How to Live on the Spiritual Edge
- 2010 8 Mar
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Chip Ingram's recent book, Living on the Edge: Dare to Experience True Spirituality, (Howard Books, 2009).
If you're spiritually stuck - not growing much closer to God - you need to step out of your comfort zone and into the adventures God has planned for you. True spirituality means following God to the edge of what's comfortable and taking the risks necessary to grow closer to Him.
Here's how you can live on the spiritual edge:
Give God what He wants the most. God's greatest desire for you is that you surrender yourself completely to Him. He wants the same place in your heart that He possesses in the universe - the top position. God, who created you, has your best interest in mind and wants you to trust Him. Total commitment to God is the channel through which God's best and biggest blessings flow. And if others who are watching you see you devote yourself wholeheartedly to God, it will draw them closer to Him, too. So stop trying to live the Christian life on your own terms. Tell God that you're willing to pursue His plans for your life rather than your own. Invite Him to use your life to accomplish something great. Be willing to follow His guidance in every situation - no matter where He leads you.
Get God's best for your life. God's purposes for your life are much better than anything this fallen world can offer you. So ask God to open your eyes and your heart to what His good and pleasing will is for your life. Consider what habits, sins, or setbacks seem to be thwarting your relationship with Him right now. Figure out what types of temptations (such as those relating to sex, money, or status) you're most vulnerable to, and why. Then pray honestly about your struggles and listen for God's guidance on how to deal with them. Confess your sins, repent of them, and accept the forgiveness and grace the God offers you. Then live a more faithful life. Instead of getting preoccupied with external behaviors, however, focus on your love relationship with Jesus. Let your love for Him motivate you to live faithfully, and trust Him instead of someone or something in the world to meet your deepest needs.
Shift your efforts from trying to be good by controlling your behavior to expressing your love by trusting God's promises. Pay attention to what you're putting into your mind, since your thoughts lead to your actions and shape your life. How much time are you spending taking in the world's messages (through TV, the Internet, movies, etc.) versus taking in God's messages (through reading the Bible)? Ask God to create an appetite within you to read the Bible often (as well as studying it, reflecting on it, and applying it to your life). As you do so, pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so you can experience God's best for your life every day.
Come to grips with the real you. A sober self-assessment is a valuable way to discover who God has created you to be. Ask God to help you see yourself the way He sees you. Admit your insecurities to God and find your security in your relationship with Him through Jesus - not in your appearance, performance, or possessions. Derive confidence and peace from thinking accurately (biblically) about yourself. Don't waste time or energy comparing yourself to others or striving to be someone you're not. Instead, rest and enjoy the unique person that God made you to be, just the way you are. Find the role you're meant to play in God's family, the body of Christ. Ask God to show you how He wants to use your distinctive strengths and weaknesses to help you and others around you grow. Discover your primary spiritual gift, because that's one of the main indicators of what God wants you to do with your life. Aim to go where you belong, doing what you love, and making the impact you were designed to make for God's glory.
Experience authentic community. Authentic community occurs when the real you shows up and meets real needs for the right reason in the right way. Serving other people in love is a vital part of God's will for you. So break away from isolation and superficial relationships. Pursue meaningful, growing, Christ-centered relationships with at least a few people. Ask God to reveal any hidden sins in your life. Then confess and repent of them so they won't interfere with your relationships with God and other people. Tell God that you're willing to make real sacrifices to meet whatever needs He calls you to meet. Then pay attention to the needs you encounter and pray for His guidance about them.
Be willing to take action to give others what they need the most, even when they deserve it the least and it comes at great personal cost to you. Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Check your motives, though: Make sure you're not just fulfilling obligations, but expressing your love for God.
Overcome the evil aimed at you. Don't let evil overcome you; instead, overcome evil by responding to it with good. Choose to follow God's call to forgive the people who have hurt or wronged you. Don't wait until you feel like forgiving; you likely never will. But once you decide to obey and go through the forgiveness process with God's help, your feelings will gradually change. Pray for the people who have mistreated you, and always be willing to be kind to them. If you do, they'll see the reality of God's power working through you. Never retaliate against people who have hurt or wronged you; paying back evil for evil will only cause evil to multiply. Instead, trust God to bring about justice in His way and timing. Do whatever you can to live at peace with everyone. In all situations, keep in mind that good is more powerful than evil.
Adapted from Living on the Edge: Dare to Experience True Spirituality, copyright 2009 by Chip Ingram. Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Brentwood, Tn., www.christian.simonandschuster.com.
Chip Ingram is president and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. His passion is to help everyday "Christians" actually live like Christians by raising the bar of discipleship. Chip has been a pastor for more than 25 years and has a unique ability to communicate truth and winsomely challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of 10 books, including Good to Great in God's Eyes; Love, Sex & Lasting Relationships; God: As He Longs for You to See Him; and The Invisible War. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four children and six grandchildren.
Original publication date: March 8, 2010