The Latin phrase carpe diem – which literally means ‘pluck the day’, or make the most of the day and enjoy it – has always struck a chord with me. I first heard it in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. There’s a scene in which Robin Williams’s character, an unconventional English teacher, tells a group of boys why they should seize the day: ‘Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.’ (Which is bluntly put, I know, but true!)
My takeaway from Psalm 90:12 – ‘Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom’ (NIV) – is that it’s wisdom to count your days, so you can make them count. Life is fleeting. And healthy, fruitful lives don’t just happen spontaneously. We have to make good decisions and be intentional about how we live. The best time to start is straightaway.
Let’s look at FOUR great decisions (underscored with some good choices!) to help us grow:
1. Have faith for the journey
Serving God is a faith adventure and it never gets boring. I remember a big turning-point in my own journey around the time that I was finishing my business degree and considering options in the corporate world. One Sunday, I heard a preacher throw out a line that hit me straight in the heart. Basically he asked, ‘How long are the best minds going to go to IBM and Coca-Cola and big multinational companies? When will some of the best minds go towards building the church?’
And I remember thinking, ‘Well, yeah, when will they?’ And then I thought, ‘If they won’t go, maybe I’ll have a go.’ So I said ‘No’ to a bunch of well-paid opportunities and signed up for the internship at Hills Christian Life Centre, which was becoming Hillsong Church. I did Bible College part-time, served in the Youth Ministry and got casual jobs to pay my way. I didn’t know how this would work out, but I had confidence that God was with me.
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says: ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’
My Nana did not share this confidence. (God bless Nanas, Grandmas, Oumas and Gogos!) And you should be prepared for the fact that, when you step out in faith, not everyone is going to understand what you’re doing either. Sometimes people close to you will question the sanity of your decision. When I told Nana that I was going to intern at church instead of climbing the corporate ladder, she wasn’t thrilled. ‘How will you ever buy a house?’ she asked. ‘How will you provide for a family?’ Then she started tearing out newspaper ads for real jobs and posting them to me on a weekly basis.
The truth is that I didn’t have answers to Nana’s questions. But I knew that God was calling me and that I had to have the courage to obey Him. I’ve been on this faith journey ever since.
Let me ask you this: do you still have faith for the journey ahead? Are you still believing God for things beyond your comfort zone?
You have a choice to make: obey God, trust Him and live by faith. Or ignore God, place your trust in other things, and live by feelings. It’s never too late to make a better choice. The truth is that growing in faith will equip you to confront and conquer more and more of your fears, and enable you to keep moving forwards on a path that winds steadily upwards.
2. Build healthy relationships (because you can’t go it alone!)
God is a father, who created us for relationship, connection and community. We’re called children of God and we’re part of His great family. So who’s with you on this journey? The goal is to create healthy relationships in your family, church family and team. There’s no such thing as a perfect family, church or team this side of eternity. But it is possible to build healthy relationships in these spheres of our lives.
All of us have a choice to make here. We have the option to love, forgive and take responsibility for our lives, which is what it takes to build healthy relationships. The other option is to take offence, become bitter, justify our actions and blame others for everything. But that’s a very thorny and difficult path that won’t take us far in life.
I encourage you to keep your heart right (see Proverbs 4:23) and to deal with wounds before they turn to bitterness. Forgiveness actually liberates you. And God always helps with this.
I’m inspired by how Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. Read Nehemiah 3 and you’ll get an idea of the teamwork required to complete the job, as well as of the diversity of the team, which included a perfume-maker named Hananiah. What unified Nehemiah’s team was a healthy spirit and a shared commitment to see the vision achieved. Together, they were determined to build something that would last and they knew they needed each other. And so do we.
3. Have fun in every season
On average, children laugh around 150 times a day, while adults laugh only around six times a day. I think we need to laugh more. You can serve God and have fun. In fact, laughter and fun are God’s medicine for the soul (see Proverbs 17:22). When we lose sight of that, we lose an excellent remedy for the difficult seasons of life.
Again, you have a choice: take yourself too seriously, live intensely, be stressed out all the time and try to control everything. Or be able to laugh at yourself, have fun along the way, work hard, give your best, enjoy the moments and remember that God is in control.
4. Be consistent (not intense!)
As Bruce Lee once said: ‘Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.’ (Everyone loves a Bruce Lee quote!) Consistency is the key to breakthrough, progress and achievement in every area of life.
Make it easy for yourself to be consistent. One good way is to avoid decision fatigue. You can do this in THREE key areas in the following ways that are easy to maintain:
1. Your spiritual journey: Get a One-year Bible. That way you won’t have to decide what to read every morning; the day’s reading is right there ready for you.
2. Your health: Join a class at the gym; that saves you deciding what to do each time and frees you up to focus only on showing up and getting stuck in.
3. Your finances: Put money aside in a fund or savings account where you can’t get at it. Automate this process so that you don’t even have to think about it.
I’ve never been the best at anything (although I got best and fairest at soccer once in the Under-10s B-team). However, I’ve been committed to consistently turning up to the things that matter, trusting that God is with me, and believing that there is more He wants to accomplish in and through me.
That’s been the key decision for me – to keep turning up to the things that really matter.
Consistency builds strength, and strength builds resources and resources mean we can do fun and meaningful things. Can I encourage you, choose to keep looking forwards consistently with vision, so that you never end up looking back with regret and disappointment.