Thinking Thursday: Be Very Careful How You Live

Eph.5:15 Be very careful, the, how you live – not as unwise but as wise.

A friend introduced me to the music of Christian singer/songwriter Michael Card. One of the songs gave me pause for thought. The chorus says:
I have decided
Gonna live like a believer
Turn my back on the deceiver
Gonna live what I believe.
I have decided
Doing good is just a fable
I just can’t ‘cause I’m not able
Gonna leave it to the Lord.

This rang true with me, because I have a constant struggle to ‘do good’ and only seem to be able to sustain it for short periods. I get very frustrated when I read books and hear sermons which tell me to ‘trust in the Lord’ or ‘live by the Spirit’, without actually explaining what this means in practical terms. The question is “So how?”

If, in the words of the song, I am “gonna live what I believe”, what does that actually look like, lived out every day? In fact, what do I believe?

Our Pastor used to often say that our lives do not reflect what we say we believe. There is another of Michael Card’s songs which says:
You are the light of the world, O Lord,
You make your people shine.
So how could there be any darkness in me,
If you are the light of the world?

You are the bread of life, O Lord,
Broken to set us free.
So how could there be any hunger in me,
If you are the bread of life?

You’ve overcome the world, O Lord,
You’ve given us victory.
So why should I fear when trouble is near,
If you’ve overcome the world?

I am very wary of lists – of the books that promise 6 steps to holiness, or 10 steps to a better prayer life. There are no easy solutions, as I found out as a teenager when I joined a cult that taught me that I just had to be obedient and I would get into heaven. Having a list of things to do seemed simple, until you really tried to be perfect all the time, then you realised how hard it is in reality. But a list can be a good way to start when you can’t see the way forward. I remember an old saying, “God cannot direct your steps unless you move your feet.” So I have spent some time in the Bible and made my own list as a starting point to “live what I believe.”

1. Seek the Lord
Ps.9:9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Ps.9:1 I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
Eph.5:18-20 … be filled with the Spirit …Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything

God must be our starting point. The more often you think about Him, the more likely that your steps will be in a direction He approves of. Ephesians chapter 5 begins “Be imitators of God.” How can you imitate someone unless you know what He is like?

2. Forgive yourself
Isa.43:18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

Accepting God’s forgiveness can sometimes be hard, but forgiving ourselves can be harder. We often handicap ourselves by remembering our faults and failings, instead of looking to God to help us do better. You need to hold on to God’s promises and believe that you can succeed if He is with you.

3. Maintain a spirit of goodwill
Eph.4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

God has promised us “peace … which transcends all understanding.” There is no need for us to be miserable, and especially with non-Christians. Do your work colleagues or your neighbours think of you as a cheerful, kind and helpful person? Often it is our lives they read before they read our Bible. And believe me, doing good to others is a very uplifting experience, and can easily become a habit!

4. Be a person of integrity
Eph.4:17 …you must no longer live as the Gentiles do…
25 …speak truthfully…
26 In your anger do not sin…
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs…
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Eph.5:4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking…
8-9 …Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)

These are such basic ways to behave that they often get forgotten, or overlooked in all the ‘more serious’ sins in the lists of which we are not guilty. How easy it is to join in the gossip at work or to make jokes about people. How easy it is to lie to cover our mistakes or to lose our tempers. I am not saying that we can be perfect in these things at once, and we will often slip back, but the more often you keep aware of these things and make a conscious effort, the more of a habit they will become. And don’t forget to apologise when you are in the wrong or have spoken unwisely – it has a remarkable effect on people. Soon these things will be part of your lifestyle.

5. Seek out beauty daily
Ps.8:1a,3a,4a,5b O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth…
When I consider your heavens,
The work of your fingers…
What is man that you are mindful of him…
You…crowned him with glory and honour.

This may seem to be a strange item in the list, but we all need lifting above the mundane and reminding what a great God we have and what great things He has done. Hamlet called man “this quintessence of dust” and wondered at how he compared to God’s creation. But this great, almighty God has given us so much, and sent his only Son to die for us. Find some way to remind yourself of this often – even if it is a picture of a beautiful scene up on the wall.

6. Tell others
Ps.9:1 I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
Eph.5:16 making the most of every opportunity

We need to tell others of God’s wonders, as well as telling God how great He is. I know it is scary, but you have faced other scary things in your life – exams, driving test, giving a speech. In every case you planned and prepared in order to do your best. Take the time to learn how to share the gospel and how to look for opportunities in conversation to make comments that may make people think. You never know what ‘seeds’ may take root and one day you may have the chance to discuss it further.

And if your life is living what you believe, others will notice and will take you more seriously when you explain why you live the way you do.

There is a chorus which I often hum to myself during the day, which gives me confidence:
And your grace clothes me in righteousness
And your mercy covers me with love
Your love adorns and beautifies
I stand complete in you.

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About Ann Marie Thomas

Married since 1974, Christian since 1986, 4 children, 4 grand children, disabled with fibromyalgia but was working almost full time until a stroke in May 2010 changed my life completely. Writing poetry and making up stories since I was a child, I only started to write seriously when my children were grown. My main ambition is to write science fiction, but along the way I got distracted by local history and poetry about my stroke. Taking early retirement gave me the chance to concentrate on my writing. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, was published in print and ebook at Easter 2012. The success of Alina led to the publication of Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John in September 2013, and The Magna Carta Story at Easter 2015. I am still writing science fiction - a series of novels called Flight of the Kestrel. For all my author news, see me author blog at www.annmariethomas.me.uk
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