How to Live Authentically
This final article in this series is substantially more practical than the broad ranging concepts we have covered in the rest of this series. In this article, we are working through some practical concepts for how to live authentically as a servant of God.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.1 PET 3:18-22 (ESV)
When we set out to be part of God’s process of fixing this broken world, we understand clearly that we are the vessel by which God works to bring about His purpose.
We are however, not children, waiting for step by step instructions. We seek to understand the will of God, to actively work His will in the world. No more are we obedient so much as we seek to anticipate His will and do it as His agents. This is how to live authentically as a servant of God.
We are not playing the part of Jesus. We seek to be Jesus to a world that desperately needs his presence.
Before we can do this, we need to understand ourselves. From our self-knowledge comes the confidence to work competently to further the work of God.
The broad ambit of counting the cost before we start, comes from Christ’s words in Luke 14:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.Luk 14:26-33
So how do we build a character inventory for ourselves so that we can live authentically? Many of us really lack even much of an articulated sense of who we are and what we value.
What do we Value
We want to explore this. Let’s start by identifying what it is that we value. To live authentically requires that we understand ourselves first.
Verne Harnish, in “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits”, provides a framework for establishing Corporate Values. He works through identifying the behaviour traits of individuals within the corporation. These are then used as a foundation for creating three to five value statements. (Harnish, 2006)
Let’s adapt this for identifying what it is that we individually value. Understanding these values will help in our quest to live authentically. We aren’t a corporation and we are not particularly interested in emulating people who are not servants of God.
The easiest way to start is to create a list of biblical characters. Then select from them individuals who we resonate with. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but it might give you a start.
Bible Characters as a Foundation
Adam, Methuselah, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Boaz, David, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Moses, Joshua, Aaron, Miriam, Caleb, Samuel, Abigail, Deborah, Gideon, Eli, Hannah, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Solomon, Jonah, Esther, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Josiah, Hezekiah, Mary, James, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, Paul, Barnabas, Judas, Aquilla, Priscilla, Martha, Mary, Magdalene, Mary (Martha’s Sister), Nicodemus, Stephen, Timothy, Titus
This is just a short list to get you started.
Who in this list resonates for you? Make a list of a few names – no more than five or six. Here is a list that can be used to illustrate the next steps.
Abraham, David, Joshua, Jeremiah, John.
Characteristics that Resonate for You
Now make a list of what characteristics these characters hold that mean something to you – this is a brainstorming exercise and the aim is to get as many characteristics down as you can.
The list might look something like this:
Determination, Fallible but still faithful, Poetic, Passionate, Strong faith, Timid but trust in God, Strength in adversity, Persevere, Faithful in the face of opposition, Compassionate, Deep thought, Love, Gentleness, Considered faith (not blind), Loyal and obedient
These are all broad statements of aspirational values. Values are not necessarily things that we hold right now, but we value and want to achieve. Many of us value characteristics because we realise that they are what we lack and want to achieve.
To live authentically doesn’t mean that we just be what we are now. If we did that, we probably wouldn’t get out of bed, we wouldn’t be particularly motivated, let’s face it. To live authentically means that we look deep within and understand what we seek to emulate.
As Christians, we are actively seeking to live faithfully, in harmony with and in the shadow of God. But we each do this individually. We are not clones of one another. There are characteristics that are ours alone.
There are things that our genetics and our environment and upbringing bring us to value over others. Some of us value hard physical labour, others, sustained mental effort. Are either of these wrong? Of course not.
Part of this process of counting the cost, is to understand what our gaps are, where we fall short and what we need to work on. Having a clearly identified statement that incorporates our aspirations allows us to remind ourselves from time to time what we are working on.
So, from the list above (which is a quite short list and therefore not really ideal) we need to identify key areas.
- Determination: Fallible but still faithful, Perseverance, Timid but trust in God, Strength in Adversity, Faithful in the face of opposition, Loyal and obedient
- Thoughtfulness: Strong Faith, Deep Thought, Considered faith (not blind)
- Love: Love, Compassionate, Passionate, Poetic, Gentleness
A Value Statement
This now gives you a foundation to make a statement of each value.
“I am determined in my service to God. I will make mistakes, but I will remain faithful and persevere in my intention to serve God. From time to time I will face adversity and I will feel timid, but regardless, I will trust God and gain strength from my trust. Above all, my first loyalty and obligation is to my God.”
Take a few hours now or where you can spare the time and go through this exercise for yourself. Initially, just get the ideas down on paper. Once you have done this, take a bit of time to refine and develop the thoughts a little more.
This is just the first step.
Applying your Mission in a Broken World
Take some more time and think a lot about how you should manifest Christ in this broken world. What is the brokenness in this world that you think you can apply effort to? Take some time to talk to others openly about what you value and what needs to be done. Talk a lot to your family and loved ones. What do they think needs to be done?
Come back and write it down.
Don’t be put off by those who chuckle at your earnestness. Be earnest! The world needs passionate people to put it right!
John Eldredge again (paraphrased):
“[We need] a much bigger orbit than [our partner]. [We need] a mission, a life purpose, and [we need] to know [our] name. Only then [are we fit for our partner], for only then [do we] have something to invite [them] into.”(Eldredge 2010)
“don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are [people] who have come alive.”(Eldredge 2010) quoting Howard Thurman
You are not called to simply wait for the kingdom of God to see everything put to rights. You have the will of God dwelling in your heart, so get on with the task of fulfilling the purpose of God.
Albert Einstein once said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” The spirit that God’s love engenders in you is a spirit that is great beyond your imagination. We have within us the power to shake the world, to turn it around and to save a multitude.
How are you going to Shake the World?
So, consider how you are going to shake the foundations of the world, to create a world that extends from now into the Kingdom of God?
What is your great goal? Is it to work on homelessness? Then go do it. Is it to alleviate poverty or hunger? Then get out of your office or off of your couch and go do it!
Before you do so, don’t forget to write it out so you don’t get distracted.
Taking the values described above and with a goal to alleviate homelessness, your goal might be:
“My great purpose as a servant of God is to ensure that people have a home to live in. On the streets, life is full of adversity which makes it difficult for people to think about anything more than feeding themselves and finding somewhere to sleep. I want to help people to feed themselves and sleep safe at night so that they can then take the time to know God. This is a very difficult task because it has many difficulties to overcome, however I know that God is with me. Because I am willing to passionately spend myself in this great task, with compassion and love, I hope to plant a seed of hope within those I help that there is a God who loves them and wants to help them and that I am merely a vessel for the love of God.”
Dream very big my friends and live authentically in the shadow of God because He who is with us is able to conquer the world and bring it in peace and harmony to Him.