor. However, David was uncomfortable in the armor because he was not used to it. So he took it off, picked up five stones from a stream and approached Goliath with nothing more than these stones and his sling.

Goliath mocked his approaching adversary and predicted an easy victory. David had a different prediction—with the Lord’s help he would kill Goliath and the whole world would know that there was a God in Israel.

We all know what happened next. David used his sling to sink a stone into the forehead of Goliath. Then David used the giant’s own sword to cut off his head. Seeing this, the Philistine army fled and the Israelites won the victory.

What can we learn from this story that will help us battle against our own giants? First of all, we have to know that there are two sides. The battle lines between good and evil have been drawn, and we must choose to fight for one side or the other. Spiritual warfare is real, and we have to take it seriously.

Secondly, we need courage for this battle. The Bible continually urges us to not be afraid, but to take courage. Those who give in to fear will not experience the satisfaction that belongs only to the victorious.

Third, we must not allow anyone to discourage us from accepting the mission that God has put in front of us. We must ignore any attempts to deter us from engaging in the battle.

Fourth, we need to remember the previous times God has helped us to be victorious. His power was sufficient then; it will also allow us to prevail in our current fight.

Fifth, we must be comfortable with who we are. We can’t go out fighting “in Saul’s armor”. Don’t try to be someone else. God has uniquely gifted you and has equipped you with everything you need to win the battle.

But it all starts with choosing sides. I like what Randy Harris said in summing up this situation—“God’s team wins. Pick a team. Don’t be stupid!”

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In This Together

I do not know the backstory of either person pictured above, but you don’t have to know all the details to be impressed by what we see here. Two individuals who have something in common have found each other. Their paths may only cross for a brief moment, but in that moment something wonderful is expressed. Someone who has been down a difficult path has an unspoken message for a younger person who faces that same path. The message is that obstacles can be overcome, and that success–and the joy that comes with it–is well within your reach.

Whatever difficulties we have had to overcome in life, let us always be looking for opportunities to encourage others who face those same trials.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”—2 Corinthians 1:3-4.   

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The Last Song

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill had planned his funeral, which took place in Saint Paul’s Cathedral. His instructions called for a bugler to be positioned high in the dome of Saint Paul’s. After the benediction, this bugler played “Taps”, the universal signal that says the day is over.

But then came a dramatic turn. As Churchill instructed, after “Taps” was finished, another bugler, placed on the other side of the great dome, played the notes of “Reveille”—“It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning.”

That was Churchill’s testimony that at the end of history, the last note will not be “Taps”; it will be “Reveille.”

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”—John 11:25-26.

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Time to Celebrate!

Jean Fleming wrote the following in Discipleship Journal:

“Recently something rapturous happened a few spaces down the church pew from me. The pastor announced that a young boy in our congregation named Crockett had given his heart to Christ that week. Another boy, about four years of age, jumped up on the seat of our pew, thrust his fist into the air, and yelled, ‘Yeah, Crockett!’

His response was totally unself-conscious; his joy and exuberance exhilarated and rebuked me. His mother had him sitting again in a second. Too bad. The entire congregation should have been standing on the pews.”

In the life of any church, history is made when a person receives Christ. These are moments so great that they must be celebrated in heaven—and on earth.

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”—Luke 15:10.

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Working Together

CBS radio newsman Charles Osgood told the story of two ladies who lived in a convalescent center. Each had suffered an incapacitating stroke. Margaret’s stroke left her left side restricted, while Ruth’s stroke damaged her right side. Both of these ladies were accomplished pianists, but had given up hope of ever playing again.

The director of the center sat them down at a piano and encouraged them to play solo pieces together. They did, and a beautiful friendship developed.

What a picture of the church’s needing to work together! What one member cannot do alone, perhaps two or more could do together—in harmony.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”—Romans 12:4-5.

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The Gravity of the Situation

There is a lot of talk about climate change, but I have become aware of another situation in nature that is not getting any attention, and I think that we need to start talking about it. I first noticed this phenomenon several years ago, and it seems to be getting progressively worse. Perhaps you have noticed it too. I am talking about the dramatic increase of the earth’s gravitational pull.

Just a few years ago, I could bound up a couple of flights of stairs with ease. Nowadays the same trip leaves me gasping for air. Hills that I used to climb without a problem now require a Herculean effort. Yes, the only possible answer is that gravity is much stronger than it once was. We should pour abundant resources into solving this problem before it’s too late.

Seriously, we all slow down as we age. It’s a fact of life. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will one day. Just think about some of the older people that you have known for years and years. They were once energetic and vibrant, men and women whose arms were strong for the tasks in front of them. They were quite able and eager to do the Lord’s work. Their energy was boundless, it seemed. Tireless in their efforts, they were a force to be reckoned with as they accomplished so much for the kingdom.

However, many of these giants of the faith have slowed down dramatically. Their physical strength has weakened, and perhaps they aren’t as mentally sharp as they once were. They are still strong in their faith, but they don’t have the energy they once had to serve God and people.

We need to appreciate the ability that we have to serve while we still have it. Ecclesiastes 11 and 12 warns of the troubles that accompany old age, and urges us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth.

The apostle Paul always had a sense of urgency about his life, and he tried to pass that urgency along to other Christians. You see the theme often in his writings. In Colossians 1:28-29 he says, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

Jesus also taught about the importance of doing as much as we can for the Lord in the limited time that we have to do it. He says, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4). This verse reminds me of the words of a hymn that we used to sing in the church where I grew up—“Work for the night is coming, when man’s work is done.”

We only have a short time to serve the Lord in this life. Let’s make the most of it!

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Mystery Destination

In 1994 Northwest Airlines offered some unusual round-trip passages aboard one of their planes. Fifty-nine dollars bought a “Mystery Fare” ticket that provided a one-day trip to an unknown American city. Buyers didn’t find out where they were heading until they arrived at the airport the day of the flight. Still, the airline had plenty of takers. In Indianapolis fifteen hundred people crowded the airline counter to buy the Mystery Fare tickets that were sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

Not surprisingly, when buyers learned their destination, not all of them were thrilled. One buyer who was hoping for a trip to New Orleans was especially disappointed when he found out that he had a ticket to Minneapolis instead. He walked through the terminal yelling, “I’ve got one ticket to the Mall of America. I’ll trade for anything!”

Mystery Fare tickets may be a fun surprise for a weekend vacation, but normally the last thing you want is a ticket to a mystery destination. And the one time you never want a Mystery ticket is on the day of your death. You don’t want to face eternity uncertain about whether you will go to heaven or hell!

Thankfully, those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and have remained faithful to him can be sure of their eternal destination. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Don’t take that trip to eternity without knowing where you are going! Remove all doubt by trusting Jesus as your Savior—today and every day!

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Need Friends?

Pepper Rodgers

Years ago Pepper Rodgers was the head football coach at UCLA. One year he was in the middle of a terrible season. You know how it is in sports. If the team isn’t doing well, no one is happy. Players, coaches, administration, fans and alumni—you name it—everyone was expressing their discontent. It got so bad that it began to upset Rodgers’ home life. He said, “My dog was my only friend. I told my wife that a man needs at least two friends and she bought me another dog.”

When times are tough, it helps to keep your sense of humor.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”—Proverbs 17:22.

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