Don’t Waste Your Life

May 18, 2014 ()

Bible Text: Ephesians 5:15-17 |

Members of the Confirmation class of 2014 it is my honor to stand here before you this morning and to share a few thoughts with you on this very special day. You have all worked very hard. You have explored your faith. You have studied the beliefs and doctrines of the church. You have learned a lot about the church and what it means to be a member of the church. You have or will make your personal statements of faith. And later this morning you will kneel here and we will place our hands on you and you will be confirmed and received as full members of the church.

As you prepare to do that there is a passage of Scripture that I would like to read to you:

"Be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do." (Ephesians 5:15-17-MSG)

As I thought about each of you and prayed for you this week in preparation for this time, I thought about those verses of Scripture. And several questions came to mind. As you begin this new chapter in your lives, as you truly begin your journey with Jesus Christ and His church I want you to take a few minutes to consider three important questions (and by the way these are questions for every single one of us who are here this morning as well):

  1. What does God want from my life?
  2. What does it take to not waste my life? and finally,
  3. Why should I do it? Why should I live my life according to God's plan?

Now this is a three part message and to get the whole thing you have to come back again at 9:30 and 11. But at this service let’s look at question number 1.

1. Question #1: What does God want from my life? OR How much of my life does God want?

Well if you read through the Bible you will find that the answer is this. God wants your WHOLE life. That's what God wants. He wants you to live every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year...in ways that please Him. God wants you to devote literally your WHOLE life to Him. C. S. Lewis once said, "The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important." I like the way he put it because if the gospel is true, then God DESERVES everything we've got. If it's not true then we are wasting our time here each Sunday. Our faith relationship with God should impact everything we do. And over and over again God's Word clearly teaches this principle. In fact, there's not a single verse in the Bible that says you can be a Christian and live your life the way you want to. It's just not there because God wants ALL of you.

Listen to this verse and you'll see what I mean. Romans 6:13 says, "Give yourselves COMPLETELY to God since you have been given new life. And use your WHOLE BODY as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God." (NLT)

Now, a lot of people have trouble with this concept because they tend to look at their lives like a pie, divided into several pieces. One slice is your schooling; another is your friendships; another is your other relationships; another is the way you spend your money; another is your family time; another is your leisure activities; and if you are really good, you leave a small slice for God. Well, if you live your life with that mindset then you got it all wrong because God wants the whole pie. He doesn't want to be pigeon-holed and hear you say, "You know God, I'll give you 10% of my life." No...God wants it all. He wants your whole being.

This week I read the familiar story of Ivan the Terrible, one of the Czars of 16th century Russia-best known for his erratic behavior and his brutality. Perhaps you've heard of him. Well, at one point Ivan was so busy conquering new territory for his country that he had no time to find a wife and his advisors became concerned that he would not produce an heir to the throne, so Ivan commanded his men to find him a suitable wife who was beautiful, intelligent and the daughter of a nobleman. And they found a woman who fit all these requirements. Her name was Sophia, and she was the daughter of the King of Greece. Well, Ivan asked the king for his daughter's hand in marriage and the king agreed on the condition that Ivan be baptized and join the church. Ivan agreed and set out for Greece, accompanied by 500 of his best soldiers. Well, when these soldiers discovered that Ivan was to be baptized, they decided that they wanted to be baptized as well.

Now, a requirement of baptism back then was to affirm the articles of the Orthodox church, which the soldiers agreed to do-except for one article. And, the article they couldn't affirm was one which prohibited them from being professional soldiers. Well they asked the priest if they could have some time to think over the problem of how to join the church and at the same time remain soldiers in Ivan's army. And, in a few days they devised a plan among themselves and announced that they were ready to be baptized. Here's what happened. They marched out into the water, all 500 of them, with 500 priests but as the priests put the soldiers under the water, each soldier grasped his sword and lifted it high into the air. The soldiers were then baptized completely except for their swords and their fighting arms. Those who witnessed the mass baptism said that it was an amazing spectacle to see 500 dry arms and 500 shining swords sticking up out of the water.

Now do you understand their reasoning? These soldiers decided that they could give all of themselves to God-except for their fighting arms. This part of their lives would remain under the control of their Czar-to fight when and where he saw fit. Well, some of us today are no different than these soldiers because we make God Lord of some of our lives but we hold back certain portions from His control. And when we live like that we feel no joy-no sense of purpose-because you see, each of us are deigned such that life only "works" when God is in charge of everything.

In fact, any part of our life that is not given to His lordship is wasted. As the old poem says,

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last. "

Friends, if life is to be meaningful-if we want to avoid WASTING our years-then God must be first. We must live every moment for Him. Only then does life have purpose and abundance!

Part 2 (9:30 Service)

Friends at our first service I began a message with these 12 young people whom we honor today and who will make their profession of faith in Jesus Christ and be confirmed as members of this congregation. This message is based on a passage of Scripture from Ephesians 5:15-17 and I’d like to read it to you again: "Be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do."

From this passage several questions came to mind that I have asked these confirmands, and really every single one of us here to consider this morning. Those questions are:

  1. What does God want from my life?
  2. What does it take to not waste my life? and finally,
  3. Why should I do it? Why should I live my life according to God's plan?

At the early service we looked at question number 1: What does God want from my life? And we discovered that the answer is plain and simple; God wants your WHOLE life. He doesn’t want just a small slice of the pie, he wants the whole thing, he wants us to live every moment for Him. At this service I would like to look at question 2.

Question #2 - What does it take?

In other words, what does it take to give God total control? Well, the answer to this question is one word: DISCIPLINE. As Proverbs 10:17 says, "Whoever practices discipline, is on the way to life." This is what it takes to become the kind of person God wants us to be. As 1Timothy 4:7 "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." Now, what exactly is discipline? Well, basically discipline is delayed gratification. It is doing the difficult now, in order to enjoy the benefit later. And the truth is the vast majority of you understands this concept and practice it in your own lives. For example:

  • Some of you are very disciplined in your school work. You plan your day, you do your homework, you're always on time, you're conscientious when it comes to your work habits.
  • Some of you are very disciplined in your sports or music or other activities. You never miss a practice, you train, you rehearse. It's in your routine, in your schedule.
  • Some of you never miss a favorite T.V. show. You are careful to structure your days so you don't miss American Idol or Hannah Montana, or CSI or General Hospital.
  • And of course, all of us are disciplined when it comes to eating. We never miss a meal.

So you see, we do indeed UNDERSTAND what it means to be disciplined. Well what would be like if we were disciplined SPIRITUALLY. Think about it.

  • What if you were as disciplined in having a daily quiet time as you are in never missing a meal? What if you fed yourself spiritually as regularly as you feed yourself physically?
  • What if you were as disciplined in memorizing Scripture as you are in getting that daily work out or rehearsal done?
  • What if you were as disciplined in serving others as you are in getting up and going to school everyday?
  • What if you were as disciplined in attending Sunday School and worship as you are in watching that favorite T.V. show that you never miss?

By the way, there's another word for discipline - It's the word "habit."

You see habits are, simply, disciplines that we have learned-practices that we have internalized such that they now come natural to us. We do them without even thinking. And the truth is: we are the sum total of our habits. I mean, tell me what you do habitually, and I'll tell you what your basic character is. If you habitually tell the truth, you are an honest person. If you are habitually faithful to your family, you are a faithful person. So it follows then that if you want to become a Godly person-an individual who lives every moment for God, well, all you have to do is change your habits. This is what 1 Timothy 4:7 means when it reads, "Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit." In other words there are exercises we can do that will keep us spiritually fit-disciplines we can embrace that will help us to become more godly people.

And this morning I want to mention the three BEST things-three best HABITS to add to your daily schedules:

  1. The first is a daily devotional reading.
  2. Second, weekly Sunday school and worship attendance.
  3. And third try every week to memorize and internalize one verse of the Bible.

Now I want to be honest with you. In order to pick up these new habits there may be something that has to go to make room for these three new HABITS.

The fact is there's always a cost of putting God first in your schedule, but the rewards are worth it.

Proverbs 10:27 says "reverence for the Lord adds hours to each day." To me this says that if we put God first He will make sure we get everything else done that we really need to get done. So what does God want? He wants all of you, every part of you. And what does it take to not waste your life? It takes discipline. You can't be a disciple without discipline. Let's trust God on this! Let's put Him first!

Part 3 (11:00 Service)

In just a few short minutes these 12 young people will make their profession of faith in Jesus Christ and be confirmed as members of this congregation. Before they do that I want to complete a message that I began at the first service and continued at 9:30. This message is based on a passage of Scripture from Ephesians 5:15-17 and I’d like to read it to you one more time: "Be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do."

From this passage I have sought to answer three questions that came to mind that I believe are of supreme importance for these young people, and really every single one of us to consider this morning. Those questions are:

    1. What does God want from my life?
    2. What does it take to not waste my life? and finally,
    3. Why should I do it? Why should I live my life according to God's plan?

At the early service we looked at question number 1: What does God want from my life? And we discovered that the answer is plain and simple; God wants your WHOLE life. He wants us to live every moment for Him. At the 9:30 we looked at question 2: What does it take to not waste my life? And we discovered that the answer is discipline. You can't be a disciple without discipline.

Finally this morning it's time for Question #3 which is this: Why should I do it?

Why should we make the effort to grow spiritually? Why should we give ourselves completely to God? Why should we be disciplined and let go of some things to make time for God in our lives? Well there are many benefits to doing this and we could spend the rest of the day just talking about those. But you know, even if there were no benefits, to doing to what God tells us to do. Even if there were no benefits at all, right here on earth - I can tell you the reason why you ought to do this in two words - THE CROSS. We should commit to live this way because of the Cross. Jesus gave His life completely for us and He has a right to expect our lives in return.

This week I read the story of the mother of a nine-year-old little boy named Mike, who received a phone call from her son's teacher. The teacher said, "Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in Mike's class. You son did something that I thought you should know about. This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing. And as I always do, I told he story of the ant and the grasshopper. The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food. But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work. Then winter comes. The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So he begs, 'Please Mr. Ant you have much food. Please let me eat too.'"

"Then I said, 'Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending of that story. Your son, Mike, raised his hand and asked if he could also draw a picture. I told him he could." "Well as I read over their stories, most of the students said the ant shared his food through the winter and both the ant and the grasshopper lived. A few children took another option and had he ant decline to share and wrote of the grasshopper starving to death." Over the years all my classes have finished this story pretty much like this. But your son did something different.

He wrote, 'So the ant gave ALL of his food to the grasshopper; the grasshopper lived through the winter. But the ant starved and died.' Then at the bottom of his page Mike drew a picture of three crosses."

Well this third grader understood the truth of the Gospel. Jesus gave His all of us. He died in our place. He died so that we can live and the only possible response we can have is to live for Him.

Now, I think it is very important for you and for all of us to be reminded of that fact as you prepare to come up here and be confirmed. Young people, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, church family, every one of us here in this room this morning please listen, it cost Jesus to die for you and it’s going to cost you to live for Him. But He deserves it, because you would have no destiny if it weren’t for the Cross. But because of the Cross, you will live forever and you owe Him your life. Let us live for Him!

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