How to Stretch Your Life to Fit God’s Plans for You
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 4 Apr
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Lisa Harper’s new book Overextended and Loving Most of it: The Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself off Cliffs (Thomas Nelson, 2013).
God often calls you out of your comfort zones to grow your faith, so in order to truly fulfill God’s purposes for your life, you’ll have to take risks. Each risk you take will stretch your God-given resources, however, so you’ll constantly need to ask yourself if you’re willing to devote your time, energy, and money to say “yes” to God whenever he calls you to do something.
It’s easy to get to the point in a faithful life where you feel stretched to your limit. But God, whose power is limitless, wants to stretch you beyond what you think is possible. It’s only when you get to the point where you have to rely on God’s power – because you’ve gone beyond the limit of your own abilities – that you can truly accomplish all of God’s plans for your life.
Here’s how you can stretch your life to fit God’s plans for you:
Aim to love God and people with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind. Jesus said that devoting yourself to love God and the people God has made is what’s most important in life. So, every day, make that your goal and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to do so well. Don’t settle for anything less than giving your best to love each day.
Remind yourself that giving your all to God is worth it. It’s always worthwhile to give your all for your Creator, who always gives his all to you. No one is more worthy of your devotion than God. Jesus promises that if you give up your life for his sake, you will find the life you’re meant to live: a life of eternal significance.
Be willing to say “yes” to God in any circumstances. Don’t worry about whether or not it seems inconvenient to respond positively to God when he asks you to do something. Instead, if you sense God urging you, step forward in faith – even in situations where doing so is inconvenient – trusting that God will provide whatever resources you need to faithfully answer his call. Just small steps of faith can lead to great results when you’re fully trusting God to lead you.
Expect challenges, but never abandonment. In this fallen world, living a faithful life to the fullest will bring you face to face with all sorts of challenges. But keep in mind that God has promised never to forsake you, so you can rely on him to help you overcome even the toughest challenges you face.
Blast through burnout. Whenever you feel burned out from the stress in your life, you can overcome burnout by taking the steps in the acronym “blast”: breathe (inhale while welcoming God’s peace into your soul, then exhale while getting rid of your anxiety), listen (listen for the specific messages that God is communicating to you), ask (pray for the Holy Spirit to give you clarity about your current circumstances, as well as the wisdom and help you need to best deal with them), smile (start smiling, and your emotions will take the cue from your body to calm down), and take the next step (just take whatever specific action you sense God urging you to take).
Recognize that joy grows in the soil of sorrow. If you didn’t risk getting your heart broken, it could never be filled with joy. If you didn’t suffer brokenness, you couldn’t experience restoration. So while it will sometimes be painful to stretch yourself out more toward God and other people, and you may experience sorrow as a result, ultimately you’ll experience more joy from having taken the risk than you ever could have otherwise.
Love more and fear less. Realize that you’ll often feel afraid to take the risks that God will lead you to take, but you can always successfully overcome that fear by choosing to act in love despite your feelings. In every situation you encounter, do your best to base your decisions more on love and less on fear. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you consider situations using both your head and your heart, so you’ll think through them realistically yet also draw upon love that will help you deal with them well.
Express gratitude in all circumstances. In good circumstances, don’t take your blessings for granted, but fully enjoy and appreciate them. In bad circumstances, stretch yourself beyond your pain to thank God for who he is – even in circumstances that aren’t what you’d like him to give you – and that will help you notice more of his constant work in your life. Then you can experience joy even in the midst of painful circumstances. Whenever you choose gratitude and joy, you build resilience and cultivate hope in your life.
Welcome God’s work into every part of your life. Learn to let whatever God’s will is for you to happen in your life. Invite God to work fully in every part of your life – your relationships, your work, etc. – without holding back anything from God. Pray for the ability to approach every day with flexibility, courage, and trust. Offer yourself completely to God, and you’ll start to experience adventures you couldn’t have experienced otherwise.
Overcome obstacles that are standing in the way of doing all the good you can in the world. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you overcome whatever obstacles are blocking you from living fully and contributing fully to God’s kingdom work in the world. Pray about obstacles such as fear, insecurity, shame, resentment, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Celebrate your scars. Don’t try to hide the scars (both physical and emotional) that you’ve gotten in the process of pursuing what God has wanted you to pursue. Instead, celebrate them, because scars remind you of specific ways that you’ve stretched your faith to overcome challenges and have grown stronger as a result. Each scar tells a story about the value of stretching your faith to fit God’s plans for you!
Adapted from Overextended and Loving Most of it: The Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself off Cliffs, copyright 2013 by Lisa Harper. Published by W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Lisa Harper is a gifted communicator whose writing and speaking overflows with colorful, pop-culture references that connect the dots between the Bible era and modern life. For six years Lisa was the national women’s ministry director at Focus on the Family, followed by six years as the women’s ministry director at a large church. The author of nine books, with a Masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, Lisa is a featured speaker with Women of Faith®.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Her Twitter handle is @WhitneyHopler.
Publication date: April 11, 2014