Improving your life is your choice. That’s right. It’s up to you to improve yourself. If you are not a better person and a better disciple today than you were last month, you can blame no one but yourself!
What about bad events that are beyond your control? What about evil people who do you harm? To be sure, these are obstacles that you do not choose. But the decisions you make, regardless of the uncontrollable circumstances, will determine if you improve yourself. Take for example, the survivors of a horrific event such as a hurricane. Some of them will choose to rebuild and improve their circumstances. Others will choose to wallow in pity and choose not to improve their circumstances. The disaster was not their choice, and it was a set back in their circumstances. How they responded was their choice. Some chose to improve. Others chose not to improve.
The flip side of choosing to improve in and after disaster is the choosing to improve when circumstances are good for you. Take for example, a teenager living at home with loving parents providing for his needs and advising him how to improve his life. He has every resource available to him to improve his life, but he chooses to not take advantage of them and to not listen to advice that is good for him. His choice is to not improve himself in spite of the favorable circumstances surrounding him.
The point is that improving yourself is your responsibility. It is your choice. Regardless of your starting place in life, regardless of the resources available to you, regardless of the uncontrollable circumstances that affect you; what you do to improve yourself or not is your choice. Making the choice to improve yourself does not mean that you will always make the right decisions, or that your life will be free of obstacles, or that your status in life will be better than those who do not choose to improve their lives. Making the choice to improve yourself means that you choose to improve yourself as you are at the moment. And if there are uncontrollable set backs, it is still your choice to continue improving yourself or not.
Hebrews 11:13 tells us that Abraham and others sought for promises and never found them in their lifetimes on earth. None the less, they were faithful to continue pursuing the promises. The could have chosen to give up trying as so many do, but instead, they chose to continue their pursuit.
In Second Corinthians 11:24-28, Paul recounts how in spite of all his obstacles of evil, he made the choice to do right. Some of the things Paul endured, in his word, included: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” Paul did not use these circumstances as excuses to quit trying to do right. Rather, he made a choice, every time an obstacle presented itself, to continue improving himself. Paul ended up in jail and executed at the end of his life. Some would say that was failure. But just the opposite is true. Paul made the choice to improve himself regardless of the circumstances. He did not quit.
What was Paul’s secret to overcoming discouragement? He tells us in Philippians 4:11 saying, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul did not allow others and circumstances around him to make his choices. He did not allow evil to stop him from making the right choices. He made the choice every step of the way to improve himself no matter how many obstacles or how often he was hindered.
Regardless of the position others chose to put Paul in, Paul continued to choose his pursuit of making the choice to serve the Lord. Paul was content with whatever circumstance he was in. He did not blame God or give up in despair.
By the world’s standards of success, and because of the circumstances chosen for him, Paul was a failure financially, socially, politically, and athletically. How could Paul be content with all of these negative set backs in his life? The answer to this question is the same answer for your own personal contentment and choice to improve yourself. Paul had a greater purpose in life than making money, beautifying his home, eating healthier, or exercising to stay fit. Paul was a servant of God, called to live for God. When in jail, Paul had a jail ministry. When on a boat, Paul had a boat ministry. When on an island, Paul had an island ministry. When confined to his house, he had a house ministry. You see, circumstances and the choices others imposed on him did not dictate to Paul what his choices would be. He would minister to others as a servant of God in any circumstance. And this purpose in his life superseded all circumstances he was subjected to. He was liberated from his circumstances, even while enduring his circumstances, to choose to serve God freely.
How did Paul come to experience contentment? Paul’s contentment began with his experience of salvation. He found God. He found Jesus Christ. He found peace with God. Prior to finding Christ, Paul was a zealous, religious man. He prayed, he studied and taught Scripture, he defended his faith. But Paul did not know God. Like so many today, Paul was religious but lost. Spiritually lost. He had not found the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He knew about God and believed in God, but he did not know God. Matthew 7:22-23 describes a sobering scene of religious people pleading their cases before the throne of God saying, “…Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Paul was in this group. Lost and condemned in his religiosity. Many are lost without being religious. And many of these believe there is a God. And still others are uncertain or deny God’s existence altogether. But they all have one thing in common. They are lost and have no peace with God.
What about you? Do you believe in God? James 2:19 offers this sobering and sarcastic caution saying, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Of course the devils believe in God! They have seen Him and been with Him before they chose to follow Satan. But they are not saved. Are you? Salvation is the most important and true beginning of improvement in your life, and its your choice. Find out more about being saved by clicking on this link.
Already sure that you are saved? Then the next step for improving yourself is to establish the fundamentals for spiritual growth as habits in your life. God has given you three resources by which you are guaranteed to improve your life: 1) the Word of God, 2) the Spirit of God, and 3) the church of God. And establishing the disciplines of the Christian living in your life is how you use these resources. These resources and disciplines are essential not only for new Christians to begin a successful experience of spiritual growth but they are for essential for sustaining the vitality of spiritual growth and improvement in every Christian’s life. Just like eating and breathing are essential for physical growth and improvement, regular use of God’s resources is essential for spiritual growth and improvement. You will discover more about God’s resources, the guarantee of spiritual growth, and the disciplines needed to use these resources by clicking on this link.
Improving yourself requires following God’s plan. After all, how can your plan possibly be better than God’s? Membership and participation in a local, new testament church is God’s plan for your life. I know there are excuses not to join a church, but is there any excuse good enough to disobey God? If you want to do God’s work God’s way, then church membership is important. The great commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Jesus did not build His church to be a museum or the focus of ridicule by His own children. Jesus built His church to continue His work on earth–thus, the great commission. Through Him, the Old Testament transitioned into the New Testament church. Baptism is required for church membership, and so it is a part of the great commission. Want to improve your life? Do God’s work God’s way. More information about the nature of, the purpose of, and the importance of the local church can be found at link.
Salvation, habits, and church participation are foundations for spiritual growth and improving your life in Christ. Salvation is the reason we obey the ‘go’ in the great commission. Habits are reason we obey the ‘teach’ in the great commission. Church participation is the reason we obey the ‘baptism’ in the great commission. And now to complete the great commission we are ‘taught to do’ all the things Christ taught His disciples. Going, teaching, baptizing, and teaching are the four steps of the great commission as listed by Christ. The fourth step is discipleship in action. It involves personal initiative to sustain on-going improvement in your doctrinal knowledge, character as a Christian, and expertise in ministry skills. It involves being involved in the lives of others to lead the lost to Christ, to establish new Christians in good spiritual habits, to help orient and bond new church members as active participants in the great commission, and to guide growing disciples in doctrine, character, and skills. And as you continue in your pursuit of spiritual growth ultimately you fulfill the first and great commandment, which is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And as your experience in ministry increases, your ministry will touch more lives resulting in a multiplying ministry of discipling others and training disciples to train disciples. It may even turn out that God will use you to provide leadership in a ministry. To see a diagram of how ministry can build in your life as you choose to improve your service to God and nurture your love for Him, click on this link.
Everyday is a training day to improve yourself. Choose to improve your life, and make the right decisions to make those improvements. John 15:8-11 is a great passage that tells you God’s plan for your life. He wants you to be a disciple that bears much fruit by continuing in His love. The result is a double blessing. In verse 11, Jesus says that a disciple will experience the pleasure of God and that the disciple will be pleased with himself as well.
Get a copy of my book, Multiply Your Life for Christ for information about being a disciple and discipling others. The book is filled with Scripture, and readers discover what Jesus and the apostles personally taught about the importance of discipleship, how to be a disciple, and how to make disciples. There is no doubt, this book can help you improve your life.
May God bless you in your spiritual pursuit to serve Him.