Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to Embrace a Life of Vitality

Episode Resources

Download "A Personal Vitality Plan" worksheet.

Leslie Basham: Here’s good news: God loves you even when you don’t fulfill all your good intentioned resolutions. Here’s Del Fehsenfeld talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Del Fehsenfeld III: The Spirit is not a spirit of condemnation. He is not one of paralysis. He’s not overwhelmed or surprised. The basis of our relationship with Him is not on performance alone. It’s on grace.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, December 28, 2012.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, we’ve been having for the last few days a conversation that I think is so important and really timely here at the end of the year, before we head into a new year, to be intentional in seeking the Lord about every area of our spiritual life and growth. I’m so thankful that my friend, Del Fehsenfeld III, has been here with us to help in this conversation.

Del, thanks for being back with us again on Revive Our Hearts.

Del: I’ve really loved it, Nancy.

Nancy: I’m really appreciative of the way that you have flushed out this whole concept with our staff here at Revive Our Hearts and Life Action Ministries, our parent ministry. We ask all of our staff to take some time each year to get away, to stop periodically and just get with the Lord and ask Him to direct your thinking and get in His Word and review where are you in every area of your life, not just the ones we think of as “spiritual”—that’s important—but every area of our life—our physical health, our emotional wellbeing, our spiritual disciplines, financial—all these areas. You have helped us develop a tool that we have been talking about for the last couple of days.

Let me just say, if you haven’t gone to the website yet to look up that tool, I encourage you to do that at ReviveOurHearts.com. There’s a pdf there; you can print this out.

What you’ve been reminding us of is the issue isn’t so much how you do it, but it is the importance of doing something, to be intentional about your spiritual life.

Del: Yes. We’ve really got to do something to check the drift, because all of us are so busy. Life is just flying by, and we don’t want to get to the end of it, or even the midway point, and realize that the most important things have passed us by. So the heart behind this exercise is basically Jesus is wise. He’s ready to be there to help us, to listen to us, but we’ve got to open our lives up, and we’ve got to do it in a broad way and really drill down into places where we actually live so that whatever plan that we have with Him reflects the need that we really have in our daily lives.

Nancy: So this tool we call a personal vitality tool—I like that term vitality, by the way. It suggests that you’re not just surviving, but you’re thriving—that we’re spiritually vital. And that can be true even in hard years, years where we’ve got pressures. Some at the end of this year are facing loss or grief or sadness or financial challenges or physical challenges.

But I think Christ wants us to thrive even in the midst of those circumstances and to be spiritually vibrant and becoming more like Jesus. So this tool takes us to those different areas of our lives and just gives us a way to reflect on how it’s going and where change is needed that could happen in the year ahead.

Del: Nancy, it’s really a personal roadmap for our growth. And like you’ve mentioned, growth happens in all seasons of our lives, but the promise we have is that Jesus will be with us in every situation.

So it’s a tool that also helps us to meaningfully connect with Jesus and to listen to His Words. He has peace and life for us. So, you’re right. Even when it’s hard, He’s with us.

Nancy: Many people do this in some area of our lives. For example, in the work place, many of us have regular reviews, and if we’re not asking, our employer is asking, “How are you doing?” Or he's telling us how he thinks we’re doing. We get physical check-ups. People who care about how they’re going to be provided for in retirement go through financial planning. They have financial planners who help lay out: “This is where you are. This is what you need. You need to set up some goals. You need to figure out how you’re going to get from here to there.”

We’re just saying, in every area of your life, there’s real value in not just drifting, not just letting life happen, but in being intentional about moving it forward.

Del: Yes. And the irony is that we would put all kinds of energy into things that aren’t important but not as important as our relationships with our spouse, with God, with our kids, with purpose. Those kinds of things impact for eternity. So it really does make sense when we sit down and think about it to carve out some time, to just not let that pass us by.

I think the vitality plan is just one wise way. It’s been tested by people. It’s adaptable to your needs. But I really do encourage your listeners to grab that tool as the baseline and to take some time to see where this will unfold.

Nancy: As we talked about yesterday, there are basic questions that you want to ask in these areas, the different areas related to relationships and physical health and moral purity and financial and your work environment. There are about a dozen of these areas. And in each of these areas, you want to be reflecting on a series of questions.

Del: I think you want to ask: “What’s going well in your life?” Because part of review is also to celebrate God’s grace in your life and to be thankful.

Nancy: Yes. I was really encouraged as I’ve been through this exercise in the last few days myself. I started into it a little discouraged. I’ve been at a little bit of a low point with some extra pressures. I thought it was all going to be more negative, but I was actually really encouraged by some areas where, as I thought back over recent months, I could see God’s been at work in my life in this area.

Del: There’s a place to record God’s activity and to give Him thanks.

Nancy: Yes.

Del: It builds confidence for the next question, which is: “What isn’t going well? Where are the gaps?”

Again, I just want to reiterate that every serious Christian is going to simultaneously have places of strength and weakness. So it’s not a matter like, a report card or something where you’re getting a grade before God. It’s more just an honest opening of our hearts to say, “Lord, we live on grace; we’ve experienced grace, and we want more of it.” That’s really the heart. 

Nancy: Yes, and how you get grace is you humble yourself; you get honest before God.

Del: Humility and honesty lead to God drawing near to us, and that’s really what we all want to experience more of.

So then we asked: “What are some achievable steps? What are some of the things that, as we think about these matters, ask the Lord about it, maybe look at His Word, review the things that we know about God’s ways, what are some steps that I could take practically to address these different areas that are coming out as we walk through the tool?

Nancy: I think a key word there to use is measurable.

Del: Measurable steps—because what we’re really wanting to do here is to develop an action plan with Jesus. These things are not necessarily complicated. A lot of times we know, when we think about it, the things that we ought to do. The question is just a matter of prioritizing it, making it concrete, and deciding that that’s going to get your energy and attention.

Nancy: I know one practical area that surfaced as I was working through this this week is the area of Scripture memory—which I’ve done a lot of in the past. But as I worked through this, I realized it’s been a while since I’ve been memorizing Scripture, which then helps me to meditate on it more. So one of my measurable steps as I head into this New Year is in the area of Scripture memory.

Then there were other areas related to, say, my physical health, where I have been neglecting areas of diet and exercise. You talked yesterday about going to the doctor, and I’d wished you’d brought up another illustration because that’s something I’ve been neglecting recently. It was a prompt that I need to take care of some of those areas of my life as well because it all integrates and has bearing on my overall vitality.

Del: Really, recognizing that Jesus cares about the whole person. Jesus cares about the quality of my relationships. Jesus cares about my physical wellbeing. Part of following Jesus is following Him well in my finances. Part of following Jesus is getting the rest and recreation that I need as a human being and making sure that there’s points to take care of joy.

So there’s a whole gamut of things that this tool covers that really helps reveal where we’re out of balance and where there’s a need for focus.

Nancy: Now, I know some of our listeners are wired the way I am, which is, when you talk about steps to deal with these areas that have been neglected . . . I haven’t quite finished walking through this yet, but I’m going to end up probably about twenty-six steps or something like that. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like that’s just way too much to handle.

So, how do you see all these steps, all these needs, and you get all these ideas for steps you can take, but twenty-six is too many to deal with. We’ve got to narrow it down somehow.

Del: Yes. That’s way too many, and the nature of this exercise is going to reveal a lot of information about yourself, places of strength and need. So the question becomes: “What do you do so you don’t get paralyzed?”

I see two dangers. The one is the first that we’ve already addressed, which is that we do nothing.

Nancy: Because then you keep drifting.

Del: Right. But the other danger that I think is really, really real for a lot of people is that now they’re going to try to do everything.

But I think the wisdom of this is that we need to prioritize, and real growth happens as we take one or two things and then focus on those things with Jesus for a period of time and see grace come in those areas, and then move on to the next thing. And the Spirit is able to lead us through this. The Spirit is not a spirit of condemnation. He’s not one of paralysis. He’s not overwhelmed or surprised by the data that we’re going to uncover in this vitality plan.

Nancy: And He’s not trying to overwhelm us.

Del: The basis of our relationship with Him is not on performance. It’s on grace. Forgiveness for where we failed is a gift. And so while we can open up in real repentance and honest confession of the things that may appear on this vitality plan, those things don’t define us.

So out of this list of maybe twenty-six or so, it’s maybe more than that, to be honest. But we come back to maybe two or three things to say: “What are the two or three things that I need to be focusing on right now to have the greatest priority? Out of this whole list, what would make the greatest difference because they’re the areas I feel the most urgency or burden?”

The ironic thing is, as we give ourselves to grace in those areas to simple obedience, what I find is that I gain strength, surprisingly, in other areas. I might find there are other things that are on that list that suddenly I have more strength for.

Nancy: Yes, like the water rises and all the boats will rise, right?

Del: That’s what we find as we’re working this. And, again, I have three or four years of vitality plans in front of me. It’s just amazing to me as I look back. I’m able to see how, by focusing on two or three things, I have arrived at the point of where I am now with a number of things to celebrate because there was that principle of focus.

Nancy: And some of those things have now become established habits and rhythms in your life as a result.

Del: That’s the great thing about focusing for a period of about three months on something, because that’s also the amount of time it really takes to really build a good habit. So you do see some of these things become part of the basic character of our lives. Our character is basically our habitual responses to life. So Jesus is in the process of transforming our character into His image. As we give ourselves to two or three things and develop true Christlikeness in the nitty gritty, we see that the character of Christ then is available to apply to other areas that we need.

Nancy: It seems like an important aspect of this would be, first, doing it now, but then going back and reviewing periodically where you are and where you’ve come and how it’s going.

Del: The way that seems best to us in our community is to do that about quarterly. So three months is about an appropriate amount of time to focus on something thoroughly and to develop a habit in that area—a new habit.

But then, life is constantly moving at a very rapid pace and things are changing, so there’s new data that needs to be assimilated. There are things that sometimes slip through the cracks. By doing this annually and then revisiting it quarterly, the adjustments are able to be made.

Nancy, what I do is I take those two or three things that have emerged from the vitality plan process, and then I stick this in my Bible or maybe a place where I have my regular connectedness to God or my quiet time or something like that. It’s something I can keep in front of me. Maybe you post it on the dash of your car so you can pray over it.

Nancy: So you can be reminded of it.

Del: Right, because if we don’t keep these things in front of us, the value that you’ve gained from the insight and the direction leaks.

Nancy: Now, the other thing you’ve emphasized, which I think is so helpful, is not to just do this in isolation, but to do it in community with others. How does that work?

Del: We actually added a question to this plan that wasn’t on the original when we started this three years ago. (I’m growing in how strongly I believe in the wisdom of this.) The question is: “Who is speaking into my life in this area?”

A lot of times, in the areas where I’m finding weakness, the honest answer to that is, “Nobody. Nobody even knows about it.”

One of the reasons I’m not doing well is that I don’t have competency. It could be my background or just . . .

Nancy: For example, say your finances are in a mess; you’re head over heels in debt. And you know that’s an area of weakness and need, but you don’t know what to do about it.

Del: Correct. And you have been doing this for years, and you have a track record that you can rely on. I’m not very good at this. I have regularly messed this up in various ways.

A practical means of grace, I think one of the ways Jesus wants to come to you is in the form of another person, another believer who loves Jesus. It doesn’t mean they’re perfect. It doesn’t mean they’re better than you. But it does mean that, maybe in this area of finances, they’ve found wisdom, grace in the Lord, in the area of finances that they care share with you.

I can’t tell you how many times we accelerate the process of our growth and our maturation by taking advantage of the fact that grace comes in relationships. Not all of us have all of the answers to every problem, but in the community of faith, or in the community of people who follow Jesus, He’s placed people who have different strengths and weaknesses for the purpose, I think, of creating interdependence.

We have to practice the hard disciplines of being willing to be vulnerable and maybe say, “I have a need.” If they’ve got a need in this area, to say, maybe, “Things aren’t going well.” Maybe opening up your life a little bit in that area and allowing someone who loves Jesus to speak into it.

Nancy: And not just somebody who has counsel, but maybe just somebody who would pray for you, who would help hold you accountable.

Wow! What a great thing, to take this tool—which is what I’m intending to do here at year end. As I’ve been working through this, now I want to sit down with, maybe one person, maybe two or three in different areas, and say, “These are the things the Lord has identified or helped me identify as I’ve walked through this. But I know if I’m left to myself, I’m going to probably fall down in these areas. I need help to shore up these areas of my life. Will you pray for me?”

I think maybe sometimes even telling somebody else, “These are the areas where I have been neglectful, or my gages haven been off, they’ve not been right,” maybe just verbalizing that to somebody else puts us in a place of maybe receiving more of God’s grace.

Del: What you’re talking about there, Nancy, is the pathways of grace or the means of grace. So God has a real power in resources for us, but He wants us to access those things by doing what He says. One of the things that He said is that as we confess our sins and pray for one other, we’re healed.

Nancy: Right, James 5.

Del: That’s a directive from the Scripture. We see this over and over again that many of the places where we’re not thriving in part is because we haven’t opened ourselves up to the resources that Jesus has made available to us through His Word and people.

Nancy: And, as a result, even our churches—so many times . . . I had a pastor in college who used to say the average church was like a bag of marbles just clanging up on each other but not really penetrating each other’s lives. Pastor Ray Ortlund used to say to us, “We should be more like a bag of grapes that are squished into each other’s lives and, as a result, making juice and producing something fruitful and nourishing.”

I think that’s true. This is an area where we can be more that way, where we say to each other, and you may not say it to a lot of people, but to someone you know, someone who trusts the Lord, “Here’s where I am in my walk. Here’s where I am in my journey. Here’s my personal vitality plan. Would you join me in praying—and maybe do this for each other—that God would help me in these areas? Would you ask questions periodically and maybe check up with each other?”

You don’t have to sit down for hours at a time—that could be overwhelming—but just as you have contact with each other, say, “How’s it going in these areas?” I think that helps us all move into a new year with greater hope that the end of the year will look different than the beginning did.

Del: I remember about fifteen years ago when I was first coming into a walk with Jesus in my life, I was not very connected. I didn’t have a lot of Christian friends. I’d just started attending church. I didn’t have a lot of spiritual friendships that were available to me, but I was beginning this process of growth, and I knew there needed to be some intentionality. I knew things weren’t going well. There were some major areas of need.

I remember calling the church and just saying, “The Lord’s working in my life. I’m really excited. I really want to tap into Jesus’ life, but I’m really not sure how to do it. Is there anybody there that could actually just talk to me about how to take some steps?”

That was one of the most awkward phone calls I’d ever made, and I was scared.

Nancy: Probably not like any other one they’d received that day.

Del: But it opened up a conversation with somebody who then referred me to some other people in the church who knew Jesus better, and some of those people today are my greatest friends.

I just look back, and I just thank the Lord for the way He helped me at a very vulnerable time. Some listeners out there might say, “Well, I don’t have a lot of spiritual encouragement.”

There are ways, if you’re really praying and seeking Him. You might run into a couple of bad, unhelpful people on the way, but I think if you really have this intent, there are people out there who you can find that will help you.

Nancy: Well, we want to encourage every listener to do something like this tool, this personal vitality tool. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com, and there’s a pdf there. You can print it out. You can use it, adapt it—make it whatever way it works for you, but do something to be intentional about where you want to head in every area of spiritual growth and becoming more like Jesus in the year ahead.

And do it in community. Ask the Lord to make it possible for you to have kindred spirits or somebody who would come alongside of you in one or more of these areas and help with the growth.

I think we just want to remind each other that this is not about filling out a form. This is not about getting a report card or being more spiritual if we get the right mark on this. This is all about getting us to Jesus.

Del: It’s about looking to Him, Nancy, because we all know the treadmill of trying earn our value before God through our performance. The Christian life from beginning to end is one of gift; it’s one of grace. It’s one of God’s presence. So I want to leave listeners with that same idea, that this is a tool that we bring all that we are to Jesus. Jesus is the One who has all the answers and, ultimately, the grace and healing that we need.

Nancy: Amen. I just really believe that to whatever extent we will be intentional about this exercise, we will be looking back a year from now and saying, “Wow. There’s some growth. I know Jesus better. I’m more like Him.”

There will still be additional areas where we need more growth, but we won’t have drifted. We will have been intentional about following Christ. That’s what it means to be spiritually vital.

Thank you so much, Del, for leading us in this conversation. I believe it’s going to be really fruitful in many people’s lives.

Del: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy: As we finish up this week and head into the final weekend of the year, let me just remind you that it’s not too late to participate with us in helping to meet our year-end financial needs.

I’m so grateful for all those who have partnered with us so far this month. God is providing, and we’re asking Him for quite a bit more in these last two or three days of the year. Right up through the 31st, our call center will be available at 1-800-569-5959. You can go online to ReviveOurHearts.com and make a contribution there.

Please, if this program has been a blessing to you, if the resources have helped you in your walk with the Lord, would you consider making a donation at this time to help us with this need, which is not just for our year-end? It’s what’s provided between now and Monday that helps us to know where we can continue ministering in the year ahead.

There are so many things God is doing in this country, the United States, and around the world through the Internet, the Spanish Language Ministry, through the various resources. Lives are being transformed. Marriages are being restored. People are being saved. They’re finding new joy and vitality. They’re finding freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ, and you can be a part of helping to make that possible.

Thanks so much for praying with us about this need, and as the Lord provides and directs, for making a generous contribution toward that need.

Thanks so much. Have a blessed New Year’s weekend. Be sure to worship with God’s people this weekend. And then join us next week as we bring in a new year of seeking the Lord together.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Del Fehsenfeld about surrendering every part of your life to the Lord. She’s also been inviting you to be part of the story God is telling through Revive Our Hearts.

Here’s how to support Revive Our Hearts: Just call 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation and to get the free pdf of the personal vitality plan Nancy and Del have been talking about.

What do you think about today’s program and the personal vitality plan? You can let Del Fehsenfeld know. He’ll join the Revive Our Hearts listener blog today. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Click on today’s program. Scroll to the end of the transcript and add your comment to the listener blog. Del will be checking in throughout the day.

Well, when there are problems in a family, sometimes the holidays can just make that hurt feel worse. On Monday, Nancy and a panel of ministry leaders will show you how to handle pressure in your family. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

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