Revive Our Hearts Podcast

If I Could Do It All Over Again, with Jon Gauger, Day 5

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Nancy's Favorite Biographies

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Leslie Basham: If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?

Woman 1: I would watch less TV and play more things outside of the screen.

Woman 2: My husband and I have two boys, but if I had it to do over again, I would have had a lot more children.

Woman 3: I would care less about the dishes and the house and all of the things that needed to be done and enjoy time outside and just time having fun with our kids like we are with our grandkids.

Woman 4: I would probably talk less and listen more.

Woman 5: I would complain less, and I would invest in the lives of people more.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of the daily devotional book A Quiet Place. Today is Tuesday, January 10, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, as we’re still in the first part of January, this is the time of year where a lot of us sit down to make a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe you don’t call them that, but things we want to be different this year, things we’d like to focus on, different priorities. This is a favorite time to set goals and objections and emphasis on what we really want to concentrate on for the year ahead.

And it’s a reminder that, as believers in Christ, spiritual growth and transformation in our lives don’t just happen. These things have to be pursued. We have to be intentional about our relationship with the Lord because if we just let things go, and we just live each day without being mindful of choices we’re making or priorities we’re establishing, then we’re going to look back at the end of the day or a week or a month or a year or a lifetime and be filled with regrets.

Jonathan Edwards was a brilliant theologian. He was one of the leaders of the First Great Awakening in the eighteenth century, and he understood the importance of being purposeful in his spiritual life.

As a young man, before the age of twenty, he recorded in his journal seventy personal resolutions related to his soul and spiritual matters. I want to share some of these. As you listen to them, you may think, Oh, this was a wise old granddad who wrote these things.

No, this was a teenager. And I’m looking around the audience here, we have some younger women, and I want to say: Don’t wait until you’re old to make these kinds of choices or to have this kind of thinking.

A friend of mine told me that a teenage young man he’s been mentoring told him the other day, “I want to wait until I’m older to get serious about God. I want to have fun now, and then when I’m older, I’ll get serious about God.” Scripture says, “No, fear God now while you are young.”

And then I see all the older women nodding and thinking they wish they had been more intentional when they were younger. And all of us feel some of that.

But here are some of the resolutions that Jonathan Edwards wrote out. He was, throughout all of this, dedicating himself to God, giving up of himself, his rights, and all that he had to God. So he purposed to live a purposeful life, an intentional life, not just existing, and he said:

Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God. Resolved to live for the glory of God.

Here’s a teenager saying, “I want everything I do to be for the purpose of bringing glory to God.” And then he said:

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live. 

So he wanted to live a purposeful, intentional life.

And then he wanted to live a growing life—not spiritually stagnant, but growing. Here’s a couple examples of that: He said:

Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find . . . myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

“I want to get to know God’s Word. I want to grow spiritually.” He said:

Resolved, to strive every week to be brought higher [spiritually], and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

“I want to keep pressing on for higher ground,” he said.

And then he resolved to live an examined life—to be accountable, to take stock regularly of where he was in his walk with the Lord and his spiritual disciplines. And as part of that, he said he wanted to “read over these Resolutions [seventy of them] once a week.”

Here is an example of wanting to live that accountable life. He said:

Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent—what sin I have committed—and wherein I have denied myself; also, at the end of every week, month, and year.

“So I’m going to stop and think. I’m not just going to live life thoughtlessly. I’m going to stop, take stock, say, “Where am I in my walk with the Lord?”

He resolved to live a holy life. He said:

Resolved, in narrations, [that is in telling stories] never to speak anything but the pure and simple [truth].

So he wanted his speech to be holy and true. He was committed to live a life of victory over sin—to wage war against the natural bent of his sinful flesh. So he said:

Resolved, whenever I do any [sinful] action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

Now, some of this language is quaint, and you have to read these a little carefully. We have available in our Resource Center a copy of these Resolutions with some commentary. I’ve written on them, and that’s available through Revive Our Hearts.

But he said, “I’m not just going to let sin overtake me. I’m going to be intentional and persistent in waging battle against sin.”

And then he was committed to live a disciplined life—to live temperately—for every aspect of life to come under the control of the Holy Spirit. So here are a couple examples of that. He said:

Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

So his physical habits, he said, “I want them to be temperate.” Not for his own sake, but, again, for the glory of God, “So I can be the most effective possible servant of the Lord.”

And then he talked about controlling his reactions and his emotions. He said:

Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly.

If I could put that in modern English, I would say, “Resolved, when my kids push my buttons that I’m not going to react. I’m not going to hyperventilate. I’m going to act and feel and respond to them in a peaceable way.” So that’s part of disciplining and controlling our reactions and emotions.

Well, I’ll come back to some of those in a few moments here, but here on Revive Our Hearts last week you heard me talking with Jon Gauger, who has written a book where he interviewed a couple of dozen Christian leaders, including: Kay Arthur, Michael Card, Gary Chapman, Tony Evans, Ravi Zacharias, Joni Eareckson Tada, and others, and somehow I was included in this set of interviews.

He asked us to think about several questions. First of all: If you could have a “do over”—what would you do more of, and what would you do less of?

And then he asked us to speak about regrets and how to deal with regrets, because you get to later in life, and you’ve realized, “I didn’t do these things that I wished I’d done more of, or I did too much of these things that I wish I had done less of.” So what do you do about regrets?

And then he asked us for our thoughts about eternity: What do you want on your tombstone? What is it you’re anticipating about heaven?

Well, over the last few days last week, we shared with you some of the answers that people gave to those questions, some names that you recognized, and I’m trusting that was an encouraging series of broadcast for you. But I promised that this week, today and tomorrow, I would share with you some of my responses to those questions.

And if I were to answer those questions a year ago, my answers might be different than they are today, so this is just a little slice of my life. This is not anything hugely inspired, but I wanted to share with you some of what I’ve been thinking about as some of you have shared with us: “If you could have a do-over, what would you do differently?”

So let me start with another question that Jon asked at the beginning of this interview. He said: “Why does it seem like every generation has to make the same mistakes? Why can’t we leverage the wisdom of the saints from the past centuries and, somehow, do better in our own Christian walk so we don’t have to be asking, ‘If I could do it all over again . . . ’?”

As I thought about that question from Jon, I realized there’s so much that we can learn from those who’ve walked before us.

My husband and I, over the past couple of years, have attended a number of funerals. And at our age, we’re going to be attending more funerals. And that’s a good place to stop and think about the mark that a life leaves and what is said at the end of a person’s life, what the take-aways are.

So at some of these funerals, I’ve heard some precious testimonies about the impact of the lives of these people. And as I’ve heard those stories, I’ve thought, This is what it looks like to serve and to love the Lord and others well. I’ve had some take-aways. These are things I would like my life to look like as I’ve thought about the lives of these people who’ve gone on.

I also love reading biographies, sometimes of people who are still living, but most often of those old dead guys and gals. I love reading. I’m a voracious reader of biographies. I’m almost always reading a biography. And if there’s one genre of literature, outside of the Scripture, that I heartily recommend, it would be biographies.

If you go to ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ve posted a list of some of my favorite biographies. I’m sure you have others you can add to that, but some of the ones that have made an impact on me since I was a little girl. I remember the first biography I ever read as a little girl was the biography of J.C. Penney. Why, I don’t know. But I got my hands on that thing, and he was a believer, and it was a child’s version of this, and I read it over and over and over again. I was just struck with the story of this man’s life. I’ve read many others over the years.

But to read about the example of these people, especially those who have really walked with God faithfully, and their courage, and their successes, and their failures, and their humility, and their honesty about their failures, and how they faced adversity, and all of these things—their values, their priorities, their regrets, their writings. These things have caused me to ponder my own life, my priorities, my choices.

And, of course, I love reading the biographies of those found in the Scripture—the men and women of Scripture. You read about a lot of them in Hebrews chapter 11, these who’ve made that Great Hall of Faith. Some of them, you say, “How did they get included in that list, because they sure did some dumb things?”

Well, I sure have done some dumb things. Maybe you have, too. And yet, to think that God would include those who made such significant errors, those who waivered in their faith, and yet they’re included in this chapter on faith because they kept pressing on toward Christ who is the end, at the finish line of their faith.

So after giving us all that great challenge to consider these lives, and then to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, that’s Hebrews 11 and 12. Then we get to Hebrews 13, and the Scripture says, “Remember your leaders.” Or as one translation says, “Consider those who have taught you; those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

But then the passage goes on to say, don’t put your eyes on those people as your ultimate model or example. “Remember Christ! He is the One who inspired their lives, who enabled them to live that life. So remember Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (see Heb. 13:7–8).

It’s by fixing our eyes on Christ that ultimately we become who Christ made us to be.

Now, as I go to the theme of this book, the major theme: “If I could do it all over again, what would I do less of and what would I do more of?”

That’s a question I responded to for Jon. I’m going to share some of my list with you, but let me just give you two quick thoughts before sharing that list with you.

The first is: We can’t do it all over again. So, in a sense, you say, “Why would we ask that question?” Because it’s impossible to go back. There are no retakes. There are no re-dos of the past. We don’t have any guarantees that we have tomorrow. We only have today. So today is the day where we need to live. And yet, when we come back to this tomorrow, I want to talk to you some about living with regrets about the past.

So on the one hand, we can’t do it all over again, and yet, here’s something else to think about: It’s not too late to start doing less of some things and more of others. We sat in this room a few moments ago, and many of you shared: What would you do less of? What would you do more of?

As we were listening, I think all of our hearts were challenged to say, “Wow. That’s something I need to think about now.” It’s not too late to start doing less of or more of the things that will make a difference in the sum total of our lives. So start today, and in light of the past, maybe today can be lived a little bit differently.

So now, as I’ve been thinking about it, if I could do it all over again, what would I do less of, what would I do more of? Here are some things that would be on my list, in no particular order. Okay?

Number one: I would do less whining and complaining, and I would want to be more thankful and content—thankful in everything; content with what God provides, realizing that what God has given me is all I need for my present peace and happiness, as someone has said. So I would hope I would be less inclined to whine and complain and more inclined to be thankful and content. So, how about today—how about today?

Number two: I would want to be less task-oriented, and more people-oriented. Now some of you are highly relational, you’re very people-oriented and tasks mean nothing to you. I had a brother who was that way. He’s now with the Lord. He was a lover of people.

And it was as if David had some sense—which I don’t think he did—that he wasn’t going to have a long life. He was killed in a car wreck at age twenty-two when he was a junior at Liberty University. He was one of these kids for whom tasks meant nothing but people meant a lot to him. He would forget to study for tests. He would forget he had tests. He would forget to go to class. He would forget to do papers. But he loved people.

Now, I’m not recommending, for those of you who are students, I’m not really recommending that you skip tests and classes, but I am saying David lived a life. I still meet people who say, “I was David’s roommate,” or “I lived on his hall. I knew him. He was so generous. He was so kind. He was a lover.” David loved people. I’d like to be more that way.

I tend to be more task-oriented—get my stuff done. I’ve got my list at the beginning of the day, and a list of my list—A, B, C, D—I want to just check things off my list. But I’ll tell you now, and even more as a married woman, I want to be more of a lover than a completer of my to-do list. I think Robert is probably thankful I’m saying that, though he hasn’t complained.

I knew a man for many years, he’s now with the Lord, who in his late nineties was asked what he would do differently if he could live his life over again. This is what he had to say:  “I would start every day by reading 1 Corinthians 13, and then I would root my life in love.” Now this man who was a preacher over decades. He was greatly used of God. But he said, “If I have a regret, it’s that I’ve done so much for God that wasn’t rooted in love.”

And I think about that as I think about being task-oriented versus people-oriented. Things and stuff versus souls and people and relationships and lives. And I think the difference there is this whole thing of love.

Now, I heard this from a man in his late nineties, so what am I going to do about this? Now I’m in my late fifties. I don’t want to get to my late nineties and say, “I wish that I had rooted my life more in love.” I want to think about that now.

Number three: I would like to have been less focused on self, less concerned about how others view me and what they think about me and more focused on others, on their needs, their concerns.

We all know people—it’s easier to see in others than in ourselves, right?, who when you walk in the room and you have a conversation, it’s all about them. I’ve seen this with Christian leaders. I’ve seen it with friends. I’ve seen it with family members. It’s just this, “All about me.”

And then I think, How often do I have conversations with staff, with friends, with my husband, with our ministry partners, and it’s all about me? I would like to be the kind of person—we’ve known some of these—who, when you walk in the room, they’re, it’s all about you. They’re asking, “How are you? How can I pray for you? What’s going on in your life?”

Now, that doesn’t mean we never share what’s going on in our lives, but I’d like to be more others-centered and less obsessed with what others are thinking about me or others knowing how I’m. I’d like to be more concerned in knowing how they’re doing.

Number four: I’d like to focus, as I look back on my life, less on wanting others to serve me and make me happy and make my life easier, and I’d like to focus more on wanting to serve and bless and make others happy.

Again, we don’t want to be a slave to making others happy. You can’t make everyone happy. We’ve all learned that. But I’d like to have that focus adjusted a bit in my life.

I’d like to be less critical of others, less impatient with their weaknesses and their failures, which is a natural thing for all of us to do. But it’s toxic to assume the worst of others rather than the best of others.

I’d like to be less focused on the issues and problems in their lives and instead—here’s this love thing again—more loving, more gracious, more kind, quicker to assume the best of others and to try and build them up in their strong areas, to encourage them and to bless them.

You know, by the way, this critical spirit, which I think runs naturally in the human race, I think it runs naturally in women, and I think it runs in my family—I’ll just say that . . . I’m in my family. We’ve been exposed to a lot, I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot, and it’s easy to just evaluate everyone who comes into our path as in a way that’s picking out the faults rather than looking for the things to celebrate. That is toxic. I don’t like it when others are that way. What makes me think that others would want to be around me when I’m that way?

This is another good thing of marriage, by the way, of having someone to reflect you to yourself. Sometimes my husband will say, knowing that I am an editor, and an editor gets paid to look for mistakes, occasionally he’ll say, “Are you being my editor?” Now, he doesn’t say it unkindly, but I know what he means in that moment is I’m not blessing him with encouragement.

Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a time to say, “Here’s something we need to talk about,” and we have those kinds of conversations. Robert is a humble man who is so willing to have those conversations. But anybody gets worn out if the first thing that comes out of our mouths is that which is negative or critical.

Number five: I’d like to have less wasted time, fewer trivial pursuits, less mindless entertainment, less social media, less connected to my smart phone, which has made me dumb. I’m just saying. It doesn’t make me dumb. I’ve made myself dumb by spending too much time on my smart phone. And in place of those things, I’d like to spend more time in prayer, more time in reading and meditating on Scripture, soaking in God’s Word. More time making my moments and my days count, being intentional with them.

I’d like to spend less frittering away of my early morning and late evening hours and use those hours in a more purposeful way. I’d like to start and end every day meditating on Jesus, having Him fill my thoughts before anything else does.

My husband’s in the room, so I’m going to say this, knowing that I’m really accountable. He’s maybe not going to believe it when I say this, because he’s a really early-to-bed/early-to-rise man, and which I do believe is a really wise way to live. That’s the way my daddy was. But I’ve not been that way for a long, long time. So I’m just saying here, Honey, I would like to get to bed earlier and get up earlier.

Now, I don’t know if I want to get up at the same time you get up, because that’s really early. That’s not morning; that’s kind of night. But I look back over my life, and I’d like . . . Here’s the reason: I want to be able to do a better job of giving those early morning hours, while I’m fresh, to the Lord.

In fact, Dr. W.A. Criswell, who was the venerable pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas for decades, I asked him when I was about eighteen years old what counsel he would have for me as a young woman moving toward a vocational ministry life. Without hesitating, he said, “Give your mornings to God—give your mornings to God.”

My dad was a man who gave his mornings to God. Now, not all of every morning, but he was up first thing in the morning, as my precious husband is, before the crack of dawn, to seek the Lord, to be in the Word, on his knees.

There’s so much time we waste at night, on the Internet, on TV, games, even conversations that aren’t bad necessarily but sometimes just trivial. We’ll talk tomorrow about the fact that it doesn’t mean everything has to be heavy-duty, intentional purpose, but there has to be some sense that this is something that matters and that I will be able to give account for at the end of my life.

Number six: I’d like to talk less to others and talk more to God.

And then something I’ve been thinking about more as I’m getting older, and that has to do with my physical habits, which was never really important to me as a young woman, but now I’m in my late fifties, I'm thinking more about these things and wishing that I had been less sedentary, less physically indulgent.

Number seven: I’d like to eat less and get more physical exercise—not to be a model figure. That really is not something I aspire to. But to have the strength, the energy, and the mental, social, emotional well-being to be the kind of person we’re talking about here.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen increasingly how our body, soul, and spirit are so tied together and the effects that our physical habits can have on our emotional and spiritual well-being and how these things are so tied together. Okay, I’ve not been a great example of this through my life, but today is a new day, and there is new grace. And what would that look like for me today?

And let me just give you this last one, and we’ll pick up this conversation tomorrow.

Number eight: I’d like to be less discouraged, less downcast, and less prone to having my moods be dependent on my circumstances. And in the place of that, I would love to have been a more joyful, hopeful woman who keeps her eyes and her heart fixed on Jesus.

Now, I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by all of this, and just thinking about all of these things, I can feel overwhelmed. I’m going, “I just want to go home and take a nap, having thought about all this stuff. I just want to go home and eat, just thinking about all of this.” So don’t let this overwhelm you because we walk and live in grace and in hope.

But maybe there’s been one thing that’s been said, or just the thought of being a little more intentional about how you use your days, how I use my days, and what kind of person do we want to be at the end of our lives. And then, what steps—what baby steps—could we take today to have that be more true by the time we get there?

My dad always used to tell us, “You are what you have been becoming.” It’s true, isn’t it? But we are becoming today what we will be at the end of our journey.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back.

She’s been offering practical advice for a new year by pondering what she would do differently if she could live her life over. Nancy was inspired to speak on that topic when she was interviewed by Jon Gauger.

He’s written a book called If I Could Do It All Over Again: Christian Leaders Share the Most Important Lessons of Their Lives. In this book, leaders like Tim Keller, Joni Eareckson Tada, Ravi Zacharias, and Tony Evans share from the wisdom they’ve gained in walking with the Lord. When you hear their wisdom, you can avoid some of their mistakes and learn from their examples.

We’d like to send you a copy of the book when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Ask for the book If I Could Do It All Over Again when you call. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do you ever feel weighed down by failures? Tomorrow, Nancy will show you how to give your failures to the Lord and walk with Him into the new things He has for you to do. And she’s back to close today’s program in prayer.

Nancy: So, Lord, I pray that You would give us wisdom. Help us to order our hearts and our affections aright, and to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Thank You that You see us through eyes of grace and acceptance. This is not about getting Your favor. This is about having a more intimate love relationship with You and a more fruitful life, and that’s what we want. So show us what that means for each of us in this day. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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

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