God’s "To-Do" List in 2014
My wife and I are more excited and positive than ever about what God will do in and through us this coming year, and the excitement is spilling over into our family. My twelve-year-old son Josiah and I were asking each other riddles at the dinner table a few nights ago. He asked me a hard one, but I finally got it. My mind does not remember riddles or jokes very well, so when it was my turn, I came up with one of my own, “What is God going to do in 2014?”
I just knew I had stumped him! But without hesitation he looked over his fork at me and said, “Change lives. That’s a basic fact, He’s going to do that this year.” And with that he went back to eating. Josiah had just stumped his dad!
Isn’t this one of the primary reasons most of us do what we do? To see God change lives!
I know it is why I am willing to cultivate (and sometimes endure) all kinds of relationships — some great ones, and some not so great ones. I have a few relationships I would prefer to pour all my time into, but it would be at the expense of others. I am sure you are the same way. We must constantly be on the lookout for when and where God wants us to slow down so He can use us to let someone know how important they are to Him. It still amazes me that God gives us the privilege of being part of the process He uses to change the lives of those around us!
For God to use you to change lives, you must have relationships!
There is no other way around it. Whether you are building a church, a business, a sports team or a sales team, it is nearly impossible to change a life from a distance.
Take a look at any survey that asks why people attend church. Within the top 5 reasons given, you will most certainly discover a reason that points to the importance of personal relationships. People attend church to connect with friends, and many people indicate that the friendships are more important than eloquent preaching or awesome music. According to recent research by the Barna Group, this appears to be especially true with Millennials (those born between 1984 and 2002).
“The most positive church experience among Millennials are relational,” said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group. “This stands true from the inverse angle as well: Seven out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church.”
God made mankind for relationships. Man is lost and lonely without relationships.
When people step into our church and no one connects with them, they think something is wrong (with them or us), because even our first-time visitors are there to connect with someone.
Before people will allow you to influence them, they want to know two things: 1) Can I trust you? and 2) Do you really care about me?
These two questions can be answered more quickly than you think (and ruined quicker than you think too). A few weeks ago, I was eating with my family at Olive Garden. As usual I was bantering back and forth with the waitress. When she brought us the amazing salad and those hot breadsticks, I said, “We are about to pray for our food, is there anything going on in your life that you would like for us to pray for?”
She was taken aback, but when she realized we were not joking, she melted right before our eyes. She went on to tell us that she had worked there six years and waited on countless tables (and undoubtedly thousands of Christians), but no one had ever asked her if they could pray for her. And by the end of our meal she shared some very intimate details about her life and asked us to pray for her. Why? Because she knew we really cared about her.
You might say, “Mike, I prefer to read a good book, or I search the net for life changing advice.” I am a fan of reading books, and I know firsthand that great books can greatly impact lives. But the books that have had the greatest positive impact on my life are the ones I’ve read and then met the author! Suddenly those same books have a much more profound impact on me.
But reading great books have not been the biggest factor in the positive changes in my life. God has used personal relationships more than any book, event or circumstance to transform me.
What about you? Other than God and His Word, who has had the single biggest positive impact in your life? Chances are it is someone you know well.
Let me ask you another question: Who is going to mention your name when they are asked that same question?
For God to use you to change lives, you must have positive communication!
Everybody communicates: it is just not always healthy communication!
The Bible is full of communication principles. Things like the importance of honest communication, guarding your tongue, kind words fitly spoken; avoiding an evil, lying, gossiping tongue; or sowing discord among brothers. None of the principles are more challenging than Ephesians 4:29. According to that verse every word that comes out of our mouths should edify by ministering God’s grace to the one to whom we are speaking! In other words, everything we say should help the other person become who God wants him/her to be.
Talk about changing lives! Imagine if that simple admonition was followed in our circles! How many more lives would be changed by God as His grace flowed through us to those around us.
For God to use you to change lives, you must have frequent communication!
It’s not enough to simply have positive, edifying communication. To have the greatest impact, it must also be as frequent as possible. Two common enemies of healthy, frequent communication are busyness and stress.
Perhaps your busyness leads you to believe that you don’t have enough time to have frequent communication with those who need you. Could it be that you are busy and stressed because you are not pouring healthy communication into the relationships you already have? Could those very relationships that you are avoiding actually alleviate some of the stress your responsibilities produce in you? May I challenge you to re-prioritize your time spent for two weeks and see what happens! As a place to start: Consider putting down you online devices for an hour every day to invest in the people you live with (either at home or work). Try it, and see what happens.
Why is it so important to have frequent communication? Because if a communication void exists, there will naturally be a relational void as well. And where there is a relational void, people will fill the void with all the wrong things: insecurity, fear, doubt, bitterness, gossip, all kinds of negative thinking. But if you fill that void instead with things like kindness, tenderheartedness, love, honesty and trust instead, your relationship has the potential to experience healthy growth. With such positive, frequent communication, people will know that you care about them and they will let you impact their lives.
Will you slow down and invest in someone today? Take the time to pray with them too.
Back to the question I attempted to stump my son with: What is God going to do in 2104? I am not certain of all the details, but I am certain of this: God will be changing lives! My prayer is that He uses you and me to do so!