Living in the Present

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In my last article, we explored ideas related to how we should view the past. How we ought not to live in the past to the point of overly fixating on it. Instead we should take those lessons in consideration of future situations. This helps us to maximize the possibility that we don’t repeat the same mistakes. The way we do this is not spending too much time on it, but instead to make it quality time. As we look back in our life’s “rear view” mirror we need to analyze what’s important. Don’t dwell on ways you made mistakes or fell short, that’s already gone. We introspect and analyze as objectively as possible how one thing worked and other areas where we messed up. We can use this information to connect the dots. We can pray consistently that God would help us make use of the lessons the past has taught us and the preparation it has brought us. This can be preparation for the present or the future. This was a brief review of the last article and I thought was a worthwhile thought to ponder. The past, present, and future are all highly interconnected. I am confident when we understand one aspect of time better, it serves to understand the other two better too.

I think that one of the best ways to live in the present effectively is to look beyond ourselves and to look at the needs of others before our own. If we make a consistent lifestyle habit of looking for the best in others, we tend to have less problems of our own. If we have our own problems they are less often perceived on a very detailed level and given less attention to. To some extent we surely need to tend to self-care, love yourself when you need to so that you can love others better. I am not advocating that we abandon ourselves for the good of others at all times. What I am trying to say is that outside of medical conditions and real problems, much of our problems stem from our imaginations getting out of line. We sensationalize smaller, trivial issues or we worry about what might happen tomorrow. If we look on the outside of ourselves and we see how to fix the problems of others, instead of being a problem or having a problem of our own, we solve a problem. We have adapted the mindset of a problem solver rather than someone who constantly seeks to identify their own problems. This mindset helps us conquer the more trivial problems and focus on the ones that deserve more attention. We also obtain more personal satisfaction from being used for God’s glory as He gives us the strength, abilities, and time needed to be a light for somebody else in need. We need to seize the moments when He presents us opportunities that we can step in and make a significant difference in some bodies life. We can often do so without major adjustments in our own life and it could bless someone in a significant way.

We’re not usually talking a huge expression of caring or burdensome act of sacrifice here to make a difference, but even the small actions can have gigantic blessings for those on the receiving end. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

– Take the time to notice someone’s diligent attention to detail when you take your car to the mechanic and they’ve done a good job. Consider rewarding them with an extra $5 tip.

– Giving two cars rather than one the right to turn upon your line in a time of traffic when you can see they’re in a hurry and would like to advance faster.

– Voicing your appreciation for a staff member that resolved an extra charge that was misapplied to your credit card. Instead of taking it out on them, since they have nothing to do with the mistake, bless them for being part of the resolution.

– Being patient with a friend who gave you a piece of advice that you felt was rash, but you know was well intended and trying not to blow it out of proportions though you feel offended.

These kinds of opportunities go on and on, and they come up on a daily basis. We need to grow into seizing them more consistently, sharing the fruits of the Spirit while we are led by the Holy Spirit, and make a positive impact on the world. When you show up in a building, a place, a venue, anywhere, you’re a light. You’re an ambassador for Jesus Christ as a believer. (V*1). Do you show up and bless others intentionally, stepping up to your calling? Don’t mix in so well with the world that nobody can see a difference in you. Remember we are to be in the world, but not of the world.

Another way to maximize present life, apart from not getting too far caught up in the past, is not to look too far ahead into the future. It can be intimidating to try to figure out all the angles. We serve the King of Kings, we need to live each day one day at a time. Take one step in front of the other and do what you can with the gifts, talents, and time that God gave you. Don’t put extra burdens on yourself in your mind. Don’t try to rush God’s will and timing in any area. Accept that you may or may not get married. Accept that you may live only one more day or that you will live another hundred or more years. Accept that it’s okay not to have all the answers because we serve the One who has them all. He is omniscient (all-knowing). Continue to draw nearer to Him as He draws nearer to you. In this way we submit to God as we are ultimately satisfied in Jesus Christ, without requiring Him to do things for us like if He was a genie. We may feel as though we’re missing something, but if we have Jesus Christ we are missing nothing. (V*2). He is exceedingly and abundantly all we need. We may sometimes think we need other things in life, toys, or distractions to make us feel happy. These are all shallow options and only serve to detract from our mission usually. Keep our cross-hairs on the way, the truth, and the life – Jesus Christ (V*3).

If we dwell on our own problems, shortcomings, or burdens we’re not being faithful that God resolves everything. We need to know that He never lets us down in the long run. We may suffer on occasion for a little while through trials and difficulties in this life, but that doesn’t mean He has let us down. We may be being tested to expand our faith, we may be getting preparation for the future in ways that we cannot even fathom yet, or God’s will being executed in a way that we haven’t been given the privilege of understanding. Either way we need to submit to His will and understand that there isn’t a secondary option. When we release these things to God, whether they be good, bad, or ugly we’re letting Him take charge of all of it. So we’re tapping into His power to deliver us from evil, addiction, peril, difficulty, and ultimately relying on Him for all our provisions. Don’t bother giving God a little bit and keeping a lot to your own authority. Give it all to Him. He deserves infinitely more, but if we’re to be used by Him and serve Him we need to give up everything or willing to give up everything. We need to turn away from our pet sins, our favorite hobbies, anything that is necessary for His will. All-in or all out, examine your heart and make sure that we continually assess whether any new hobbies or ideas have become idols. We cannot afford too many distractions, time is scarce. We need a laser focus on what God would want of us, and live in the satisfaction of obeying Him. There is no greater place of fullness. It’s not a guarantee of riches, fame, or fortune. In fact it’s probably likely to be a tougher life once you’ve become fully committed to the work of the Lord. It’s simply work that is worth doing, and the hard road that we choose to travel has eternal value rather than temporal value. What does it profit us to attain the world now and lose our souls? The easy answer is nothing. Store up Heavenly treasures where they count and follow God’s lead wherever He leads you. When God says jump, our response should be: “How high my Lord? I love you.”

One effective way of living the present is to build your legacy one day at a time. What I mean by this is that we need to do small things sometimes before we do larger things. Often times God will trust us with larger responsibilities later when He sees we are faithful in smaller matters. Additionally we shouldn’t ever view ourselves as too big for a small matter. If we can delight God in being attentive to detail, that’s a blessing and one that shouldn’t be ignored. Don’t look to others for your guidance, look above and wait for God’s commands. I’ll give you a brief example, without trying to pat myself on the back, but let’s assume that I just used a piece of exercise equipment for around 30 minutes. Furthermore, I got really sweaty and I left a good chunk of that on the machine. I don’t care if 9/10 people who use the machine don’t wipe it off and make an effort to keep it clean, I will try my best to recall to be the one that takes it upon himself to clean it off. It doesn’t matter if nobody is looking, it doesn’t matter if you’re not the cleaning person of the gym or the building, it doesn’t matter that it isn’t your equipment or responsibility. All that matters is that you took it upon yourself to go out of your way for a few brief moments to take care of a machine that you use and possibly extend its’ longevity by keeping it sweat free. A small victory has been won, and it didn’t cost you more than 3-5 minutes. These small victories build up a character, and your character builds your person. Aim to be a person who reflects Christ-like behavior. There are enough people out there who express selfishness, anger, apathy,  and whining in their lives. We need to be the exception to this not the rule.

When we view life as a marathon and not a sprint we make sure that we don’t overwhelm ourselves with any number of tasks on one specific day. We branch our responsibilities out logically and give ourselves plenty of rest in between. When we try to conquer the world in a day, as much as we might want to maximize the present, this view can be lethal to one’s well-being and happiness. We’re not going to be happy when we’re over-exerting in any one area or multiple areas in our lives. We need the balance of work, sleep, leisure, and ensuring that everything that God designed us for is getting attended to. Any violation of the balance we need as individuals, which can of course vary some from one person to another, can truly derail us in our pursuit of serving the Lord, working diligently, and building the rock solid foundation we should all seek. Often times individual days can be tough as well, so we need to prepare to give our bodies the ample nourishment and rest they need to regroup and tackle the next mentally, physically, or emotionally demanding tasks ahead. When God created the world He did it in 6 days, but it deserves mention that He rested on the 7th day. (V*4). I am confident that God being omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnipresent (everywhere) that He could have done it all and not rested. He chose to rest for a mysterious reason that I am not sure of, but what I am sure of is that if the King of Kings rested after doing something it means something. One lesson that we can derive from this is that if God chose to rest, how much more should we rest? It’s clear that Americans and people in general really are highly sleep deprived. We don’t value the blessing of sleep enough and we tend to charge ourselves with caffeine and stimulants like coffee, energy drinks, and the like to make up for it. This is an individual choice, but I don’t personally like to be dependent on anything like it so I don’t really even drink coffee on a regular basis (and I am Cuban!).

If we get a full night’s rest and we get up the next day with a desire to work in something we love, that should be ample stimulation to help us get going. Not trying to say coffee or other energy drinks are always a bad idea, but use your discretion and try not to overdo it. Sometimes we need more than 6-8 hours sleep, listen to your body and give yourself the rest you need. Some of this lack of sleep could stem from the over-saturation of e-mail, technology, and screens we deal with every day. Perhaps we’re just putting too much stress on our workplace endeavors or trying to meet certain goals. Don’t compromise sleep for any of this, as if you keep sleep a significant priority you’ll be more productive when you wake up anyway. It’s a win-win scenario. You remember those people who stayed up all night in college for the exam the next day? They studied their butts off, trying to cram everything in at the last-minute, but they didn’t get any rest. Their ability to recall information in real-time performance was compromised due to their lack of sleep and their late night studies may have ended up being more of a hindrance than a help in many cases. A lot of the time even if you’ve only got a few hours to study, but made sure to get a full night’s sleep before the exam, you would do better. Your short study will have been focused and quality time, while the sleep will allow you to better recall the pivotal information needed to excel in the test. I was often times in the camp of students that did this when I happened to have made the poor decision of procrastinating in a specific course. Typically this approach would serve me much better than trying to abuse my body otherwise. Of course everybody is unique and for some the all night  sessions seemed to work. Just remember that your body isn’t designed for that and eventually a penalty is paid. The penalty might not be a bad grade, but you’re severely exerting your body in a way that it shouldn’t be. I did it for even sillier reasons, for instance playing PC games all night instead of sleeping. Sadly this did not help me, and actually may have been part of the reason I got overwhelmed back in Spring 2006. This is something I have written about in past articles, so I won’t delve into it any further at this time. Just keep in mind that rest is a high priority every day in order to live the present in an efficient manner.

The last thing I wanted to mention in terms of living in the present is that we ought to always follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and pray for God’s help in times of need. There have been many times where I have unfortunately relied on my own abilities or self-control to avoid temptation. This has led me to fall short and sin due to my stubbornness. We need to recognize that our reliance on God doesn’t make us weak. We need to rely on God by design and that is something we have to accept in order to delight Him. It’s not an easy pill to swallow for many people, even some Christians have had difficulty fully wrapping their minds around it. None of us has it mastered perfectly, and we could all use extra grace and help to aim for this always. There’s quite simply no exception, and the sooner you realize this the better off you will be. Just keep in mind that without following the guidance of the Holy Spirit we must be following the carnal mind. What we want is for our hearts to be purified because they are desperately wicked (V*5), and for our minds not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by their renewing. (V*6). Follow God’s Holy Spirit and you will not give the devil a foothold in your life to deter you from your true calling and the areas of priority that deserve your attention. Following the flesh just causes us to stumble, seek our own selfish ambition, or feed our sinful nature rather than starving it. When we starve our sinful nature and obey God it gets weaker and we give more control to the Lord. When we try to satisfy it we are feeding an insatiable appetite that only grows stronger when we add that kind of fuel to the fire. Don’t add fuel to the fire that leads us to dead-end roads and essentially blocks our communication with God. Add fuel to the fire of obedience, of spreading the Word and fullfilling the Great Commission, and being a slave to Jesus Christ. It’s a strong position to take. It’s not supposed to be easy by any measure either, but God makes it a straightforward one if we focus on Him and His Word. God doesn’t give us any indication in His Word that it should be or will be an easy road. We’ve chosen the difficult path, the straight and narrow path that leads to Heaven. It’s well worth fighting for, and I know I will fight to stay on it until the day I die. I confide that God will help me to do so when I struggle and keep me on it when I am succeeding. I pray that God will encourage you to do the same. (V*7).

Biblical References:

V*1- “20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NKJV).

V*2 – “23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord Forever.” Psalm 23 (NKJV).

V*3 – “6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 (NKJV).

V*4 – “2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Genesis 2:2 (NKJV).

V*5- “9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV).

V*6- “2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV).

V*7 – “13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV).

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