Occupy, Don’t Encumber

Yesterday I received the news that my aunt died. She was more than 90 years old. Her brother, i.e., my father, died when he was only 66 or 67 years old. That was more than 15 years ago.

No matter how long we live on this earth, one day we will have to leave it. Someday it will be my turn. And the question is: How well did you live your life while you had it? Did you live to merely encumber the ground or did you “occupy” it? “Occupy till I come,” said the Lord.

That means we should make good use of the talents he gave us while we have life in us. In other words: Be useful. Be a blessing. Serve. Redeem the time. Work while it is day because the night is coming when no one could work anymore.

Life is short. Let’s not allow the talents God has given us to go to waste. Let’s not bury them in the ground. Let’s use them for his glory.

Your Time is Now Mine

Last night, we had our Ikthus East Couples’ meeting at the Dientes’ residence at Palisades Subdivision, Homesite, Bacolod City. Our speaker was a British national who is married to a Filipina. He is also connected with Family Foundations, a Christian organization engaged in helping families (spouses, parents, children) heal and strengthen their relationship to one another and to God.

He shared with us his testimony: How he, an atheist, turned to Christ after living a life marred by unfaithfulness and alcoholism, mainly because of the change he saw in his wife, who loved, forgave, and accepted him in spite of his sins.

He shared a number of things that surely touched the hearts of all of us: how he lost his job, how he faced his debts, how God provided for all their needs in unexpected and miraculous ways. But what impacted me most was the time when God, after giving him his job back (with another company) finally took it away again (he was already a Christian when this happened). And in his heart God was telling him, “You have no more debts. Your time is now mine.” They had no savings, but they had a small business, and that was enough for their daily needs. His time now belonged to the Lord; and he now spends it in sharing God’s word and helping families find hope, strength, and meaning in Christ Jesus.

That was yesterday. Right now I’m reading a book I just bought from National Bookstore: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma. I’m reading the first few pages about a great trial lawyer who suffered a massive heart attack in the courtroom. He was 53 years old – my age now. He was driven, a workaholic, a success, and now about to die an untimely death, most probably as a result of his drivenness.

I stopped reading and proceeded to write this article. I am reminded of how short life is, and how little time is left to serve God with all our might. I don’t know yet what the next steps in my life should be, but the thought of being nothing more than a lawyer when I die does not sit well with me.

God has given us enough time to accumulate enough wealth to pay off our debts and to provide for our future. It does not make sense to spend the time we have left on this earth to accumulate more and more (money, land, possessions, etc.), which we will certainly leave behind us when we die. That time is better spent doing something else, something more meaningful and more lasting.

“Your time now belongs to me.” If this is indeed God speaking, we do well to heed him.

The Righteous and The Wicked

In my morning devotions I make use of Timothy Keller’s God’s Wisdom in Navigating Life, a one-year devotional guide on the book of Proverbs. Last year I made use of his The Songs of Jesus, a devotional guide on the Psalms. In today’s devotional he mentions that when we meet the words “righteous” and “wicked” in the book of Proverbs, we think it means “moral” and “immoral.” They mean more than that. According to Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke, “The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” Jesus was righteous: he was willing to disadvantage himself to advantage all who would trust him as their Lord and Saviour. He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for many. Timothy Keller asks, “In what ways are you disadvantaging yourself, in time and money, for the good of the community in which you live?” That’s a good question.

Gratitude

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”(Psalm 116:12)

Here is the right motivation for living a productive life: gratitude for the life we’ve been given and the blessings we’ve received. I remember reading somewhere that life is God’s gift to us, and what we make out of it is our gift back to God. Thus, I respectfully beg to disagree with Kiyosaki (see my previous post, A Little Greed) when he says that a little greed is the cure for laziness. Gratitude, not greed, is what should motivate us to better ourselves. Psalm 103 lists down some of these tremendous benefits which we have freely received from our Maker: “He forgives all my sins, he heals all my diseases, he redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion, he satisfies my desires with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Interestingly, according to Emma Seppalla, Ph.D. (Science Director of Stanford’s Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education), in her book The Happiness Track, “Research supports the idea that gratitude has tremendous benefits; gratitude not only boosts your well-being but also significantly strengthen professional skills.” Some of these benefits are the following:

Greater psychological well-being and health:
– improved positive emotion
– longer-lasting positive emotion
– buffering against stress and negativity
– decreased anxiety and depression
– reduced materialism
– improved sleep quality and duration

Improved professional skills:
– higher social intelligence
– improved relationships
– likability
– strengthened willpower
– better long-term decision making
– increased positive influence on others

Gratitude for benefits received benefits us spiritually, psychologically, and professionally! This sheds new light on the verse which says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) God has our well-being in mind when he commands us to be always thankful.

unsplash-logoSimon Maage

Afraid

I’m so afraid of one day reaching the end of my life only to realize, upon looking back, that I’ve lived an ordinary life and have failed to live up to my full potential. This fear is wrong. There’s nothing wrong in being ordinary, there’s nothing wrong in not being successful. What is important is that I’ve lived a faithful life. A life full of faith in my good shepherd and loving father. A life of faithful service to him whose reward alone counts. “O may all who come behind us find us faithful!” “Love to be unknown and esteemed as nothing.”