Terminally ill patients and older people often question whether they lived life well. In his last few days life, facing terminal breast cancer, my late husband Jim asked, “Have I really lived the life God called me to live? Have a made a difference in people’s lives?” Within seconds an email popped up.
A classmate Jim had not heard from in decades wrote that he had meant to connect years earlier to thank Jim. He reminded us that we had him and other classmates to dinner in our home when they were in the area. He watched Jim slip a napkin on his lap and then pray over the meal. That friend said he could not get that prayer out of his minds and that is seemed to flow from Jim’s heart. After a few weeks he started to pray before dinner with his family. He said, “It changed our lives.”
God allowed that answer to come when Jim needed it. It’s a reminder that how we have lived is not always measured in the big events, but often in those small moments that flowed from our hearts and actions.
Here are 10 helpful ways to ensure that you live the life God called you to live.
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1. Ponder the question: Have I lived the life God called me to live?
Paul pondered this question and responded in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. He states that his departure is near and that he kept the faith, fought a good fight, and finished the race. He penned these familiar words after encouraging his friend to keep working and sharing his faith.
Paul spent his time focused on witnessing and spreading the gospel. Earlier in his life, he worked hard to persecute followers of Jesus. Once he encountered Christ, he made a U-turn and served God in spite of persecution, natural disasters, and opposition to the good news. Towards the end of his life, he held no regrets and looked forward to heaven.
We should look back and note what moments changed our lives, and how they can impact the way we will live the rest of our days.
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2. Boldly go where God calls you to go.
Paul showed us how to live courageously. He never feared the future. He faced storms at sea, stoning, arguments from leaders, and more—without fear because he trusted God to be with him. That’s also how David faced Goliath. David’s courage developed as a young shepherd when he faced a bear and lion. It showed in the Psalms David wrote, and in words Paul penned.
Both Paul and David knew contentment and overcoming fear came from faith in God. They continually saw God working in their lives and showing up in their struggles. They each had a great answered-prayer record.
Living a life well lived means living out your faith and stepping boldly where God calls you to go. If you are called to go overseas, into slums, or into the public forum, will you be willing and fearless? If not, continue to build your courage one prayer answered at a time.
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3. Do everything without complaining.
In Philippians 2:14-15, Paul beckons people to shine like the stars in simple ways. His encourages us to do everything without complaining or arguing and to live a clean life.
That’s what my late husband, Jim, strived to do. He avoided the coarse jokes or complaining. He spread cheer everywhere and made people smile. He used humor that uplifted people. He stood apart.
When Jim served on a Coast Guard cutter, one of the other officers pulled me aside at a party to ask what made Jim so different. I responded simply, “He tries to live his faith in Jesus.” That led to an hour conversation in the midst of the merrymaking. A young man shared how Jim impressed him with his optimism and team spirit and wanted to know more about how Jim lived away from work. This didn’t surprise me. I had met other people who became Christians because they admired someone and asked what made them different.
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4. Be a faithful witness to others.
Chris, a man I met long ago, asked two men he admired what made them different. Both pointed to their faith in Christ, but he tuned the answer out. Finally, when he found a third man who really impressed him, he decided if that man gave the same answer, he was going to become a Christian.
He met a third man and received that same response. He asked the man to mentor him. Chris became a Bible study teacher and shared his faith. He felt overjoyed when anyone asked him what was different about him, even when the person walked away or they had known him before his conversion. He felt blessed to be part of a chain of witnesses. He said that made him feel he lived his life well.
A chain of faithful people is seen in Hebrews chapter 11, often called the Hall of Faith. Such a chain is also praised by Paul when he commended Timothy for living the faith he had seen in Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice. The deeds of these women are not listed, only the result of their lives as seen in the outcome of Timothy. Paul commended them for raising one child in faith.
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5. Be faithful in the little things.
Jesus said that if you are faithful in little things you will be faithful in larger things (Luke 16:10). Mother Teresa exemplifies this principle of living life well with little. Caring for mass numbers of the poor appears to be an overwhelming task. Instead, she helped one individual at a time. She discovered her strength in ministering one-on-one.
I pray each morning for God to allow me to bless one person that day. I may not direct a large ministry, but I can respond to God’s nudge every day with encouraging words and little deeds. I can email one person and ask how they are doing and how can I pray for their needs.
These little acts of kindness lighten the burdens of others, give them courage, and touch their hearts. That’s fulfilling Christ’s command to love one another and thus living each day well. It adds up to a life well lived.
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6. Choose to live well, no matter how much time you have left.
God is eternal, and his time frame is not in years. We may think the sands of time are running out, but God sees more opportunities.
We see this a lesson in the criminal on the cross who wanted Jesus to remember him. The Romans convicted him as a thief. It does not appear that he led a life well lived. He encountered Christ in his last moments on earth, but that was enough for Jesus to respond, “You will be with me in paradise.” He lived his last moments well because he made the choice once he met Christ. His story lives on in the pages of the Bible to bring hope to those who did not choose well until their last moments.
Because God forgives, we have a new opportunity each day. We can choose to live a life well lived no matter how short a time we have left.
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7. Consider the legacy you will leave behind.
A Celebration of Life gives us glimpses into a person’s life. The words said at a funeral reveal the impact a person made. At my father’s services, I heard a few words repeated often, especially the word kind.
My father had raised me with the phrase, “There is never too much kindness in the world.” People who worked with him years before he retired, family, neighbors, and others came up to express their gratitude for his kindness that made their lives brighter.
When his brother died, an obituary was written for Alfred Nobel by mistake. He felt ashamed when he it. One statement that declared he became rich by finding ways to kill people faster than ever before, because he invented dynamite, profoundly upset him. It caused him to work at creating a different legacy. He established five prizes to honor the people who did the most to benefit mankind, which we now call the Nobel Prizes.
Consider what memories you would want people to share when your friends and family gather to celebrate your legacy. Perhaps you need to change your direction and find ways to love others.
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8. Be kind and mindful of the people around you.
Acts 9 recounts a faithful woman who died after a life well lived. Dorcas (her Jewish name was Tabitha) spent her days performing little acts of kindness, helping the poor, and sewing garments one stitch at a time.
After she died, the believers sent for Peter, and he came and saw what we might consider a Celebration of Life. People showed him coats, tunics, and other clothes she had made. Then, “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40). The news spread and became a witness for many. Dorcas had simply blessed people at every opportunity and God allowed her kindness to be celebrated and continued.
When we impact lives of the people around us, we build a legacy of faith that is treasured by the hearts touched. It’s the consistency of being kind daily and mindful of the people around us.
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9. Use your talents to bless others.
To consider how someone lives a life well, look around at people you admire. What do they say and do that shows you they live out their faith? You’ll discover people caring for family members, volunteering, and simply passing on smiles and encouraging words. You’ll see people who faithfully pray, faithfully perform little actions of cleaning up after events, reading to children, and so much more that is part of a life well lived.
Reflect on your talents and how you can use them to bless others. Listen to the words you say and consider if you need to work on being more considerate, encouraging, and kind. Think before you speak and consider how it might impact the listener.
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10. Seek and follow God.
Ask what God wants you to do today and work on that. Focus on the present and where God is nudging you to invest your time and talent. Read the Bible so you will hear God’s words and discover how to put them into action. If you love others, follow Christ, and live faithfully one day at a time, you will be living a life well lived.
Karen Whiting is an author of 25 books and an international speaker. She’s a mother of five and a grandmother. Her book 52 Devotions for Busy Families makes it easy to develop faith in the home. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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