Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Better than a New Year’s Resolution

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Leslie Basham: Del Fehsenfeld says God wants every single part of your life to be growing.

Del Fehsenfeld: Sometimes when we think about health, particularly as Christians, we define spiritual health maybe a little more narrowly than we should. For example, most of us, if you’ve been around church at all or whatever, you’ve listened to the broadcast, you’ve heard the importance of reading your Bible and praying every day. These are incredibly fundamental rhythms in the spiritual life to grow because there isn’t growth without prayer and the Word. So those are incredible things to do.

But there are also different dimensions of our life that also impact us spiritually. Jesus created us to be body, soul, and spirit. He came and took on flesh, walked in our shoes. So when we look at the life of Christ, we see a picture of what it would look like to live in communion with God in every aspect of our life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 26.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, as we come to the end of 2012, I know that a lot of us are thinking about goals, New Year’s resolutions, call them what you want. But this is a time where we can get a fresh start. We turn the page on to a new month on the calendar, a new year. It’s a time when we’re motivated to think about our lives and where they’re headed, where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how we can, as followers of Christ, grow in our relationship with Him through the year ahead.

I’ve invited a long-time friend to join me in the studio for the next couple of days to talk about this whole issue of personal and spiritual vitality and how we can know that we’re really on a good track for spiritual growth. Del Fehsenfeld III is with us. Del, thank you so much for joining us here on Revive Our Hearts.

Del: Thank you, Nancy. It’s great to be with you.

Nancy: And Del, we’ve been friends for a long, long time. Your father, Del Fehsenfeld, Jr, was the founder of Life Action Ministries—which is the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Your dad has been with the Lord for many years, but you have served on our staff now for many years yourself.

Del serves as the pastoral services director for our staff. He provides spiritual leadership and shepherding for the Life Action and Revive Our Hearts team. He also is our communications director, publishing director. Del, you edit a great quarterly magazine called Revive. I know many of our listeners who have a heart for revival would like to know more about that publication. If you go to our website ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll give you a link there to Revive magazine.

The genesis of this conversation was something that I heard—a chapel session you did for our staff some months ago. I wasn’t there, but people came out of it saying, “Wow! That was really helpful!” Then I went and listened to it and was really helped myself and encouraged. So I asked if you’d come and share with our listeners.

You have for some time now been encouraging all of our staff to just take regular times of reflection, a time-out, a pause on life which gets so fast daily, to kind of self-examine and say, “Where am I in my spiritual journey? Where am I headed, and how can I get there?” I know that as you’ve ministered to people and to our staff over the years, you’ve found that this is a really important exercise, but one that we often neglect.

Del: That’s right. It’s easy to get going in life so fast that you lose sight of the most important things. I think most people are really aware that life is really busy. Our lives are full of a lot of good things that we give our time and energy to. In many ways we’re trying to survive, right?

So the bigger picture of where we’re headed—the trajectory of our lives, how we want to live intentionally and with purpose—can get lost in the middle of a lot of great things. It really is helpful for people from time to time to intentionally schedule a time-out, so to speak, to think a little more broadly about their lives.

I know this is the end of the year where a lot of us are accustomed to maybe setting some New Year’s goals. Some people have all kinds of mixed feelings about that. 

Nancy: Some of us did that a year ago, and we can’t even remember what the goals were.

Del: That’s right. You ask people two to three weeks after . . . 

Nancy: "I fell off the wagon before February."

Del: You feel some guilt about that. But the other side of that is if you never set a marker, if you never set an intentional point of reference, you never get anywhere. So the concepts of having some periodic times where we really stop to think about where we want to head and Jesus’ best intentions for us is really, really important and helpful for people.

Nancy: We’ve also developed a tool that is available on our website that our listeners can print off. It is something that as you’re heading into a new year can be a helpful track to go through this process. It is something that you can keep with you throughout the year and refer to and review periodically.

So this time next year, I really believe that if our listeners would take advantage of this concept, this approach, and use this tool or something like it, a year from now all of us could be looking back and saying, “Wow. There’s been growth in my life. I haven’t arrived, but I’ve made progress in things that really matter in my relationship with Jesus.”

I think it’s helpful to remember that Christ has a vision for our lives that is about more than just surviving—making it to midnight—but really making progress in our faith and in our relationship with Him.

Del: That’s right. That’s really the heart of this exercise, Nancy. Jesus came and He really said some things that are pretty astounding. He said, “I have come to give you life and to give it to the full.” He said, “Out of your inward most being will flow rivers of living water.” So He obviously had something in mind for us that was available, that He thought was present.

Nancy: That is actually more than most of us experience.

Del: That’s right. When we sit back and look at the scope of those words and we take Jesus at His word, we realize that His intentions for us are to thrive not just survive. It’s really something that motivates those of us who know Him to press into that—to figure out what did Jesus have in mind when He made these promises. For the last couple of years here as a staff, we’ve been trying to press into that. The tool you referenced a minute ago, the Personal Vitality Plan, is just one way of pressing into that as an individual, but then also being able to share it with close friends who are also following Jesus with you.

Nancy: The older I get, it’s just been kind of an annual exercise for me over the years and something I do around New Year’s generally, but also at birthdays or spiritual birthdays—these are times of reflecting and saying, “Where am I? Where am I headed? What does God want to do in my life?”

 The older I get, the more I’m interested in this because I'm thinking of running the race well all the way to the end. I want to look back on my life, not just my year, but my life, and say, “It’s been fruitful. It’s been what God intended.” Because I think if we don’t stop and have these intentional moments of seeking the Lord and letting Him speak into our lives in these areas, we end up at the end of a week or a month or a year or a lifetime and realize we just kind of drifted. We weren’t purposeful about the process so the result may be a lot less than what it could have been.

Del: There really is a lot at stake. One danger of a New Year’s resolution is that it’s been reduced to something smaller than what it really could be. Because what’s at stake in our lives when we stop and think about it? It's the things that really give our life meaning—our families, our relationships with our spouses, with our kids, the impact that we’re really having on people in our neighborhoods as we bear the life of Christ in witness. It really relates to our mission.

So there are things here that when we stop and think about it that are worth setting aside some time to think meaningfully about. The Scripture actually talks about this because the Scripture will come to us like, for example, it does when the apostle Peter is telling us that we need to make every effort to add to our faith and then he lists this process of the virtues that need to be progressively becoming true as we make those efforts to see those things added to our life.

Nancy: That’s not something that you just drift into. It doesn’t just happen by sticking your Bible under your pillow and hoping it will.

Del: Yes. Intentionality is something that’s woven all through the teaching of the Scripture. The Scripture comes to us and says it’s God that’s at work in us to do by His power. So we absolutely are dependent upon the Spirit, and yet you have other things in the Scripture that actually say:

  • You’re to fight the good fight of faith. 
  • You’re to set your hearts on things above. 
  • You’re to set your minds in a certain direction. 
  • You’re actually to look at some things in your life and say, “These things won’t stay in because they need to die off in my life. They need to be put off.” 

And then there’s some other things that as we’re setting our hearts and minds that we need to be really focused on pursuing.

So you have this rhythm in the Scripture. You want to think of it as both dependence on the Spirit—opening up to the resources that only Jesus can bring through prayer and these kinds of things—but also on the other hand bringing our full selves, our full efforts to bear on how our lives unfold.

The greatest danger to our spiritual life is not the big and bad things that sometimes we think of as train wrecks. It’s just the daily process of drift. If we’re not really intentional to check drift in our lives in all its forms, then we end up as you were mentioning, just seeing our lives pass us by without getting to the best things.

Nancy: I think the tendency is just inertia there. We tend to organize our lives around things that are short term or not so important because there’s a lot of trivial stuff in everyday life. I mean, you have to get kids to school, and for moms get meals on the table and get to work. I mean, there are just those "have to" things in life that are sanctified by the presence of God and His grace. But it’s so easy, I think, to ignore or just overlook things that if they were more a part of the rhythm would have greater long-term value for us.

Del: I know what you’re talking about there because I have four kids myself. The oldest is thirteen, the youngest is five. A good day in our household a lot of times is just making it through. My wife and I at the end of the day share the exhaustion that parents all over share, and sometimes surviving is a really good day.

But when those days of survival just get strung out one after another, that’s when you’re back into that sense that, “Does Jesus have more for us as individuals? As families? What is that? How do you escape the tyranny of the urgent to really also be making progress towards the bigger picture goals that are close to our hearts?”

Nancy: Which is brings us back to the whole purpose of this series and this tool that we’re encouraging people to consider here at year end. We're encouraging listeners to take some time—and once a year certainly would be a good thing to shoot for—to look at the big picture, to set some goals, to look at life holistically and just evaluate.

I mean, we do this with complete physicals periodically. We say we need somebody to look at the systems. We need to check and make sure there aren’t things we’re overlooking that may not have been . . . You know if you break your arm that’s very obvious. You’re in the emergency room for that. But there can be internal systems that haven’t been measured or checked or that we maybe aren’t even aware of.

Del: You use the example of going to the doctor every year for a physical. We have some things in our lives where we recognize the importance of annual checkups and the intentional kinds of interventions to see things differently than what they are. People do this in their careers, too. A lot of times you’ll have a career vocational plan that you’re working. Or in their financial goals you set some long-term goals for retirement.

But we’re less accustomed to thinking about that process of goal setting and intentionality in areas of our lives that we somehow think should just happen. So when it comes to our families or our core relationships, sometimes even our relationship with God, we think we’re going to grow maybe by osmosis—that things will just somehow be different.

What we’re finding as a spiritual community here is that those things just don’t happen. As much as we wish that were true, you just don’t wake up tomorrow and discover that your problems have evaporated or that you’re somehow just more like Jesus because you’ve lived another day.

That’s what I think the wisdom of the Scripture is telling us. Jesus actually intends for us to be intentional and attentive and focused in the way that we follow Him. In much the same way that an annual visit for a checkup can help us physically, I think that there’s some things that we can do to create a checkup, so to speak, for us holistically, which would include our emotions, our body, and our spirit.

Nancy: We’re going to talk about how to do that over these next couple of days. There’s not one right way, but you’ve developed a tool. It’s available at ReviveOurHearts.com. It’s a pdf. You can print it out. You can modify it—use it in whatever way works best for you.

I want to just say the challenge to our listeners is that you would take some time before you get into the new year, or as the new year is turning, to be intentional—to set aside some time. I’ve actually been doing this over the past couple of days myself. I've been taking some time out of my quiet time. You may be in a position where you can take a half-day retreat or a full-day retreat. This time I’ve been doing it in hour chunks.

Looking intentionally at these different areas of my life has been really eye opening. It has been encouraging and a little discouraging, too, at points to just say, “Oh, there are some things that aren’t going as well here—that I hadn’t thought about recently, and I need to be thinking about.” But it’s also been encouraging to see areas of growth and areas where God’s grace is at work in my life that maybe I hadn’t thought about those either.

So the point is: Set aside some time. Over this holiday season when life’s rhythm’s off a little bit anyway, I would just encourage every listener to say, “Is there time I can set aside? Maybe it’s a larger chunk of time. Maybe it’s just an hour here or there, but where I can actually go through this kind of exercise before I get into the swing of 2013." I think that intentionality is going to make such a huge difference.

Now, you used a term a moment ago that I want you to unpack for us. You talked about being holistic in the way that we approach that. What do you mean when you say that?

Del: It’s just the recognition that our lives are made up of different aspects. Sometimes when we think about health, particularly as Christians, we define spiritual health maybe a little more narrowly than we should. So for example, most of us, if you’ve been around church at all or whatever, you probably have listened to the broadcast and heard the importance of reading your Bible and praying every day—incredibly fundamental rhythms in the spiritual life to grow because there isn’t growth without prayer and the Word. So those are incredible things to do.

But there are also different dimensions of our life that also impact us spiritually. Jesus created us to be body, soul, and spirit. He came and took on flesh, walked in our shoes, showed us what life with God looks like in full color. The Scripture tells us that He was acquainted with our griefs. He got tired; He got hungry.

Nancy: He had relationships.

Del: He had to make schedules. He had to determine His priorities. When we look at the life of Christ, we see a picture of what it would look like to live in communion with God in every aspect of our life.

Nancy: Not just my quiet time.

Del: Not just your quiet time. For example, I’ve known people who have maintained the disciplines of prayer and Bible reading faithfully and have benefited by them immensely. But at the same time, they have neglected other areas of their life to great harm to themselves. 

Nancy: Then they wonder why things are out of sync.

Del: So for example, if we aren’t following Jesus in the realm of our core relationships, if we don’t know how to love our spouse or to interact with our kids and we aren’t listening to Jesus in that way and getting His wisdom . . . Or we routinely neglect our physical wellbeing where we ignore our sleep and our diet, over time that’s going to impact not just our physical life, it’s going to impact our spiritual life.

Nancy: You can’t separate it out.

Del: Right. So when I use this term holistic, what I mean is because Jesus is redeeming and reclaiming everything, body, soul, and spirit, and even the world that we live in; we can say that everything in that sense is spiritual. When we think about a spiritual vitality plan or a personal vitality plan, when we think about what it means to thrive in the way of Jesus, what we’re really talking about is our entire lives. We want our lives to be Jesus-oriented, Jesus-saturated, Jesus-empowered, Jesus-like in every dimension. When we go to Him as the wisest person in the universe—I mean, we really believe that Jesus knows the way life works. When we go to Him, we need to expand the nature of our inquiry beyond simply the things we thought about as traditionally spiritual but ask Him about every dimension of our life.

Nancy: What I like about this worksheet that you’ve helped us develop is that it lists about a dozen of those different areas. You can add more—I’ve added some of my own to my list. But there are areas of seeking God: How is that dimension of my life doing with prayer and Bible reading and worship; marriage for those where that applies; family; relationships; emotional health; physical health; rest and recreation; moral purity; service; financial; work, and just then a slot for "other."

Through this tool it helps us to have those things in one place, to walk through it and say, “What’s happening in this area of my life?” It’s a prayerful exercise. I’ve found that I’m putting my life before the Lord and taking time to think with Him and say, “Lord, show me. What’s going well in this area? What’s being neglected in this area?” But the goal being that in every one of those areas my life would be being transformed to become more like Jesus.

Del: What’s really helpful about a concrete exercise like this is that it lays out multiple dimensions of our lives. It helps us in one place not to miss things because all of us are oriented to pay attention maybe to certain things to the neglect of others. That’s the way we’re all wired. We have different gifts and different experiences. What’s on our radar, so to speak, is different. But it’s often the things that get neglected completely or that are never opened up to Jesus that can be the things that submarine us.

Nancy: Prove to be our undoing.

Del: Our lives in the long run, not in the short run. Again, we’re talking about this idea of moving beyond simply crisis management—short-term survival—to the thriving that Jesus had in mind.

Nancy: Well and thriving is what we want for our own lives, for our listeners. I believe that’s what God has in the year ahead, but it’s going to take intentionality. It’s going to take a holistic look at our lives with Christ and say, “You know, what is God doing in my life in this area? And where do I need to be more responsive and attentive and tuned to what He’s saying?”

So I’m thankful for this tool. We’re going to talk more about it tomorrow. But I want to encourage our listeners to get a start on that. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com pull up the pdf file. You can print it out. You can do it there on the screen or on your laptop or whatever and adapt it, use it in whatever way works best for you.

Just make the resolve that this week or as you head into this New Year you will take some time with the Lord and let Him show you what He wants to do in your life in a greater way in some of these areas in the days ahead. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as we continue this conversation with Del Fehsenfeld.

As we close today, I just want to say a special work of thanks to every one of our listeners who has already participated with us in the matching challenge and in giving towards the year-end needs of this ministry. We are so grateful for what God has provided thus far.

Normally a huge percentage of what comes in during the month of December comes in during these last few days of the year. So we’re waiting on the Lord. Our team is praying. We’re asking Him to provide the funds that He knows are needed to enable us to move into the next year of expanded ministry into the lives of women all around the world.

The provision that we’ve been praying for this December is above and beyond anything we’ve believed Him for in past years, but we know He’s a great big God, and we’re trusting Him to provide according to His will. So if this program, this ministry, has been a blessing to your life and your walk with the Lord over this past year, would you pray about sending a gift this week to help toward these December year-end needs.

It’s your way of saying, “I want to make a spiritual investment in Christ’s kingdom and in the lives of women all around the world who are being called to greater freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.” Thanks so much for praying with us about this year-end need and for giving generously as the Lord has blessed you and as He prompts you.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. To be part of the story of what God is doing through Revive Our Hearts, call 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com and make sure to look for the downloadable pdf of the Personal Vitality Plan. 

Del Fehsenfeld will be back tomorrow. And practically speaking, how do you start glorifying the Lord in different areas of life?

Del: He put His finger on the fact that I needed to go to the doctor and actually get a physical checkup because I was gaining weight and my energy was bad. I had just neglected that. So I scheduled a doctor’s appointment and I purposed in my heart because I had prayed about it that I was actually going to listen to the doctor, which is a novel concept. I went there and the doctor was pretty straight. I mean, he said some very pointed things that required some significant rearranging of my life. It wasn’t easy, but it was clear.

So two or three years ago I changed some of my eating habits and developed a different life rhythm in my diet which two or three years later has had enormous impact related to my energy and my alertness and the time I have to give to my kids and those kinds of things. But it’s very practical, I find, when we just open up to the daily areas of our lives. 

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.