As I am well-entrenched in my late 40’s, I have come to realize that this is the place where energy and wisdom converge. I’m still young enough to enjoy exercising and being active. But, I’ve lived long enough to know much more than I did when I left my parent’s home to begin my own life back in 1989.
As I look back over my life so far, I have to admit that it’s been an incredibly rewarding adventure. There have certainly been some really low times but there have been incredibly high times, too. I married my Sweetheart and we’ve been happily married for over 21 years. I’ve got three boys who bring Kim and me a heart-full of happiness for a lot of different reasons. I’ve pastored some great churches where we’ve seen God do some wonderful things. I’ve been to a lot of neat places and met a lot of incredible people.
On and on I could go.
But, as I look back, I wish that my 17-year-old self had a better grasp on a couple of very important competencies as I was about to leave home and start life on my own. I specifically wish that I had developed a proficiency in two specific areas. I can only hope that Kim and I have sufficiently taught them to our three sons.
Fortunately, books have been written on the two competencies I’m presently thinking about.
So, what two books would I give my 17-year-old self before I left home to live life on my own (if they had been written back then)?
1. “Decision Making By the Book: How to Choose Wisely in An Age of Options” by Haddon W. Robinson
I first heard of Haddon Robinson when I was in seminary. He wrote the classic work on preaching called: “Biblical Preaching.” In that book, I not only learned how to study the Bible and share its truths with others, I also came to see how the author held the Bible in such high regard. Clearly, I could trust him.
About 7 years ago, a pastor/friend of mine joined me for breakfast at a restaurant in Brooksville, Florida. As he sat down, he placed a book on the table that he had been reading. It was “Decision Making by the Book.” When I saw who wrote it, I immediately determined that I was going to purchase it and devour it.
Since then, I’ve read it once and am now reading through it again. I would encourage every follower of Jesus who has to make decisions (that’s everyone!) to get this book and read it reflectively. My 17-year-old self could have greatly benefited from the biblical principles of good decision making found in this book!
Without making this a book review, I simply want to point out that the author makes it clear that far too many Christians are far more superstitious than they realize when it comes to making decisions. After he exposes and debunks that approach to decision making, he reveals that there are clear, biblical steps to making good decisions. He also notes that God has given us a lot more liberty to make our own decisions than we may realize.
Just get the book and read it. Almost certainly, you’ll thank me.
I very much believe that my 17-year-old self would be thanking me right now.
2. “Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get The Life You Want” by Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy
While it is true that God told Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and simply start heading west until He told him to stop, that is certainly not the norm. God called Abraham to meander – just start heading west. Almost certainly, He hasn’t told you and me to live life that way.
In fact, when we get to the New Testament, we see that the Apostle Paul was very intentional about how he lived his life. We can read in the book of Acts how he determined to leave the Jews and spend the remainder of his life with the Gentiles. We observe him as he determined that he was going on the first, second, and then his final missionary journey. We see that he had a clear strategy for winning the lost and discipling the saved. He made the most of his short life by determining to frequent the large cities and avoiding the countrysides. He also made determinations about how long to stay at each location and who to entrust with the leadership responsibilities.
Decisions, decisions, decisions! And it was all characterized by intentionality. Paul was not meandering like Abraham. He wasn’t sitting around, frantically praying: “God, please show me Your will. What do you want me to do?”
Instead, he knew what God’s will was. It was to save the lost and then to help the save grow in their walk with the Lord. So, as he submitted himself to God’s sovereign will over his life, he created plans (short-term and long-term) and strategies. He was focused and passionate. Rather than meandering, his life was filled with purpose.
Far too many Christians are following Abraham’s pattern and are simply meandering through life … and it’s not because God told them to do this. It’s simply because they are not compelled to be intentional about how they live the one life God has given to them. As I look back at my 17-year-old self, I would say that this was absolutely true of me.
So, how can we live intentionally? What help is there to enable us to paint a target for our life and aim at it while submitting to God’s sovereign will?
I would humbly suggest that “Living Forward” is the most concise and helpful resource I have come across. It can help you to determine how God has gifted you, what your interests are, what is of value to you, who your most significant relationships are, and so much more. Then, by the time you get to the end of the book, if you do what it says, you will have created a 10-15 page Life Plan with strategies to achieve the goals you set in the major areas of your life.
At my high school graduation in 1988, the school choir sang a song that Diana Ross had made popular. The first few lines went like this:
Do you know
Where you’re going to?
Do you like the things
That life is showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know?
Well, do you? Do you know where you’re going to?
Friend, you can’t hit a target that you don’t have. Allow the authors of “Living Forward” to help you create your own life plan. Of course, there is always the big “IF” as we submit to God’s plan. We realize that He reserves the right to change our plans anytime He chooses.
James 4:13-15 (ESV) “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'”
And, again, I believe that if you get this book, read it, and do what it calls you to do, you’ll thank me.
I certainly believe that my 17-year-old self would thank me.