I recently watched an interview of Bill Gates after the passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Reflecting upon his adversary/friend’s death, Gates stated,
“It reminds you that you’ve got to pick important stuff because you only have a limited time.”
Bill Gates may not be a Christian, but he words remind us of the axiom, “All truth is God’s truth.”
“You’ve got to pick important stuff because you only have a limited time.”
That resonates with us as we conclude another year which—for many of us—passed rapidly. However, we struggle to grasp that fact and find ourselves with some 365 days ahead of us yet again. 2016 appears vast. So many days and months lay ahead. But the reality remains: We only have a limited time.
So what’s our plan?
A friend sent the following quote to me a couple of weeks ago:
“You need a strategy – not a plan. Like Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.’”
I like that!
I have a plan as I begin another year. It’s a three-fold plan that those around me have heard me state repeatedly:
- Glorify God
- Bless people
- Prepare for eternity
That’s my direction! That’s my passion. But how am I going to flesh that out? That’s where I need a strategy.
The term strategy can be defined as, “A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem” (www.businessdictionary.com).
Bill Gates has a plan. He is on a mission to make the world a better place. Many of us do. But Gates gets specific. He and his team find a need and utilize their resources to meet it. They’ve accomplished some wonderful things, including almost eradicating polio in India. Among other issues they are addressing includes the haughty goal of ending malaria. That may seem audacious to most of us, but it isn’t to Bill and Melinda. They settle on a plan. They develop a strategy. They go about completing step one of the process.
What about me? What are my specific goals and steps (my strategy) to enable me to see my plan become a reality?
I’ve got some ideas. I’ll be thinking about more. My specifics include exercise, reading and writing with accompanying measurable goals for each.
What about you? Are you simply going to allow this New Year to unfold before you without any thought for how you would like to live your life?
Remember, Gates’ assessment: time is limited. Consequently, we need to pick “important stuff.”
What are we going to do with our limited time in 2016? Maybe Candy Crush and Netflix can be replaced with…(you fill in the blank).
I hope you have a great 2016!
Source for Bill Gates’ comment about time:
“The great truth of the Incarnation is that the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us. In this foundational truth we may emphasize the nature of the Son of Man himself, or we may emphasize his taking on flesh and dwelling among us. The condemning scandal for evangelicals is that they have neglected this second emphasis and all that it implies about the possibility of thinking about this realm of flesh. Their redeeming scandal is that they have not yet forgotten the first” (Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Eerdmans, p.252).
This paragraph stood out to me the first time I read Noll’s excellent work. I was drawn to it again recently. Another Christmas is upon us. Many of us have not yet forgotten that the Son of God became flesh. We marvel that Deity willingly clothed Himself in humanity. Noll’s challenge to his readers is to maintain the wonder that God actually remained. His appearance wasn’t a “one night only” event. He choose to stay and live among us. For Mark Noll, this fact has profound implications. In that, he is right on the money.
Both Jesus’ coming and His dwelling were significant. And both truths matter to all of God’s people today.
In his classic work The Unfolding Drama of Redemption, W. Graham Scroggie wrote,
“Christ was the fulfillment of the past and promise of the future…In Him Judaism ended and Christianity began. By His advent the Law gave way to the Gospel. One day ended and a new day began” (Zondervan, 1976, p.121).
A new day began!
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 1:76-79 (Zacharias speaking to his newborn son, John [the Baptist])
What is “Christmas” to you? For the first twenty years of my life I didn’t understand what role Jesus played in a holiday about family-gatherings and gift-giving. Then my eyes were opened to the “supernatural character of the Incarnation” (Noll, p.113). Thirty-one years ago I finally grasped by God’s grace “the good news of great joy” (Lk. 2:10). My appreciation for this annual holiday increased exponentially. God arrived. God took up residence. God put on sandals. The world would never be the same. I would never be the same.
The family continues to gather. Gifts are still exchanged. But substance gives way to reality (Col. 2:17). The SONrise from on high visited us (Lk. 1:78)!
A couple days ago, I was reading Psalm 36. It had been a long time since reading this particular passage and a couple of lines really caught my attention. One of them was, “In Your light we see light” (36:9). Because of God’s glory, we see glory. Since darkness dispels in His presence, good overcomes evil in our lives. As He embodies truth, we come to recognize all that is true.
We are Striving For Reality each day because Jesus Christ came, dwelt and shined!
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are special for most of us. However, many in our culture do not pause long enough to consider the historical events as well as the present significance surround the birth of a baby in Bethlehem so many, many years ago. Scroggie wrote, “The least that can be said about Christ is that He is the most extraordinary person in all history” (p.121). But Jesus was much more than the most notable human being to live, wasn’t He?! He was the perfect God-man on a specific mission that He would successfully accomplish. And because of His success, the world was changed. Many of us were changed. And the world will be changed again.
I hope you have a wonderful celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God. It is an event worth remembering December 24, December 25 and December 26th.
Do you remember the song by The Rolling Stones with the lyrics, “Time is on your side. Yes it is”?
It really isn’t. Time really isn’t on your side. The clock is far more of an adversary than an advantage. Moments, minutes and hours are some of our most valuable possessions, but if we are not careful, they slip away. Time is wasted. And once it is gone, it is gone. Period.
An article I read this week about Tiger Woods got me thinking about this precious commodity we call “time.” This is how the article began:
“Nobody really knew what Tiger Woods was going to talk about at his press conference on Tuesday promoting the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Probably some cliched quips about getting his feels back and getting ready for the Masters in April.
Instead, we got the saddest version of Woods we’ve ever seen.
He talked about there being ‘no timetable’ for a return. He talked about how his exercise these days is just walking. He talked about how he plays video games just to pass the time” (see link below).
Of course, you see what stood out to me. “He plays video games just to pass the time.”
Several weeks ago, I took my (then) twelve-year-old son out for dinner. Believe me when I state that all he wanted to talk about was the game Minecraft. I asked a couple of questions while also attempting unsuccessfully to steer the conversation to more serious matters. But kids–most of them at least–love to play.
However, I have issues with grown men playing video games. Personally, I don’t find it very manly. It grieves me to think of any man residing in our needy world wasting hours playing games when they could, instead, look for ways to make a difference in the lives of others. Apparently, Tiger struggles in this area. But many regulars “Joes” do as well. In fact, there are possibly over one million 20-to-30-something-year-olds still sleeping in their high school bedrooms while their parents go to work each day.
As 2015 draws to its conclusion and as we will soon find ourselves on the verge of yet another year, we should examine how we have spent our time over the past twelve months or so and what our plan is for the next calendar year. How have we spent our time? How will we spend our time?
A few years ago, I read a very helpful sermon on this important subject by Jonathan Edwards—a man who was very serious about his use of time. Consider these thoughts:
We ought to esteem time as very precious because we are uncertain of its continuance.
Time is very precious because when it has passed it cannot be recovered.
How much may be done in a year! How much good is there opportunity to do in such a space of time! How much service may persons do for God, and how much for their own souls, if to their utmost they redeem the time!
Would you not behave other than you do if you considered with yourselves every morning that you must give an account to God how you spent that day?
Consider how much time you have lost already. For your having lost so much, you have the greater need of diligently improving what yet remains.
Improve the present time without any delay. If you delay and put off its improvement, still more time will be lost; and it will be an evidence that you are not sensible of its preciousness.
Good stuff, eh?! Perhaps God is leading us to a time of repentance for how we used much of our time in 2015. Perhaps the Lord is moving us to make some changes so that we are much more effective at redeeming the time in the coming year. There is much to do! If we passionately pursue Him and serve others, it’s almost guaranteed that our entertainment hours will decrease rather than increase. Now there’s a tangible resolution!
PS—In the text Pressing Into The Kingdom: Jonathan Edwards on Seeking Salvation (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), the sermon quoted above, The Preciousness of Time, is followed by one entitled Procrastination.
Should you be interested in the entire article on Tiger Woods’ situation, see:
Happy birthday, son. Becoming a teenager is a very big deal. It should be. You are beginning the amazing transition from boyhood to manhood. That’s why you received a knife as a gift. That’s also why we paused Sunday night so I could speak to you in front of our guests. If you recall, I challenged you to remember your three-fold mission: Glorify God, Bless Others and Prepare for Eternity.
You may have quietly asked yourself, “What does this mission look like?” This letter serves to flesh that out just a bit. The sections below in italics are taken from J.C. Ryle’s treatise, “Thoughts for Young Men” (The Upper Room, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000).
Without a doubt, you reside in a world of competing affections. You are already being tempted to love someone or something more than Christ. Protect yourself from loving the created rather than the Creator. Ensure that your love of God never becomes lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
Instead, love your God with all that you have–your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). He alone is deserving of such wholehearted love. Deep down, you know this to be the case. Love Him for Who He is. Love Him for what He has done, is doing, and will do for His great glory and your great good.
Young men, resist sin in its beginnings. They may look small and insignificant, but mind what I say, resist them,–make no compromise, let no sin lodge quietly and undisturbed in your heart.
I have always loved a passage from the Apocryphal book of Sirach. It reads, “Flee from sin as from a snake, for if you approach sin, it will bite you. Its teeth are lion’s teeth and destroy the souls of men” (21:2).
Experience has taught you this already. Sin is ugly. It dishonors God and hurts others. Hate it. Hate your sin more than you hate sin of others. That cannot be overstated, my son. Truly grasping its truth will be a sign you genuinely know God. Hate your sin more than you hate the sin of others.
“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
Hold the Bible Tightly
In Philippians 2:16, Paul challenged his readers to “hold fast the Word of life.” I believe this has no less than two meanings. First, we should hold it closely as it is an incredible gift of God. Second, we should not waiver in our beliefs to those essential truths of the faith so clearly presented in the text.
I very much hope I have proved to be an example to you in this important endeavor. I do indeed love God’s Word and the truths drawn from it. Since owning my first Bible as a nineteen-year-old, I have cherished it and enjoyed both studying and teaching it. Don’t ever take the blessing of owning a Bible for granted.
Remember, if ever there was a book which has been proved true from beginning to end, by every kind of evidence, that book is the Bible…It has been tried in every way, and the more it has been tried, the more evidently has it been shown to be the very handiwork of God Himself.
Young men, when did God ever fail to keep His word? Never. What He has said, He has always done; and what He has spoken, He has always made good.
The Bible is God’s merciful provision for sinful man’s soul,–the map by which he must steer his course, if he would attain eternal life. All that we need to know, in order to make us peaceful, holy, or happy, is there richly contained.
Young men, I charge you to make a habit of reading the Bible, and not let that habit be broken.
You know little of the perils around you, and so you are heedless how you walk. You hate the trouble of sober, quiet thinking, and so you form wrong decisions and run your heads into sorrow…Believe me, this world is not a world in which we can do well without thinking, and least of all do well in the matter of our souls.
Socrates is reported to have said, “The unexamined life isn’t worth the living.” TJ, make reflection a regular habit. Examine yourself. Evaluate the worldview of your culture. Never cease to renew your mind (Romans 12:2). Train yourself to think. Wed reason to your faith.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever in honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Do not be confident in your own judgment. Cease to be sure that you are always right, and others wrong. Be distrustful of your own opinion, when you find it contrary to that of older mean than yourselves, and specially to that of your own parents.
We will always be available to you. You will always have my ear. More importantly, God is at the ready to hear when you pray.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
Lean upon Him, TJ. Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).
Remain in Church
Be regular in going to the house of God…
I dwell on this point too, because of the strong anxiety I feel that every young man should regularly hear the preaching of Christ’s gospel. I cannot tell you how important I think this is.
You seen how important this has been for me. You’ve seen me attend church when I was tired (you probably even recall how we commuted to church in Chattanooga each Sunday after I drove the Dayton Mountain paper route). You’ve watched me go to church when I would have rather remained home. And you have understood that legalism was not the reason for my attendance. The local church is not heaven. She is filled with sinners, imperfect people like you and me. But she is God’s creation and a blessing. It is also the reason God has given spiritual gifts to all of His children. We are not to forsake meeting regularly with the Lord’s people because He has called us to make a difference in their lives (Heb. 10:25).
Don’t stray far from fellowship. You desperately need it. Others desperately need you.
Beware of Ungodly Pleasures
Enjoy life. Have fun. But be warned.
Remember what I say: if you would cleave to earthly pleasures,–these are the things which murder souls. There is not surer way to get a seared conscience and a hard, impenitent heart, than to give way to the desires of flesh and mind.
And here I will not shrink from warning all young men to remember the seventh commandment; to beware of adultery and fornication, of all impurity of every kind. I fear there is often a want of plain speaking on this part of God’s law.
Imagination is the hotbed where this sin is too often hatched. Guard your thoughts, and there is little fear about your deeds.
You know me well. You know I like to have fun. I have made you laugh more times than you can count. I do not believe that life is meant to be a miserable experience each and every day. Yes, it is difficult. Life is much harder than I ever would have imagined. But we can hate sin and guard against it and still find ample reason to be happy and joyful. Don’t buy the lie that broken cisterns satisfy the soul (Jeremiah 2:13). Only the Lord does. And believe me when I say from experience that the everlasting pleasures of God trump the passing pleasures of sin every day of the week (Hebrews 11:25).
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33).
So my son, love God, hate sin, hold the Bible tightly, think biblically, seek wisdom, remain in church and beware of ungodly pleasures. Glorify God, bless others and prepare for eternity.
I will be praying for you to do no less, and I will be cheering for you as you navigate the turbulent waters of your teenage years.
Please notice the wording above. I did not write, “Mark Richt Resigned.” He did resign as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs several days ago. However, I have a different resignation in mind. You’ll see what I mean as you read this excerpt from the press conference:
“Since 1986 I’ve always really tried to walk daily with the Lord and try to figure out what He really wants me to do, and I try to be really obedient to that. I was reading Matthew about a couple weeks ago, and when Christ, prior to before he got crucified, he was praying. And when he was praying he was sweating blood. And he said ‘Lord, take this cup from me. Please take this cup from me.’ He prayed that three times. Every time after he prayed that, he said ‘Not my will, Lord, but thy will be done.’ That’s kind of been my thoughts over the last couple of weeks, just ‘Lord, your will be done.’ Whatever your will is, that’s what I’ll do. I just don’t know what that looks like yet.”
Coach Richt resigned. Coach Richt is resigned. He is resigned to the will of God.
Did we expect anything less?
Later Richt added,
“The other thing is, as I’ve said before, I really want God’s will for me. I’m really at peace that it was part of his plan. I’m really just excited about what’s coming down the road, and I want to continue to try to be as obedient as I can be to the Lord, and I’ll see what he has in mind for Katharyn and I. We’re both at peace. We’ve know we’ve both been blessed abundantly to be at the University of Georgia. Let’s face it. Fifteen years at a major institution, an SEC school, just to get the job to begin with is kind of a miracle. We’re thankful. We’re blessed.”
Is there any question in Mark’s mind regarding WHO is running the show?
Mark is resigned to the fact that God is sovereign. He and Katharyn are resting that God is in control of their present as well as their future.
Can we do the same?
If we worship the same God of Mark and Katharyn—the only true God—we can have a godly resignation as well. And what a comfort it is to know that God is on the throne when the challenges of life head our direction. We can rest and, hopefully, like the coach, desire for God’s will to be done in our lives.
Facing any particular difficulties presently? Find yourself amidst a trial? Trust the absolutely sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords! You may not yet see any light at the end of the tunnel, but believe me when I say that Someone very bright is waiting there. In fact, He’s also present in the dim light and during the blackest night.
May God bless you as you rest in this truth.
May God also bless Mark and Katharyn as they seek His will for the next season of their lives.
For the full text of the press conference, see: