Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.
“… For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
It’s a very simple truth – our lives are short. Human existence is but a breath, a moment. The wisest man in history pointed out that our days are numbered and that we should never forget this uncomfortable truth (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
Perhaps we should pray along with King David,
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.”
It appears there is something in the human spirit that draws us to seek meaning, destiny, and purpose with the time we have being given on this earth. Don’t we all want to be remembered for the right things? Don’t we want our lives to matter and leave a God-honoring legacy? What our lives are remembered for is, in effect, our “story.”
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be present at your own funeral, to hear what your friends and family say about you? The pastor, miscellaneous friends and relatives all say nice, publicly acceptable things about you. But then, your children begin to reminisce about you. Whatever they say, whatever they remember of your life and your effect on people is your actual legacy. At that point, many people would listen and reflect somberly on their lives, and may realize they’ve wasted their years.
If you see yourself in that place, be encouraged! You are still here, alive and breathing. And if you are still alive, your life story has not been fully written yet. You have that precious gift of time still on your side to create a life that is celebrated by friends and family.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/ra2studio
Even though we are living in extremely dark times, keep in mind that darkness is the most advantageous condition for light to shine brightly. So, to borrow an age-old axiom, these may be the worst of times, but for the Church, they’re the best of times!
Many people struggle with the effects of their past mistakes, such as saying words in haste or anger that damage relationships, or making life-altering decisions which ended in failure or disappointment. Then there are those regretful promises we made that became impossible to keep. And many people who have experienced such things from their own actions simply can’t get past their past, forgive themselves and move on.
Clearly, in this context “forgive yourself” doesn’t mean “absolve yourself of sin.” Only Christ can do that, if we accept the forgiveness that Christ purchased for us on Calvary. And thankfully, we know that in Christ, we receive His forgiveness through repentance, to enable us to transform, and grow more spiritually mature. It’s somewhat surprising then, given we have such a wonderful Savior, that so many have a difficult time forgiving themselves.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/tommaso79
It’s ultimately worse for our relationship with God if we were to just sweep things like confusion, pain, and worry under our “emotional rug;” adopting clichéd, religious blanket answers is not healthy, productive, or satisfying. He wants us to hear Him and be led by Him.
“But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
Are you a generous person?
Here’s a quick “self-check.” Can you honestly say…
- I routinely volunteer to help other people in need.
- I make financial contributions to many charities.
- I buy cards, gifts and mementoes for friends and loved ones.
- I spend quality time with my family.
- I give more energy than required, at home and on the job.
But perhaps, most importantly, would other people say that you are generous?
True, Jesus said we should not be generous because we want to look good in front of other people.
“Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
Ill-motivated generosity actually gets us nowhere. But many people don’t realize that the Fruit of the Holy Spirit includes maturing in generosity! “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5: 22-23).
“Goodness” here comes from the Greek agathosune, which describes the state of being good, kind, virtuous, benevolent, generous, and God-like in life and conduct.
As Christians, we are the beneficiaries of God's manifest goodness and every spiritual blessing through our restored relationship in Christ. That fact alone should encourage us to live our lives in such a way that we are known to be followers of Christ by our radical, irrational and intentional generosity toward others!
But like all spiritual fruit, we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process of our maturity to cultivate and grow in this grace of generosity. When we do, we will receive Heaven’s benefits!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Daisy
“And [Elijah] prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’ … So, he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life’” (1 Kings 19:4, 10).
We all need hope to live, otherwise, we will just give up.
Some time ago researchers at Duke University decided that they would put the phrase “where there is life, there’s hope,” to the test, to see if it’s really true. They set laboratory rats in water, in a situation where there was no ability, no hope whatsoever, of escaping. The scientists wanted to know how long the rats would continue to swim when there was no ability to survive. What they observed was that the rats, in that dismal environment, would swim about for a little while seeking to escape. When it appeared that the rats lost hope of finding a way out, they’d just duck their heads under the water and drown themselves. Then when the scientists put rats in a situation where it would be difficult to escape, but possible, the rats would continue to swim for hours until their hearts failed from exertion.
What the scientists decided is that they had actually proven the opposite of “Where there is life, there’s hope.” They had proven “Where there is hope, there’s life.” That is, you and I need hope in order to live.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
Whether you choose to react to events with hope or hopelessness makes all the difference in how you experience life. Is there such a thing as a genetic predisposition to being an optimist or a pessimist? There do seem to be several examples of Biblical heroes who were natural pessimists: Elijah, Moses, even Peter! But even if this is true, the good news is Christ can help us defeat pessimism, and replace it with biblical optimism.
Photo credit: Pexels/Rafael Barros
We live in a time when the politically correct thing to believe and to say is that all religious roads are valid, as long as a person is sincere in holding that belief. That is, it doesn’t matter how a person seeks to worship God, or how one seeks to become spiritually mature or enlightened, or whether it is even necessary to hold any belief at all – because God/Source/the Universe loves every one of us! But Jesus, shockingly, says just the opposite.
But one of the most difficult things for unbelievers to grapple with is the account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ found in the Gospels. Claiming a man came back to life after a torturous death and three days in a grave is enough for many to simply walk away without hearing anything more. However, the fact of the resurrection is a cornerstone of our faith.
If we step back and look critically at Joseph's entire life, the time he spent in the pit seems a rather small inconvenience compared to fantastic experience of living in the palace of Egypt. The pit was simply not the end of Joseph's story. Oftentimes we can get bogged down in the moment and forget that our story is not finished.
Our “prayer closet” of Matthew 6:6 will be a place where we experience change; it's where we go to remove the soiled rags of this life and be clothed in His righteous image and His spiritual armor. We exchange clothes of fear for the shield of faith, the clothes of confusion for the helmet of salvation, and the clothes of hurt and shame for the breastplate of righteousness.