Graduating seniors and newlyweds receive well-meaning, often good, sometimes wrong life advice. Older people want to help others enjoy the blessings of life and avoid unnecessary difficulty. Even at Godly Youth I share guidance from the Bible, my life, and the lives of others to help others develop a closer relationship with God and live godly on this earth. There are many important principles to follow but I want to share three lessons that every person must learn.
Law of the Harvest
The first life principle we must recognize is what Steven Covey called the “Law of the Harvest.” The Law of the Harvest recognizes that actions have inescapable consequences. Much of life’s pleasure and pain is a direct result of our choices. God will judge us based on the things we have done, Romans 2:1-11. Consider Paul’s message to the Galatians:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)
Positive choices lead to positive consequences. Poor choices lead to negative consequences. You cannot kill someone as a drunk driver if you don’t get drunk. If your relationships are in turmoil and there is negative drama in your life consider your actions. Do you lose your temper? Do you gossip or lie? Are you doing immoral things with your friends? Are you enjoying good health and happiness because you have chosen to do things that do not harm your body or trouble your heart? Have you chosen friends who help you be more like Jesus or take you away from God?
We cannot control everything that affects the quality of our life but we can decide how we respond. Hardship can harden us or strengthen us; it’s our choice. We can dwell on the negative things cruel people say or focus on the positive things said by those who love us.
So the first life lesson is remember the Law of the Harvest and make good choices about who you are with, what you do, and how you react to the events of life. Make good choices at church, school, and work in order to grow and succeed spiritually, educationally, and professionally. Make good choices in dating relationships and marriage to strengthen your relationship. Always remember that some decisions seem small and insignificant but could have a profound change in the outcome of your life.
Mind Over Matter
The second principle is about self-control and self-direction. Some are slaves to their bodies and fleshly desires. They indulge their desires and rarely say “no” to the flesh. In order to succeed in life and grow spiritually we must control our desires.
In order to be physically fit and generate energy we must eat wisely and exercise frequently. I have to resist the urge to skip my workout in favor of sleep, an unhealthy meal, or any other activity. While exercising I often must ignore my physical desire to quit during a session and continue biking, running on the treadmill, or lifting weights while being aware of signals that I need to quit for my safety or to stay hydrated. At the restaurant, I need to order wisely and avoid junk food. The Law of the Harvest tells me that poor choices in the gym or at the restaurant will lead to poor results, Mind Over Matter reminds me that my spirit can control my flesh and my mind can overrule the body.
Dogs are great animals but God did not give them higher reasoning. When you bring home a puppy, it is a bundle of uncontrolled desires: eat, drink, sleep, poop, and play. None of these desires are wrong but they are not always properly exercised. For example, it is good for the dog to eat and drink from his bowls but not from the garbage can and toilet bowl. After eating he will need to poop and we want him to do it outside, not on the carpet. We want the dog to sleep in a proper place and not to play by chewing our shoes. Since we cannot reason with the dog, what do we do? We train them.
By training the dog we teach it to overcome its desire to dig into the trash, drink from the toilet, soil the carpet, eat the shoes, and sleep on the pillow. We punish bad behavior by yelling “no” and making a loud noise or squirting it with water. We also reward good behavior with praise and treats. In fact, we can teach it to do tricks and perform acts, like playing fetch, through rewards.
In a similar way, we can bring our flesh under the control of the spirit. Romans 7:13-25 describes a war within our bodies between the spirit and the flesh. The flesh, like the dog, is incapable of following God. It is a collection of desires that are not wrong but can be used in a wrong way: hunger, thirst, sex, sleep, seek pleasure and avoid pain, and stay alive. Sex is not wrong in marriage but God condemns it outside of the marriage relationship. Thirst is not wrong but drunkenness is. Sleep is not wrong but laziness is sinful. It is not wrong to preserve our life but if we have to renounce Christ to save our life we will be lost eternally, Matthew 10:33. Christians must bring their body under the control of their mind, and the mind under the will of God.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14 (NKJV)
The final life lesson is that when we start worthy goals and efforts we must finish them. I am hesitant to say “finish what you started” because we sometimes start things that are a waste of time that could be put to a better use. There is no sense stubbornly finishing something just because you started it if there is a better way to use your time. Of course, this means we need to be wise about what we start so we can use our time effectively.
Assuming you have begun a worthy task, finish it. Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.” Many people can talk a good game and babble about what they are going to do but the dream becomes reality through effort (activity). We can excited starting a new project or planning a new effort but when difficulties come we are challenged to stay focused and keep working until we reach the goal.
This principle will help us to be successful in life. Finishing school or work projects well require dedication and hard work. Success in sports requires us to work hard in practice when no one is cheering and finishing strong even if we are losing. I saw a tweet recently that said, “Commitment is staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” We can only enjoy the sense of accomplishment when we have crossed the finished line.
Spiritually, we need to finish well. 2 Peter 2:18-22 warns us not to be entangled in sin after leaving a life of sin lest we be disgusting in his sight. Hebrews 6:1-8 warns that we can leave God and develop a hard heart that will not want to return to God, crucifying Jesus again in our lives. Colossians 1:21-23 promises reconciliation is we remain steadfast and unmoved from our commitment to God and His will. We need to maintain our commitment to Christ until death even if we must do so in the face of persecution. We must not give up when we are tired but keep going knowing that our work is not a waste of time, Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58. Consider the warning and exhortation of the Hebrew writer:
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10:35-39
In order to have a successful and satisfying life on earth, usefulness in God’s kingdom, and an eternal home with God remember to make good choices for a good harvest, control your flesh with the spirit, and pursue good efforts and goals until they are completed.