How You Can Choose a Better Life
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2008 3 Nov
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. James MacDonald's new book, 10 Choices: A Proven Plan to Change Your Life Forever, (Thomas Nelson, 2008).
Do you feel trapped – longing for a better life, yet not finding it? Are you waiting for certain doors to open so your life will improve?
All that you hope for is right in front of you. The key to enjoying a better life is to make choices that will lead you there.
Here are some choices that have the power to transform your life when you make them:
Choose God’s love: Choose to believe that there is a God who knows you perfectly and yet loves you unconditionally. God has promised that all those who truly look for Him will find Him. Decide to seek God with all your heart. Believe in the reality of God’s love for you, no matter what you’ve done in the past. Embrace God’s love for you, thank Him for it, and base your identity on it. Let God’s great love for you imbue you with confidence.
Choose God’s forgiveness: Only the choice to receive God’s forgiveness can set you free once and for all from the dark clouds of guilt and regret that linger over bad choices from your past. Let go of your pride and approach God in honest humility. Confess your sins and repent of them to usher God’s forgiveness into your life and restore your relationship with Him.
Choose Jesus Christ as Lord: Everyone serves someone, and many people choose to serve themselves. But Jesus Christ is the only one who loves you unconditionally and forgives you completely, so choose to serve Him. One day every human being who has ever lived will stand before Jesus as Lord, since He stands supreme in the universe. Following Him now will lead to the best life for you. Don’t settle for following a caricature of Jesus (Jesus as your buddy, safety net or good luck charm, religious artifact, meal ticket, or social conscience). Instead, discover who Jesus truly is by studying what the Bible reveals about Him, and give your allegiance to Him. Bow to Jesus’ authority by obeying His commands. Be willing to submit your will to His when He and you might disagree on what to choose. Invite Jesus to take charge of all areas of your life – your relationships with family and friends, your work, your play, your dreams, etc. Realize that all you are and have ultimately belongs to Him. Do your best to follow where Jesus leads you, and ask another Christian whom you trust to hold you accountable to follow Jesus faithfully.
Choose the Bible as God’s Word: When the Bible is your authority, it can change the direction of your life. The Bible is God’s blueprint for human happiness; it can satisfy the deepest longings of your soul. God’s Word empowers you to dismiss evil and resist temptation. Without the Bible, you’re lost and wandering in darkness, but with it, you can find everything for which you’ve been longing. Don’t minimize the Bible’s importance by using it as an hors d’oeuvres try (where you pick and choose what to take), rental car insurance (that you’re glad to have, but only in an emergency), a seat belt (a nuisance that cramps your style), high school algebra (technically accurate, but of no practical use), or a hobby (like a fun phase you go through). Recognize that the Bible is the authoritative book from the Creator of the universe about how life really works. Make reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible a high priority in your life. Apply its messages, using it as your guidebook for life. Let the Bible challenge your thinking and change your direction. Pray Scripture, and share it with other people. If you’re not reading the Bible regularly, discipline yourself to do so for 30 days. After that, continue reading for another 30 days to develop a desire to read the Bible (rather than doing so out of a sense of obligation). Then, for the next 30 days, focus on delighting in the Bible so much that reading it becomes your favorite part of each day and Scripture runs in the background of your thoughts constantly.
Choose to forgive: You have a limited capacity to go forward in life without the freedom that comes from forgiveness. God didn’t design you to carry forward the weight of the past; if you try to do so, bitterness will poison your soul. So choose to forgive those who have hurt you. Let your gratitude for how much God has forgiven you motivate you to obey His command to forgive other people. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving; you likely never will. But once you make the choice to forgive, your feelings will follow in time as God helps you through the process and moves you from pain to joy. Make the decision to release people from the obligations that resulted when they injured you. Remind yourself of your decision every time the issue continues to come up in your mind. Over time, you’ll be able to let go of the offense and the memory of it won’t cause you pain. Remember that nothing can happen in your life that forgiveness can’t conquer, and that there’s nothing that you can’t be free from in your past through forgiveness. Ask God to bring to mind the names and faces of the people you need to forgive – past or present. Then choose to forgive them, with God’s help.
Choose to trust: You can trust God with your future. Accept God’s invitation to trust Him; there is no other option that truly works. Realize that worrying is a waste of time and energy, and that it distracts you from focusing on making good choices today that will affect your future. Transfer your burdens to God through prayer. Imagine yourself taking each of your worries to the foot of the Cross and leaving them there for God to handle. Ask God to develop a character of trust in you.
Choose to love your family first: Establish your family as your highest priority after God and choose to love them first and best among all other people in your life. When figuring out whether or not to pursue specific activities, ask yourself whether or not they immediately concern you and your family. Calculate the cost involved before adding any activity to your schedule. Remember that your time and energy is limited; don’t wear yourself out serving others – even for a good cause – to the point that you can’t serve your own family well. Show each of your family members that you treasure them by being there for them when they need you, listening to them, and encouraging them. Express your love for them by saying: “I love you,” “I need you,” “There is no one like you,” and “I thank God for you” often. Ask God to help you remain committed to your family throughout times of hardship and conflict. Create a loving culture within your family in which you all share a unique bond. Find creative ways to communicate love in ways your family members best appreciate. Instead of asking what your family can do for you, ask what you can do for your family. Choose to give your best to them, even when they choose to be selfish. Forgive and reconcile with family members after conflicts, and stay committed to family relationships.
Choose to be authentic: Close all the gaps between the person you profess to be and who you actually are. Make sure that what you say and what you do match. Ask God to help you avoid hypocrisy. Go to church for one reason only – because you’re passionate about Jesus – instead of going because you’d feel guilty if you didn’t or because other people expect you to go. Don’t worry about projecting a certain image to others; simply be yourself. Forget about trying to impress others with your piety; instead, choose to live faithfully as a way of expressing your love to God. Don’t try to please other people. Live to please God alone. Remember that God sees beyond your outward behavior; He looks into your soul to see what’s really motivating you. You may be able to fool other people, but you can’t fool God, so don’t try. Be honest with God about your sin and weaknesses and expect Him to meet you where you are. Refuse to judge other people’s motives and appearance, and if you do have to make a judgment call, don’t be harsh. Pursue authentic relationships instead of spending time with phony people. Surround yourself with genuine people and hold each other accountable to living authentic lives.
Choose to serve: A life of serving God is the way to lasting greatness in God’s eyes. Greatness is not found in a position. Nor is it found in power. Greatness only comes from serving. God will bestow greatness on you when you choose to serve. When you’re serving difficult people, keep in mind that you’re ultimately serving Jesus by being faithful in the situation. If the people you serve don’t express appreciation, remember that God notices the good work you’re doing and will eventually reward you for it. Be confident that any service God calls you to – no matter how mundane – is highly significant because it helps fulfill eternal purposes. Serving God will help you stay faithful to Him, as well. So humble yourself before God and choose to serve however He leads you.
Choose to stand: Stand for Jesus instead of walking away when life gets hard. The people who know you should clearly see that your relationship with Jesus is your highest priority. Devote your deepest passion and commitment to Jesus. God can do awesome things with your life when you’re completely yielded to Him. Pay attention to how God has positioned you to impact the world for the better. Choose to be the salt and light He calls you to be in the world, impacting people in positive and powerful ways. Don’t despair when you encounter tough times. Instead, respond to suffering by holding onto the hope you have in Christ and reaching out to God. Channel your energy into something productive for God’s glory so others can see the difference that faith makes in your life. Don’t let distractions derail you from standing for God; keep your eyes focused on Him. Surrender your will to God’s will, trusting Him to do what’s best for you and inviting Him to transform your life. Choose to stand for Jesus, no matter what comes your way, and God will strengthen your faith as you live out that choice.
Adapted from 10 Choices: A Proven Plan to Change Your Life Forever, copyright 2008 by Dr. James MacDonald. Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Dr. James MacDonald is founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. He is the author of the bestseller I Really Want to Change … So, Help Me God and several other books. Walk in the Word is his national radio broadcast. He earned his Masters in Religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his Doctor of Ministry from Phoenix Seminary. He and his wife, Kathy, have three children.