Seven Habits of Truly Effective Living
by Alex Crain, Editor, Christianity.com
"They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green."
The phrase, "begin with the end in mind" probably strikes a familiar chord with readers of the popular life management book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Even if you aren't familiar with the phrase (or the book for that matter), you most likely get the general idea. The principle, simply stated, is that it's a good idea to ask the question "How do I want this to turn out?" before you begin a task or project. It certainly isn't difficult to agree with that. Such a question helps sharpen focus and leads to more effective action. What is missing from the book, however, is the God-sized perspective that we see in Psalm 92. Frustration is actually the result for the individual who may lead a life of effective action, but whose only source of vision and motivation is the self.
We often envision the ideal life as one that's surrounded by beauty, valuable possessions and our favorite people. We want plenty of leisure time and the health to enjoy these things. But without God, such a life is depicted in Scripture as empty and deceptive. It is a dream that springs from a heart tainted by sin. If we are to be truly effective at living, we must humbly begin with God's end in mind.
In Psalm 92, the ideal end God depicts for one's life on this earth is that of the righteous person who is "full of sap and very green." In other words, he is filled with spiritual vitality, even at the end of life when the temptation to grumble and express radical selfishness is often the strongest. Instead of complaining, his lips are filled with praise—declaring that there is no unrighteousness in God, his Rock (v. 15).
The roots for such vigor of soul are woven throughout the preceding verses where we see seven habits of truly effective living unfolded for us. They are:
#1 Seeing thankfulness and praise to God as desirable, not as duty (v. 1).
#2 Focusing on God's lovingkindness in the morning and His faithfulness at night
(v. 2). For the righteous man, each day begins and ends with God, implying that God is central in his thoughts throughout the entire day. Literally, lovingkindness refers to God's covenant loyal love, which features His promise of salvation. The righteous person is not self-righteous, or externally moralistic. Rather, he looks to God's promises and unchanging character as the basis for his right standing before his Creator-Judge. The Lord Jesus Christ is, of course, the fulfillment of these promises. So, the one having faith in Christ is counted righteous and delivered from a petty life of vain pursuits.
#3 Enjoying resounding music and singing for joy at God's great works (vv. 1, 3-4).
#4 Pondering the deep thoughts of God (v. 5)—not being characterized by a shallow, pragmatic view of God that sees Him merely as a means to get other things.
#5 Praising the transcendence of God—declaring that God is the "Most High" who is above all His creatures. The righteous one realizes that man is in no way equal to God. Thus, he can never legitimately view God with suspicion or call Him into judgment (v. 8).
#6 Resting securely in the fact that, in the end, God will have the final say on all matters. He will deal justice to the enemies of righteousness (vv. 9-11).
#7 Depending continuously upon God for strength—for "fresh oil" (v. 10), knowing that yesterday's supply never carries over to today.
Perhaps you know an older believer who embodies these seven habits. My own 'eighty-something' grandmother, "Meme," is one such saint. At the time of this writing, she lay in a hospital bed with very serious health complications. During a recent phone call, she talked not about her pain but about her delight in truths she read that morning in her well-worn Bible. She asked me about my role as a worship leader at the local church where I serve as associate pastor, and she spoke of various hymns and songs she had been singing throughout the day. Her prayer at the close of our conversation was full of gratitude and praise to the Lord, evidencing a deep, personal knowledge of and trust in God. While I listened, I thought to myself: This is what Psalm 92 is all about. Here is a person who, by God's grace, has learned to practice the habits of truly effective living.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
How regularly are these seven habits in Psalm 92 practiced in my daily life? Given the way I am right now and knowing the habits that I practice, will I spend my latter days of life on this earth "full of sap and very green?" At my death, what kind of person will God say I was? What kind of person will others say I was? If my responses to these questions are negative, what is the source of the problem? Do I not know God? Is there an idol in my life? Re-read habits 1-7 above to reflect again on what the psalmist delighted in.
While completing his studies (M.Div.) at The Master's Seminary, Alex served on staff at Grace Community Church in the Los Angeles area. He has subsequently served at various churches in the areas of teaching, outreach, small groups and worship ministries. In addition to writing and editing for Salem Web Network, Alex serves as the worship pastor of Grace Bible Church in Richmond, Virginia.