This Week: How to Live for Jesus

Dr. Stanley reflects on the homegoing of his friend Ravi Zacharias and teaches us to dwell on God so we can remain His faithful servants until He calls us home.

This week, I could not help but reflect on the homegoing of Ravi Zacharias, my friend, and a great man of God. He dedicated his life to explaining to others that Jesus answers the most profound questions and needs of the human heart. Like many others, I thought about what his welcome to heaven would be like—reuniting with loved ones who had gone before him and meeting many of the souls who had been impacted by his ministry.

Of course, the most wonderful and joyful greeting Ravi would receive is from the One who had paid for his salvation on the cross and had called him to ministry: our Savior, the Lord Jesus. To finally behold the One he had been serving must have been an experience far beyond imagination for Ravi. I would imagine that at that moment, looking into Jesus’ face, every hardship melted away, every sacrifice seemed inconsequential, and every act of obedience brought him joy, regardless of how costly it was on earth.

Yes, at the sight of the Savior, all the questions and mysteries of life would make sense but would also grow dim in comparison to the realization of how much Christ has truly done for us.

So as I considered the meeting, I also thought about what it would be like to stand in the presence of Jesus and truly see who He is. He is the Suffering Servant who has sacrificed so much for us, has borne the stripes and scars on our behalf, and deserves our most profound gratitude. But He is also the King of Kings, God Almighty, and the Creator of all things who commands the universe and is worthy of our overwhelming and trembling respect. Undoubtedly, we would want Jesus to look at our lives with joy, knowing we walked worthy of His name out of our love and gratefulness to Him. Certainly, we would all like to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” from Him.

But how do we do this? How do you and I become all He envisioned for us? How do we live in a good and faithful manner—becoming all He created us to be and fulfilling His plans for us?

Even these questions may bring disheartenment to some because we know what others have said of us, where we started, our inadequacies, our mistakes, and our faults. We may think it is too late because we are so flawed and broken. But throughout Scripture and Christian history, we’ve repeatedly seen it is never too late to start being who God wants us to be right where we are.

No matter how well or poorly a runner begins a race, what really matters is how he or she ends it. The same is true in the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:24-27). This is not to imply that our early years are not important because they do influence us in profound ways. They set the direction for our lives and shape how we operate. But Jesus never told anyone, “You are too messed up, too limited, and too much of a disgrace to follow Me.” Instead, He says, “From now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

Therefore, it is not how we begin our life, but how we live it from now until Jesus calls us home that counts most. And today, you can make the decision. Today, you can make choices that will determine how you will live your life and who you will be when it ends.

Live for Jesus
It all starts by understanding that the difference between a praiseworthy life and one that is wasted comes down to who is directing it. Of course, a good and faithful life is formed and achieved by living for Jesus. However, this is neither as straightforward nor as difficult as it may appear. Some try to reduce a relationship with Jesus to a set of rules: codes of conduct that dictate our outward behavior. Usually, those rules end up being frustrating and unachievable, and they fail to address what is truly broken within us.

But that is not what the Christian life is about. Instead, Jesus wants to direct us by having His life flow through us from the inside out (John 15:5). That doesn’t mean abiding by rules; it means giving up control.

You see, when we are young, we develop behavioral patterns that we believe will protect us. We live to safeguard ourselves, to meet our needs, and to defend ourselves from further injury. We do what we can to feel as if we are in control of where we’re headed. Sadly, the techniques we use to do so often keep us in painful and devastating bondage.

However, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we acknowledge that there is a God—an authority, wisdom, and power greater than ourselves—and that He knows how to lead us well. He guides us in a personal way to leave behind those worldly, destructive methods we employ to protect ourselves, and He teaches us instead to depend on Him as our Refuge and Deliverer. This is difficult because it requires us to relinquish control to Him. However, this is when His life is free to flow through us.  

So to live a good and faithful life that is directed by Jesus means you:

  • Dwell on God.

Perhaps the most important thing you and I can do to make sure we are pleasing to God is to focus on Him, learn about Him, and know Him. We think about who Jesus is and how He loves us. We abide in His presence and keep Him in front of us as our goal. We recall His victories—always remembering that His promises are more real than our circumstances may appear.

Why? Because we become what we are focused on. And God’s ultimate plan for us is “to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). He molds us into His character so we can better reflect who He is.

This is when we discover that there are ways in which we function that are inconsistent with who He is, and which are actually harmful to us. The Bible calls this sin. By studying Jesus’ loving, life-giving ways, we realize there is a much better way to exist: a way that fills us with power, wisdom, love, joy, peace, and patience, and builds kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in us. So we can confess that we’ve done wrong and repent, changing our path to conform to His, because we see His ways are so much more rewarding and superior to ours (1 Peter 4:1–2). We are inspired to be better and obey Him because of how awesome He is (Ps. 37:4).

  • Do whatever God calls you to do with all of your heart.

As you dwell on God, you become more like Him and take on His purposes. This is when He will call you to walk in His ways. The Lord most likely has an important assignment for you right where you are. If He doesn’t, He will move you. However, we sometimes miss the essential things He wants to do through us because we are distracted by interpersonal conflicts, our ambitions, or perceived problems and injustices.

But Colossians 3:23-24 teaches, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” You are Christ’s servant, so do your best no matter what you’re called to do, whom you are given to work with, or how much you are paid. The Lord may give you a difficult task, but when you stay the course, God will do awesome things through you that you cannot begin to imagine.

Also, remember that when you are living for the Lord, “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). The Father faithfully takes care of your needs when you are obeying Him—even better than you ever could.

So regularly seek God and search your heart, asking: Am I doing what the Lord wants me to do, the way He wants me to do it? Am I accomplishing the assignments He has for me, or am I concerned with what has no eternal value?   

  • Give yourself away for others.

Sadly, for many, being busy with “God’s work” has become a reason to ignore the people that God gave us to love. We live in a world where it is easy to become self-focused and engrossed with our difficulties. Instead of being vigilant about how we can shine Christ’s light to others, we make excuses, saying our challenges are too great, our burdens too heavy, and our responsibilities too important.

But in John 15:13, Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” If we really love Him, we will love others sacrificially as He did. If we want to please Him, we will follow His example, deliberately ministering to souls rather than merely accomplishing tasks (John 13:13-17).

We see an excellent illustration of this in the life of the apostle Paul. When Paul knew that his execution was near, he wrote to his young apprentice Timothy to encourage him. Paul knew that as a young pastor in Ephesus, Timothy would face many difficulties. So instead of complaining about being in prison or being consumed by some great doctrinal deliberation, Paul made the most of his final opportunity to share his knowledge and love with Timothy by ministering to his son in the faith.

Likewise, we weren’t saved to live only for ourselves—we were created to serve God and to give ourselves away to others. Because when we do, we are most like Jesus (1 John 4:10-16). And it is in becoming like Him, doing what He formed us to accomplish, and investing in others that we find real joy and contentment.

The Best Investment
You please Jesus and allow Him to direct your life by dwelling on God, doing what He calls you to do with all your heart, and giving yourself away to others. That is how you make sure you are living a good and faithful life.

That may seem counterintuitive to you. With the pleasures this world offers and the dreams you have for your own life, it may even seem like too great a sacrifice for anyone to make. Indeed, it means giving up control, dying to yourself and your desires, and submitting to His. But I can assure you that there is absolutely no better way to invest your energy because there is true life only in Christ.

In his memoir, Walking from East to West, Ravi wrote:

Through all of the visitations of life—successes or failures—it is not how well you are known or not known. It is not how big your organization is or isn’t. It is not even how many sermons one has preached or books one has written or millions of dollars one has accumulated. It is how well do you know Jesus? That’s it. That is what shapes how you view everything else. Successes are hollow if you do not know the author of life and His purpose. To me, with each passing year, Jesus has only become more beautiful.1

I could not agree with him more. And I believe that when you and I see Christ’s face, we will experience this truth in a manner beyond imagination. We will see how awesome Jesus is and how the only thing that truly matters is how well we know and actively love Him with everything we are (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

Knowing that, what will you do with your life? Will your days be full of steadfast, good, and faithful service to God? Or will you waste the time He’s given you? Think about that carefully and then make the choice. He longs to tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and will help you live it. My prayer is that you will decide to take hold of that joy, just like Ravi did.

 

1 Ravi Zacharias, Walking from East to West (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006). 224. Kindle.

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What happens to my notes

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;

27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

11 She said, No one, Lord." And Jesus said, I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."]

5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.

14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.

15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.

17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

10 Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, `Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

11 She said to Him, Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?

12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?"

13 Jesus answered and said to her, Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again;

14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

15 The woman said to Him, Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw."

16 He said to her, Go, call your husband and come here."

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.

11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.

14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.

15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

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