12 Principles for Personal Progress
12 Principles for Personal Progress
A purpose driven life is one that is centered on God’s wise and loving principles.
As we begin a new year we all want to get off to a good start. Good intentions and New Year’s resolutions, though admirable, are not enough. We all need God’s wisdom and empowerment. His wisdom comes from His Word and His power comes from His Spirit. What wisdom do we need from God as we enter 2017? Consider the following twelve biblical principles of personal progress:
A paradigm is the mental perspective or frame of reference we use to interpret reality. A synonym for paradigm is worldview which is both descriptive (how things are) and proscriptive (how things should be). God is the supreme realist and we are realistic only insofar as we see things from His point of view. The Bible is the blueprint of reality—it helps us, in some limited measure, to see as God sees. Our paradigm determines how we answer the four basic questions of human existence:
- Where did I come from?
- Who am I?
- What am I here for? And…
- Where I am going?
Our mental paradigms affect, not only the way we think, but also the way in which we feel (attitude) and behave (actions). The most important component of our worldview is our understanding of the nature and character of God. Our understanding of God depends on whether we allow God to define himself—in the Bible or whether we try and remake Him in our image—as a figment of our imagination.
A proactive person is one who is willing and able to take initiative and assume personal responsibility; he would rather act than be acted upon. Proactivity is the key to being a victor rather than a victim. The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. Proactive people don’t play the blame game because they take personal responsibility. This is a key characteristic for leaders. They are willing to take initiative as they move toward a vision of a better tomorrow. It has been said that there are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who don’t know what’s happening. A proactive person makes things happen.
People who make meaningful progress are those who have discovered God’s purpose for their lives, that is, they live purpose-driven lives. They invest their lives in time for eternity. Purpose-driven people realize that their lives were made by God and for God, therefore, they are committed to knowing, loving and doing His will. Knowing God’s purpose will help to reduce stress, focus energy, clarify decision making, add meaning to life and most importantly, help prepare us for eternity. A purpose-driven person has a blueprint for living—the Holy Scripture, which contains distilled wisdom on the essence of what life is all about. “Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Someone once said, “Methods are many, principles are few, methods often change, principles never do.” Successful people are those who base their lives on the wise and loving principles of God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).
God said, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Josh. 1: 8).
Those who live by biblical principles base their life on a character ethic as the foundation of success—such principles as integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the golden rule. The character ethic teaches that there are certain principles of effective living and people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn to integrate them into their daily living.
Those who live by biblical principles have adopted a character-based definition of success. Success is when those who know you the best, love, trust and respect you the most. It is only possible to measure up to this definition of success by living a life of the highest moral integrity.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. If you don’t have a target, you will hit it every time. Successful people not only have a worthy life purpose with an end in view but they also have a plan or an effective strategy to get them where they want to go. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Most people don’t plan to fail but many people fail to plan. A successful person realizes that a few minutes in planning can save hours in execution.
Successful people learn to think strategically. They identify and focus on what is most important. They have learned not only proper values but also proper priorities. The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least. Such people are not controlled by the tyranny of the urgent but by what is important but not urgent. In short, they are committed to doing God’s will God’s way for God’s glory. Nothing significant is achieved without a workable plan. God says that if we lack wisdom, we should ask Him and He will give it to us (Jas. 1:5).
This involves the idea that we can and should grow and develop our God-given abilities. We are all capable of being and doing more. Our greatest limitation is our unwillingness to try and do more. We don’t lack potential; we lack ambition, motivation and commitment. According to the Gospel, we were created for greatness; we are destined to become like Jesus (1 Jn. 3:2). If we make an effort to live up to our potential, there’s no telling what God can do in and through us (Phil. 4: 13). One thing is for sure, without Him we can do nothing of any eternal consequence (Jn. 15:5). Developing our potential involves character and relational development as
well as developing our know-ledge, natural talents and spiritual gifts. What are you doing to develop your God-given potential?
We become passionate about those things that are important to us and the things to which we are committed and involved. A God-given vision evokes passion; there is no such thing as a passionless vision. A clear, focused vision of what God wants us to do and be allows us to experience ahead of time the emotions associated with our anticipated future. Vision is always accompanied by strong emotion and the clearer the vision, the stronger the emotion. Passion, in turn, helps provide motivation. The writer of Hebrews said that, “for the joy that went before Him, he endured the cross, despised the shame and is seated at the right hand of God.” Christ’s passionate vision and purpose enabled him to endure the wrath of God on our behalf. What are you passionate about? Are you passionate about knowing, loving and serving God?
Before Jesus ascended into heaven He promised His disciples power (Acts 1:8). Paul said God has not given us “a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). God not only gives us the knowledge and the desire to please Him; He also gives us the power to do it. Paul says that God is at work in his people to will and do His good will. This power is experienced when we let God’s Word dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16), and when we submit ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). God’s Word in conjunction with God’s Spirit is the key to experiencing God’s power in our lives (2 Tim. 1:7). God’s power is given to us for the purpose of accomplishing His purpose. We cannot do God’s will, God’s way in our own strength, but we can with His strength (Phil. 4:13).
Part of the good news of the Gospel is that God gives us the grace to “keep on keeping on.” He who began a good work in us will continue to perform it until Christ returns (Phil. 1:6). Very often we become too easily discouraged. A setback only turns into a failure if we allow ourselves to become discouraged and give up. Here is a wise resolve: “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.” Anyone can start well but an important measure of our character is how well we finish.
Consider this “Code of Persistence”:
- Never give up as long as you are right.
- Believe that all things will work for your good if you love and obey God.
- Be courteous and undismayed even when the odds are against you.
- Don’t permit anyone to deter you from your God-given goals.
- Fight to overcome handicaps, hurdles, barriers and setbacks.
- Try again and again until you accomplish your God-given goals.
- Realize that other successful people had to fight defeat and adversity. Also…
- Never surrender to discouragement or despair no matter what the obstacles.
We must never underestimate the potential and power of God-directed prayer. Prayer brings about more things than this world can imagine. Fervent heartfelt prayer can move the hand of God. In prayer we learn to share our whole lives with God and relate everything to Him. Prayer is not so much trying to convince God to do our will but rather seeking His will and then asking that we could be part of the answer to our prayers. Prayer is important but it is never a substitute for obedience.
Just as it is important to have a balanced diet of food, so it is important to have a balanced prayer life. Instead of just selfishly asking God for things, we should praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He does. We should express adoration in song, confess our sins and not forget to thank God for answered prayer. We should pray for others as well as ourselves.
For better or worse, we are all creatures of habit. We establish either healthy or unhealthy patterns of living and relating. To establish a habit we need to align our knowledge, skill and desire in the same direction. Knowledge tells us what to do. Skill tells us how to do it and desire gives us the motivation to want to do it. In order to establish good habits we initially need to be able to subordinate fluctuating feelings to God’s wise and loving principles. We must be willing to subordinate what we want now for what we want later. This process of developing healthy habits produces long term success and happiness. Happiness can be defined in part as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want in the future. In order to establish good habits, we need to see the long-term consequences of our thoughts, attitudes and actions. The pattern for our lives is found in the person and example of Jesus Christ.
God can do anything, but what can we realistically expect Him to do? We can expect Him to always keep His Word. Specifically, we can expect God to keep His promises. Peter says in 2 Peter 1:4, God “has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
There is a familiar Christian song called, “Standing on the Promises.” In the 2nd stanza we read these words: “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God…” The promises of God have always been the bedrock of the Christian faith. As we trust and obey God’s promises we become more conformed to Jesus Christ. What could be more important, exciting or successful than becoming more conformed to the character and conduct of Christ? (Rom. 8:28-9)