October 5, 2011
Seven Habits of Truly Effective Living
by Alex Crain, Editor, Christianity.com
"They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green."
The phrase, "begin with the end in mind" may sound familiar if you've read the popular life management book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But even if you aren't familiar with the phrase (or the book), you get the general idea. Simply stated, before you begin a task or project, it's a good idea to ask the question "How do I want this to turn out?" This question helps sharpen your focus and should produce effective action. What is missing from the book, however, is the God-sized perspective that we see in Psalm 92.
If your only source of vision and motivation is the self, frustration will actually result; even though you may lead a life of effective action and reach your goals.
People typically envision the ideal life as one that's surrounded by beauty, valuable things, and great people. We want plenty of leisure time and the health to enjoy these things. But without God, such a life is depicted in Scripture as empty and deceptive. It is a self-absorbed dream that springs from a heart tainted by sin. If we are to be truly effective at living, we must humbly begin with God's end foremost in our minds.
In Psalm 92, the ideal end that God depicts for our life is that of being a righteous person who is filled with spiritual vitality. As Psalm 92:14 says, "full of sap and very green." Even at the end of life when the temptation to grumble and express radical selfishness is often the strongest, we are to be full of spiritual health. Instead of complaining, his lips are filled with praise—declaring that there is no unrighteousness in God, his Rock (v. 15).
The roots for such vigor of soul are woven throughout the preceding verses where we see seven habits of truly effective living unfolded. They are:
#1 Seeing thankfulness and praise to God as desirable, not as duty (v. 1).
#2 Focusing on God's lovingkindness in the morning and His faithfulness at night
(v. 2). For the righteous man, each day begins and ends with God, implying that God is central in his thoughts throughout the entire day. Literally, lovingkindness refers to God's covenant loyal love, which features His promise of salvation. The righteous person is not self-righteous, or just externally moral. Rather, he looks to God's promises and unchanging character as the basis for his right standing before his Creator-Judge.
Twentieth-century author, Francis Schaeffer, speaks of this in chapter eight of his book True Spirituality: "It is not honoring to the finished work of Christ to worry about [forgiven sins] as far as our relationship to God is concerned. Indeed, to worry about them is to do despite to the infinite value of the death of the Son of God. My fellowship with God is restored upon the basis of the value of the blood of Jesus Christ."
#3 Enjoying resounding music and singing for joy at God's great works (vv. 1, 3-4).
#4 Pondering the deep thoughts of God (v. 5)—that is, not being characterized by a shallow, pragmatic view of God that sees Him merely as a means to get other things.
#5 Praising the transcendence of God—declaring that God is the "Most High" who is above all His creatures. The righteous one realizes that man is in no way equal to God. Thus, he can never legitimately view God with suspicion or call Him into judgment (v. 8).
#6 Resting securely in the fact that, in the end, God will have the final say on all matters. He will deal justice to the enemies of righteousness (vv. 9-11).
#7 Depending continuously upon God for strength—for "fresh oil" (v. 10), knowing that yesterday's supply never carries over to today.
Perhaps you know an older believer who embodies these seven habits. My own 'eighty-something' grandmother, "Meme," is one such saint. At the time of this writing, she was in a hospital bed, and having serious health problems. But during a phone call with her, she talked to me not about her pain but about her delight in truths she read that morning in her well-worn Bible. She asked me about my family, my work, and what I've been reading and learning. She spoke of hymns and songs she had been singing throughout the day. Her prayer at the close of our conversation was full of gratitude and praise to the Lord, evidencing a deep, personal knowledge of and trust in God. While I listened, I thought to myself: This is what Psalm 92 is all about. Here is a person who, by God's grace, has learned to practice the habits of truly effective living.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
Let's ask ourselves honestly: how regularly are these seven habits in Psalm 92 seen and practiced in my daily life? Given the way I am right now, will I spend my latter days of life on this earth in spiritual vitality? If not, what is the source of the problem? Do I not know God? Is there an idol in my life? Re-read habits 1-7 above to reflect again on what the psalmist delighted in.