Living the Extraordinary Life: Nine Principles to Discover Itby Charles Stanley
"If an honest and capable portrait painter depicted you, what would the world see? Integrity, courage, and conviction? Or dishonesty, fear, and doubt?"
Dr. Charles Stanley asks this question as he encourages us to probe the depths of our hearts and to take stock of who we really are. Many people are content to live below their real potential and to settle/p>
"If an honest and capable portrait painter depicted you, what would the world see? Integrity, courage, and conviction? Or dishonesty, fear, and doubt?"
Dr. Charles Stanley asks this question as he encourages us to probe the depths of our hearts and to take stock of who we really are. Many people are content to live below their real potential and to settle for less than God intends?just the status quo. He wants us to live victorious lives.
In Living the Extraordinary Life, Dr. Stanley gives us time-tested truths that God reveals through Scripture?nine simple but effective life principles that can help us live truly triumphant lives. Learn how:
- surrendering your life to God leads to peace, contentment, and joy
- obedience always brings blessing
- only by patience can we know God's will
- we can win out battles if we fight them on our knees
Whether we are longtime Christians struggling with the temptations and stresses of today's world, or new believers reaching out for the first time to Christ to transform our lives, this book can point us to the secrets for living happier, more meaningful lives.
"Becoming the masterpiece God created you to be is a lifelong process in which He is continually shaping you into a unique reflection of His Son," Dr. Stanley says. "It is my prayer that you will embrace each one of these principles fully, and in doing so, discover the extraordinary life God has planned for you."
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Living The Extraordinary LifeNine Principles to Discover It
By Charles F. Stanley
Nelson BooksCopyright © 2007 Charles F. Stanley
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePrinciple 1
Complete Surrender to God Brings Complete Life
I recently heard a story that makes a profound point about surrender. Some time ago a radio station reported news of a stolen VW Bug in California. The police staged an intense search for the vehicle and the man who stole it, even to the point of making announcements on local radio stations to contact him. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unbeknownst to the thief, was laced with poison. The car's owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. You see, the police and the owner of the car were more interested in apprehending the thief in order to save his life than to recover the vehicle. But the thief, not realizing their intentions, fled from the very people who sought to help him.
I don't know if this story is true or not-sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction. But the story illustrates an important truth. So often we run from God in order to escape His punishment. But what we are actually doing is eluding His rescue.
God is omniscient. He knows all about us. He knows what we have done in the past and will do in the future. The wondrous thing about God's love is that it never stops. He loves us the same today as He did yesterday, and His love for us will not change tomorrow. When we feel as though we have failed in life, God comes to us and raises up a banner of hope on our behalf: "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:5).
With this truth in mind, we must ask why so many people end up living less-than-productive lives. The answer lies in our ability to accept and apply a crucial truth to our hearts: it is God's unconditional love that changes us and brings lasting fulfillment. Once we understand and accept that there is no greater love than the love of God, we will be ready to take the first step toward living the extraordinary life.
What goals do you hope to achieve? What dream has God placed within your heart that you long to see become a reality? Despite your fears and insecurities, you can realize these longings. There is a way to live each day fulfilled, satisfied, and blessed.
Too many people are stuck in a rut, unable to pursue a better life. Maybe they are afraid of what they would find if they looked deep within themselves. Perhaps they fear failure. Even worse, they fear success. Particularly in Christian circles, we are taught to shrink from too much success. But false humility never makes a person more spiritual. God created each one of us in the brilliant image of His Son, Jesus Christ, and His power exists within us; we have only to move out of the way and let our Master bring it forth.
ABIDING IN CHRIST
Years ago, I fell victim to the trap of fretting, rushing, and striving. At the center of my life was the belief that to succeed in the Christian life, a person's focus must be set on Jesus Christ. However, I was working overtime to please God. Finally I came to a point of burnout. God used the testimony of Hudson Taylor to minister to me.
This great missionary to China came to a point of spiritual weariness. In a letter to his mother, Taylor wrote,
My own position becomes continually more and more responsible, and my need greater of special grace to fill it, but I have continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious Master. I cannot tell you how I am buffeted sometimes by temptation. I never knew how bad a heart I had. Yet I do know that I love God and love His work, and desire to serve Him only in all things ... Do pray for me. Pray that the Lord will keep me from sin, will sanctify me wholly, will use me more largely in His service.
The verse God used to change Taylor's life was Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
When a person accepts Christ as his Savior, his old sin nature is crucified. But God does not leave him in a crucified state. This is why Jesus Christ came. He died for our sins and now offers us new life that is abundant and fulfilling. When Hudson Taylor exchanged his sinful, earthbound life for the life of Christ, he was set free to experience all the goodness of God.
John 15 became a reality to him and, through my reading his story, to me also: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing" (VV. 4-5).
The person who abides in the Lord lives not for himself but for Jesus Christ. As I meditated on these verses, I discovered that it was not my responsibility to strive for anything. My part was to submit my life to God and allow Him to live His life through me. At my discovery, an enormous weight was lifted and removed from my life. Peace unlike anything I'd ever known filled my life. The energy and strength that ran through the life of Jesus Christ became mine.
In abiding, we discover that God takes our thoughts and conforms them to His will and purpose. He sharpens our talents, purifies our minds, and prepares us for service in His kingdom. Our treasures-the things we hold dear-become offerings of praise and worship to Him. Feelings of resentment and bitterness fade because His love and forgiveness are ours to experience and enjoy. We can rest because God is in control of all things. In essence, He refocuses our spiritual eyesight to see only Him and not the things that make us feel fearful and unsure.
When we go back to the basics of our faith, all we do, say, and believe is a result of our love and trust in Jesus Christ. We can make the most of the opportunities He provides because we know that He has a plan and purpose for our existence (Jer. 29:11).
I often encourage those in our congregation to write a mission statement for their lives, and you should do the same. Ask God to show you how He wants you to live your life. You are never too young or too old to set goals with His mission in mind. Each person who dedicates his or her life to God is given a valuable role to play in His kingdom.
We may not realize the impact of our lives on others. However, God does. He is looking for willing vessels; He will do the rest. Ask Him, "Lord, how do You want me to invest the rest of my life?" It may involve something other than your vocation-a job may or may not represent your life purpose. We are called to be Christ's disciples in every area of life. Peter, Andrew, and John spent three years with the Savior. During that time, Jesus laid a basic foundation for their lives. There was an eternal definition to their lives because they walked and talked with the Savior each day. One of the basics of the Christian life is the act of spending time with Christ. When our lives and hearts are focused on Him, we will discover His purpose.
Often people become entrapped by the question, What does God want me to do? His Word says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Prov. 3:5-6). When you commit your way to God, He will place you in the position He wants you to occupy. It is a matter of simple, basic trust in God.
Never feel guilty for returning to the basics of your faith. Christian leaders have told me that when they find themselves at a point of dryness, they return to the basics of their faith in God. They take extra time to be alone with the Lord and listen for His encouragement. They practice being in His presence, even though they may be in a crowd of people.
A peace and a rest abide deep within the lives of those who let go of selfish desires long enough to experience the reality of God's goodness. Learning to abide instead of striving teaches you to place your trust in Someone who knows much more than you do about life and what is to come. Once you have experienced God's goodness, you will never want to return to a life of striving and self-effort. You will want to know more about your Savior and how your life can more effectively reflect His love and grace to others.
Matthew left everything to follow Jesus. The money box that held the taxes he collected had been his source of financial support for years. When Jesus called to him, he left everything. His time became God's time. It was no longer his own. What is your greatest desire? The Bible says that where your treasure is, your heart is also (Matt. 6:21).
After his discovery of the abiding life, Hudson Taylor wrote to his sister,
The last month or more has been perhaps the happiest of my life; and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful-and yet, all is new! In a word, "Whereas once I was blind, now I see." The sweetest part ... is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me or how. This is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.
Even though Hudson Taylor came to realize this great truth, his life was not free of trouble. Trials will come, but we must remember they are limited by God's omnipotence. When they do hit, He is with us in the midst of the wind and fury, the pain and suffering. There is never a time He leaves us to work things out on our own.
It is possible that you have been a Christian for years, but for some reason you are experiencing unreality with God. Ask the Lord to surface anything in your life that you need to surrender to Him. Your devotion and trust may have drifted. If that is the case, you need to address this first. Pray for God to renew your heart and refresh your spirit as you seek His counsel for your life.
If you have never received Christ as your Savior, you can exchange your old way of living for a new, victorious life. Tell Him that you want His life to be yours, and accept His death on the cross as sufficient payment for your sins. In so doing, you agree with Him that there is nothing you can do in your own strength to save yourself. It is through faith in God's Son that you are saved.
Once you have done this, you are ready to begin with the basics of the Christian faith-becoming a wise steward of your time, thoughts, talents, and treasures. Commit your desires, hopes, and dreams to God, and you will be amazed at the way He works everything together for your good and His glory.
OUR GREATEST PRIVILEGE
Of all the people you have met, which one do you feel most privileged to know? Is it some athlete or accomplished performer? Perhaps it is an admired coworker, precious grandparent, or godly friend. As special as such people might be, our supreme privilege is to know God.
A personal relationship with the sovereign Lord of the universe is an unparalleled opportunity and eternal treasure. Nothing else in human existence-no experience, friendship, or knowledge-can bring you lasting peace, joy, fulfillment, or security. Nor can anything else offer eternal life.
The apostle Paul recognized that even the most highly esteemed achievements pale in comparison to the "surpassing value of knowing Christ" (Phil. 3:8); his consuming desire was to know the God who had transformed his very being. In contrast, many people go through life without ever knowing Him. They reach the end of their days as unbelievers, having failed to discover the purpose for which they were created and missing the blessings God had in store. What a tragedy!
Why do people fail to know their Creator? To begin with, many individuals live in darkness, unaware that there is one true God whom Jesus Christ came to reveal. For some reason, they were never exposed to the preaching of the gospel-a problem more prevalent perhaps in non-Christian societies, but in no way limited to them; it is even common inside the walls of many churches.
Another reason is lack of interest in God. With cell phones, televisions, radios, and computers, we are overwhelmed with information, but no wiser than we were without them. Convinced that access to information equals knowledge, we often replace true wisdom with trivia. Even if diplomas cover your walls, unless you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you are ignorant about the most important thing in life-you cannot know God without knowing Christ (John 14:7).
Knowing God involves a cost, and some people are simply unwilling to pay the price. Too often, once people get saved, they are no longer interested in investing time in Scripture and prayer to know the Father more deeply. But for any relationship to grow, we must spend time communicating, listening, and making an effort to understand more about the other person.
Do you really want to know God? The way to do that is by knowing Christ: receive Him as your Savior, who paid your sin-debt in full. Then accept His invitation to spend time in private conversation-He wants your undivided attention for a little while.
GOD'S PURPOSE IS THAT YOU MANIFEST THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST
Fulfillment is the result of God's presence living within you through His indwelling Holy Spirit. All that you do in life should reflect His goodness and mercy. But how do you reach a point of true fulfillment?
First, you must realize that fulfillment is not a matter of position or power. It is a matter of loving God and allowing Him to love you. All you need in order to be fulfilled is Jesus Christ living within you. You are God's beloved child-an heir to His throne. There is no higher calling than this, and there is no greater position than the place you hold in His family. Truthfully, as a Christian, you have both authority and power. Although at times life may seem to have lost its sense of excitement and you may no longer hopefully anticipate the future, you should not settle for less. You can be fulfilled right now.
Before His death, Jesus assured His disciples that He would never leave them: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18). His promise applies to followers today as much as it did to His companions. Three days after the Crucifixion, He rose from the grave. Today He lives within those who pray a simple prayer like this: "Father, I confess that I need the Savior. I have sinned, and my life is empty and without hope. I know that the Lord Jesus is the hope of all humanity. I pray that You will forgive my sin and give me a fresh opportunity to live my life for You. I long to live life to the fullest, and I realize that this begins as I submit my life to You. I ask You to give me a new life. In Jesus' name I pray."
God designed your life for His glory. Even before you knew Him personally, He knew you intimately: "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope'" (Jer. 29:11). When we surrender ourselves to God, we exchange our thoughts, feelings, and desires for new ones. Faith is the only way we can do this. By faith we believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do exactly what He has promised.
We can still reach our goals, overcome our failures, and enjoy success, but for a different reason. Instead of boasting about what we have achieved in our own capabilities, we can enjoy what God has given abundantly. Our lives become reflections of His life and love rather than a checklist of human accomplishments.
Submit yourself to God. Fulfillment comes only when you decide to love God and give Him all of yourself. This does not mean that you settle for second best or stop doing what you have been trained to do. Instead, you come to a point where you ask God to use you to the fullest so that others will come to know Him and experience His forgiveness and unconditional love. Those who have never discovered the wondrous joy that comes from loving and serving God have yet to experience His eternal fulfillment.
God has a great plan for your life-a life that is exceptional. When you trust and seek only Him, He will teach you how to live above your circumstances. Each one of us has been blessed with a spiritual gift to be used for God's glory and work. Yielding to Him is the first step in the process of discovering that gift and the wondrous purpose for your life.
Excerpted from Living The Extraordinary Life by Charles F. Stanley Copyright © 2007 by Charles F. Stanley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Dr. Charles Stanley is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, where he has served for more than 40 years. He is a New York Times bestselling author who has written more than 60 books, including the bestselling devotional Every Day in His Presence. Dr. Stanley is the founder of In Touch Ministries. The In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley program is transmitted throughout the world on more than 1,200 radio outlets and 130 television stations/networks, and in language projects in more than 50 languages. The award-winning In Touch devotional magazine is printed in four languages with more than 12 million copies each year. Dr. Stanley’s goal is best represented by Acts 20:24: “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about God's mighty kindness and love.” This is because, as he says, “It is the Word of God and the work of God that changes people’s lives.”
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