"Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest."
— Charles Dickens
This statement by Charles Dickens does not come as any surprise to me after years of faithfully watching numbers of adaptations and re-creations of his memorable work, A Christmas Carol.
The story recounts the life and times of the wealthy, cantankerous (and unmarried) Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge, whose name has since become synonymous with being a miser and greediness, has the opportunity to see his past, present and future with the help of four ghosts in a dream. As a result, he is able to change his ways (and help others), before it is too late.
Although the story does not have any specific spiritual references, the theme does cause us to reflect upon the life we are leading and the life God calls us to.
As single adults, we have the freedom and opportunities many do not have and it occasionally becomes second-nature to continue down the road of individualistic (and sometimes selfish) desires. We may not distinguish our ways "as bad as" an Ebenezer Scrooge, however, what path are we walking down—one of spiritual obedience or one of secularism?
Charles Dickens wasn't the first person to speak of working wholeheartedly, completely devoted to everything we do. Paul spoke similar words almost 1800 years earlier.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23).
Naturally, there are things we "have to do" that are sometimes difficult to put our heart into—running errands, paying bills, cleaning the house, caretaking of family members, attending holiday functions (alone), etc. Oftentimes, our participation in these and other tasks is more out of obligation than desire.
However, more important than the task or activity itself is how we are living out our life (and faith) when it comes to our work, our relationships, our finances, our ministry and our free time. In other words, are we living our life wholeheartedly, completely devoted to the calling and talents the Lord has given us or are we counting down the hours and days we have left on earth?
Paul does not differentiate or give us an "out" to justify our behavior, he was, after all, speaking to slaves. He exhorts them (and us) to, "Do it, not only when their (master's) eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord" (Colossians 3:22).
It is not very difficult to identify those who are experiencing life to the fullest and those who are not. We can see it in the way a person approaches a new day, we can sense it in the intimate connection between two people and we can feel it in the passion of one's work.
By living each day with the hopes of just trying to get by rather than putting our whole heart and soul into what we do, we represent a poor witness of Christ in our life, we don't utilize what the Lord has gifted us with, we don't reach the potential of what the Lord wants for us and we rob ourselves of an abundant life.
Many of us may be at a crossroad in our profession, in a relationship, in our finances or in our life. We may be facing difficulties we have never had to overcome or success we have never expected, however, regardless of all of the external influences, we must remember we are working for (and serving) the Lord and we are stewards of the gifts, talents, relationships, finances and blessings He has given to us.
The Apostle John had strong words for a group of people who struggled with this issue.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).
The term lukewarm is rarely considered a complimentary term. It is usually an expression that describes something that was originally hot, but over time has cooled off. We usually prefer something that is either hot and fresh or cold and refreshing, but rarely "lukewarm."
This was the commentary the Apostle John was making when speaking to the Church of Laodicea. Due to its location on a major trade route, the city of Laodicea enjoyed much prosperity and the Church was rather independent, self-sufficient, prideful and complacent, possibly as a result of the church's opulence. For whatever reason, they lost sight of the importance of being dedicated to God's work.
It is Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:24).
If we commit our heart, soul and mind to whatever work the Lord has called us to at this specific time, we can live a life that is not lukewarm, but rather hot, purposeful and abundant.
In 1973, a student graduated with a Bachelor's degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a Master's degree from Purdue University. He served as a fighter pilot, flight leader and training officer, and later became a commercial airline pilot, opened a safety consulting business, and investigated a number of airline accidents.
He devoted his life to emergency management, developing safety strategies, and helping airline crews manage emergency situations. On January 15, 2009, all of this education, training and experience came to fruition as Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger made a quick decision to guide his crippled aircraft into the Hudson River after the plane was disabled by a flock of birds.
Captain Sullenberger said in an interview following the event, "One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."
He never knew those years of dedicating himself to airline safety would one day be the exact knowledge he would need to personally draw from in order to save 155 lives. It wasn't something Captain Sullenberger planned for or envisioned as he trained others for an event he had hoped would never happen, yet through tireless devotion to his calling, he made an impact not only to those 155 on board, but for thousands of others all over the world.
We don't know how every encounter and each experience we have will be crafted in the tapestry of our life. We can't fathom how some seemingly meaningless piece of information or event has actually been a deposit in our personal cache where God has planned for us to draw from at some future date.
Whatever our past was, however we have been living and wherever we think we may be headed, we can change our outlook and our future from one of individualism and survival and to one of great anticipation and abundance.
So where do we start?
For some, it may mean putting out your best everyday in a job you don't enjoy, reconciling a relationship that has been estranged, breaking off a relationship that you know is wrong, studying harder and more effectively, getting help for an addiction, appreciating those people in your life that you've taken for granted, spending more time with family, sacrificing your time and resources for others and your church, or helping someone out, and for many of us, it begins by spending more time alone with God.
Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 22:19).
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.
**This article first published on November 19, 2009.