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2.3. Establishing a Basic Internal Order

“If my hidden world is in order, it is because I am convinced that my ‘inner’ soul life must have dominion over my ‘outer’ busyness.” – Gordon McDonald(11)

The bible speaks very often about our soul and attaches great importance to it:

  • Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (ESV)
  • 1 Pet 2:25: “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (ESV)
  • Psalm 62:1: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (ESV)

Dallas Willard in his book ‘Living from the Heart’ expresses the importance of the state of our soul as follows:

“The soul is like an inner river that animates, nourishes and strengthens other elements of life. When this river is flowing properly, we are vibrant and content with everything we do, because our soul is rooted in God and His kingdom. We live in harmony with God, with reality, with the rest of humanity, and with all of nature. “(12)

 

2.3.1. Renewal of Thinking

Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)

Our thinking shapes our actions. What we think, we will sooner or later also say and do. The inner basic order starts in our thoughts.

Proverbs 23:7a: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. (Amplified Bible)

Learning to manage one’s thoughts is one of the crucial skills of a follower of Jesus. Unfortunately, there are far too many Christians who are not able to bring their world of thoughts under the rule of the Holy Spirit. I often cannot prevent bad and sinful thoughts from coming into my mind, but I can prevent them from taking up space within me. For those who want to delve deeper into this topic, the book ‘Battlefield of Thoughts’ by Joyce Meyer is recommended.(13) Personally, I have gotten into the habit of actively rejecting bad thoughts immediately by speaking them out loud or quietly, depending on the situation:

“I resist these thoughts in Jesus’ name. These thoughts are no part of me and I have nothing to do with them.”

 

2.3.2. The Power of Choice

Important decisions in our life are like forks in the road. Wrong decisions can lead our life into the wrong direction. Good decisions have the potential to give our life a boost and bring us into what is often called purpose or even God’s calling. Precisely because such decisions can have great implications, three things are very important:

  • The ability to listen to God’s voice
  • Have people who are allowed to speak into one’s life
  • Readiness for correction and change

If these three basic conditions are basically in place, then there is no need to be afraid of making important decisions.

But then there are also the many small decisions of life, where it is about saying YES or NO. Often, these are exactly the things which massively influence our daily life. We humans are also very different at this point. There are those people who almost never say YES and thus very often say NO and largely lack a servant attitude. At the other end of the scale are those who can rarely say NO because they are perhaps just far too good-natured or a guilty conscience plagues them every time they say NO. The overwhelming ‘NO-sayers’ miss out on many great opportunities to serve and grow in it, the overwhelming ‘YES-sayers’ are in danger of burning out and not doing what they are actually called by God to do. In the worst case, they always go in circles and never move forward in their lives.

It is precisely at this point, for example, that it becomes apparent how important it is to know who one is, where one’s own gifts, weaknesses and strengths lie and, above all, to what place God has called me. Whether the individual leans toward YES or NO, a servant attitude remains the mark of a follower of Jesus. And: The all-important factor is the speaking of God.

 

2.3.3. The Power of Discipline

Man has a more or less a large ‘Inertia’ that needs to be set in motion. We all know that great things happen in people’s lives only when they live a certain level of discipline. The greatest musical or athletic talent does no good unless there is also training or practice. Also spiritual growth does not happen by itself – it also needs hunger and discipline.

2Ti 1:7: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (ESV)

In other Bible translations the word discipline is used instead of self-control. Very expressive is the English Amplified Bible. There it says: … of power and of love and of calm and well- balanced mind and discipline and self-control. So of a ‘calm mind or calm soul’, of a ‘well-balanced soul’ and ‘self-control’. In the American Standard, ‘discipline’ stands for prudence. In any case, the point is that the Spirit of God makes us people who are not controlled by anything, not even by sloth and laziness, but by him, who becomes visible in the form of self-control, discipline and prudence.

Humanity, after all, always moves in cycles in which certain things are over- or under-emphasized. In the last century, Christianity in the western world has often suffered from a pressure to perform. In that time, discipline was very high on the agenda and grace often fell by the wayside. In a time of individualism and self-fulfillment in which we currently live, there needs to be a renewed focus on issues such as a sense of responsibility, selfless and servant attitude, and discipline. Our hectic world screams so much for our attention that it needs discipline to counter this loud shouting and to seek regular (!) times of silence (with God). Without discipline, no spiritual growth and no deep God relationship. Not out of a mere sense of duty, but out of a desire to know God better and better and to be close to Him.

Without discipline nothing is achieved in all other areas of life. If you want to be successful professionally or in your ministry, it takes discipline. If you want to succeed as a team and expand the kingdom of God in this world, it takes discipline. Discipline is not higher than your relationship with God and people – but actively nurturing any relationship also takes discipline.

 

2.3.4 The Power of Focus

Not only, but especially in the context of church, it can be seen that many people live an extremely bogged down and unfocused life. Among other things, this has to do with the fact that we often tend to do things out of necessity. A says, “We really need someone in children’s ministry, couldn’t you do that, person X suddenly dropped out?”. B responds by saying, “But I already work in area X and area Y, that would be difficult for me.” A then says, “Yes, I can understand that, but couldn’t you do it until we have someone else?”. Now there is nothing at all wrong with a servant attitude. Unfortunately, however, it is very often those with a servant attitude who say yes, even though they are already overburdened and/or the ministry does not correspond to their gifts and abilities. The medium and long term goal for me should always be that people spend most of the time and energy they invest in church with tasks that correspond to their gifts and calling.

 

Important note: Everything starts with service. The ability to lead shows itself in the ability to serve. Therefore, in the beginning it is good when people learn to simply serve where they are needed. But this should not be the case in the long run. While maintaining the servant attitude, the goal is for people to serve in the place and task that God has for them.

 

As a tendency it can be said that in most congregations it would be good if there was more focus. Many churches do too many things half-heartedly and out of an overload, instead of doing less things excellently which are also up to date. Quite often this is also related to people’s external expectations of what a church should look like and what ministries and areas it should offer. Out of these expectations decisions are made and often the question of the right time fades into the background.

A bogged down and unfocused life sooner or later leads to stress and frustration. Also at this point, as so often, it is important to listen to what God’s perspective is. Listening to God can save us from many mistakes and from many frustrations. One of the leaders who greatly impacted me in my early days in church leadership is Richard Clinton (USA). He made a prioritized list with God of what his tasks actually are, based on his assignment from God.

If a request comes to him, then he looks in consultation with God in his list whether and with what priority this kind of task appears there. Accordingly, he decides whether to accept this task or not.

 

11 Gordon McDonald, Order Your Life, 2004 edition, page 17

12 John Ortberg, Guardian of My Soul, ISBN 978-3-95734-062-7

13 Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of Thought, ISBN 978-939627-93-7