By Tim Reese
“We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive”
In life and ministry I have often found myself just surviving when overwhelmed by life’s demands, a need for personal spiritual growth, family responsibilities, ministry needs, and a changing workplace environment.
All too often it seems as if I am just trying to survive-to balance all life’s demands, to keep my head above water. When I heard this song I could not help but think of my own life and wonder why I do not feel like I am thriving. Are we really made to thrive? As I wrestled with this for a few days, God began revealing to me that we are! In 1 Peter 2:16 God says “Live as people who are free…as servants of God”.
Thrive: to grow or develop well.
We need to keep the definition of thrive in mind. It is not a feeling or status in our culture but rather a status with God. When we look at Jesus’ life, we can see that He thrived and did not try to just get by. We cannot say that we have more on our plate than He had. With family turmoil, social turmoil, and the knowledge on the upcoming sacrifice for the world’s sins, He really did have the world on His shoulders.
So how do we thrive? Here are three suggestions.
1. Listen to God and others. For me this is a learned task that I am still learning. A lot of stress in this life can be decreased if we would listen to God and those around us. This helps us work through life situations by not trying to take on problems by ourselves, but by praying and listening for God’s direction. All too often we talk at God and not with Him. We also need to listen to those around us. For example: when my wife has a problem I feel the need to fix it. (Often without listening to her actual needs, I am already ahead of her and assessing the problem that I think she needs “fixed”.) Jesus says in John 18:37 “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” An important part to thriving and not just surviving is to hear what it is that God wants us to say or do in all situations. We also need to be listening to those around us to see what they need and how we need to respond to them. Whether that is with our spouse, kids, co-workers or fellow brothers or sisters in Christ, we must listen.
2. List your priorities. A way to reduce anxiety and to thrive is to prioritize our life. What’s most important? “The Enemy of the best is the good. ” -Jerry Rice. As pastors and leaders within the Church it is easy to become so busy with many “good” things that we become overwhelmed and miss out on God’s best calling for our lives.
Listening to God’s Word shows us what should be our first and second priorities in Matthew 22:37 & 39 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” God says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are not loving ourselves and are neglecting our needs and our family’s needs because we are so busy loving everyone else then that is neglecting what scripture teaches on how we are to lead our lives. When we put those two highest on our list of priorities then we will be in a mindset to follow God’s perfect direction in all other areas of our lives. Thus, being able to grow (thrive) in Him.
3. Live life accordingly. In order to thrive, or to grow and develop well, we must live both in God’s promises and in His perfect will. We see just as God promised Joshua that He would not leave or forsake him, so we can trust that He will also be with us! We are NOT alone and we need to cherish and trust that promise. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whatever we do, do all to the glory of God. In all situations in our lives if we are going to thrive, then our aim must be to glorify our Creator and Savior! Without that we are not going to grow and mature as God desires. He has plans for all of us. The question is: Are we listening for God’s guidance in those plans? Are we making God’s plans a priority? And are we living out those plans?
When we look at the world’s definitions of thriving, (big house, nice car, good paying job) we will always fall short and be discontent with our lives. The world’s definition is a moving target. When John D. Rockefeller was asked the question, “How much money is enough?” his response was, “Just a little bit more. ” This will be our answer as well if we are living by the world’s definition of thrive. As Christians, we will be frustrated with God because in our eyes we aren’t thriving like we think we should. In reality, God reveals how He wants us to thrive in 1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn infants, long for the spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”. God wants us to be with Him! How much more thriving could we need? God created us to be in a thriving relationship with Him. Are you trying to just survive this life on your own or thrive in an intimate relationship with your Savior?
Originally from central Illinois Tim Reese came to Christ at White River Youth Camp after moving to Southwest Missouri. He and his wife have served in youth ministry at Nixa General Baptist Church since 2011.