Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Re-thinking the Spiritual Life

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Leslie Basham: When Del Fehsenfeld asked the Lord, “How can I grow spiritually?” the answer was very practical.

Del Fehsenfeld III: He put His finger in the fact that I was gaining weight and my energy level was bad . . . and I just neglected that. But it’s very practical, I think, when we open up to the daily areas of our lives.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, December 27.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m so glad you’ve joined us for today’s program. You’re going to really enjoy and be challenged by the conversation we’re going to continue today with Del Fehsenfeld. Before we get into that, let me just say again—as we have over the last few weeks—thank you so much to everyone who has partnered with us here at the end of the year, helping to support our year-end needs.

About 40% of our annual income comes in the month of December, and most of that comes in the last few days of the year, so our team is praying. We’re seeking the Lord and asking Him to provide the largest year-end income that we’ve ever had at the end of the year.

I know people are saying, “This is a down economy—how is that even possible?” Well, humanly speaking it may not be possible, but we’re trusting the Lord to meet the needs, because we’re so excited about what God is doing in the lives of women . . . lives that are being transformed, opportunities to reach women with the message of freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

We do this through various means: through our blogs, our websites, through conferences and other events, through resources. Through many different means we’re speaking into the lives of women, not only in the English-speaking world, but in the Spanish-speaking world as well.

We’re just weeks away, Lord willing from launching a five-day-a-week Spanish language program. All of this is made possible by the help of friends like you. Some of you gave to help with our matching challenge earlier this month—we’re so grateful for that. But we’re believing God for far above and beyond those funds as we come to the end of the year.

So, please pray with us, and—as the Lord prompts—if this ministry has been a blessing in your life, I hope that you will give us a call at 1-800-569-5959 and let us know that you’d like to make a donation to support these year-end needs. You can also visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com and let us know you’d like to make a contribution.

So, here at the top of the program, I’d like to say “thank you,” and encourage you . . . if you’ve not participated already—maybe you’ve been thinking about it—it’s been on your mind, been in your heart . . . now would be a great time to give.

We want to get back to the conversation we started yesterday with Del Fehsenfeld III. Del, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Del: Hey, Nancy, it’s great to be back with you today.

Nancy: Del, we go back a long way—we won’t say quite how long—but your family has been close friends of mine. We’ve been ministry partners for a lot of years. Your dad was the founder of Life Action Ministries, which is the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Your dad’s been with the Lord, now, many years, but you are still serving here on the staff of Life Action Ministries, heading up our pastoral services, and our communications, our Revive publication. (By the way, if you want to know more about that magazine, go to ReviveOurHearts.com and we’ve got a link there to the Revive magazine.)

We’re talking at the end of the year about how we assess and make progress regarding our personal and spiritual vitality. You’ve challenged our staff, and now you’re challenging our listeners this week, to be intentional about spiritual growth and that spiritual growth includes our whole person, every area of our lives.

Del: I feel so strongly about this, Nancy, because of the pace of our culture. We are just being inundated from every direction by information, by busyness and by pressure and so it’s just natural, if we don’t stop to check this, it’s just absolutely inevitable that we’re going to live our lives according to the tyranny of the urgent.

We could do a lot of great things, but the possibility really exists that we could lose sight of the best things. So I really want to encourage people, as I’m encouraging myself here and our staff, that periodically we’ve got to stop the madness. We’ve got to call a “time-out.”

We’ve got to get before the Lord and listen Him to carefully about the things that really matter in our lives—the big picture of our lives, the things that really make up the fabric about what we care about—not just next year or next month, but as we look over our lives, and even from the vantage point of eternity.

Taking some time to do that is absolutely critical.

Nancy: And maybe no better time than at the end of the year, as we’re thinking about goals . . . A lot of us made goals twelve months ago, and have long since forgotten what they were. We maybe haven’t gone back and reviewed progress. Now we have a chance for a fresh start, not just to make goals, but to say, “Lord, what are You doing in my life? How can I become more like Jesus this year in every area of my life?"

It's not just a longer quiet time—though maybe that’s needed—but what other areas are You wanting to address? It all matters to the Lord.

You’ve helped us develop a tool, and I’m so thankful for this. We’re offering it free of charge—no cost—to our listeners on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. There’s a pdf file there. You can download it, you can use it, you can change it in a way that works best for you. This is not a hard and fast “it has to look this way.”

It’s a real practical tool to help you get an overview of the different areas of your life, to say, “How’s it going?” As I’m looking at you, Del, I’m thinking—your wife and four children are also good friends of mine—for those who have families, this not only affects you, but it’s also a way of being intentional about what you want to see God do in the lives of your kids as well.

Del: Correct, Nancy. Our spiritual life (and we’re going to talk about this today in this way) really does encompass more than just my private seeking of the Lord. It involves my relationships. My relationship to Christ really is fleshed out in the four walls of my home. It’s fleshed out in my relationship with my wife. It's fleshed out in the quality of the relationships I have with my kids.

Nancy: If you drift in that area, it’s not just you drifting. They may miss out on some major areas where God wants to work in them.

Del: Yes, because in our families we have that role. When we’re off track and drifting in any corner of our life, there is a cascading effect where it impacts our families as well, and it ultimately affects our witness for Jesus.

It’s just a joyous experience for me to come back to the basis of the fact that Jesus really does have a direction in which He’s leading us. God Himself is committed to conforming us to Jesus’ image, and Jesus made these promises that His intention for us is to live in abundance. His intention is that we really thrive and not just survive.

So, the personal vitality plan that we’re discussing on this program is just one way of getting a big-picture view of that. What I find is that people by their inclinations or their “wiring” pay attention to some things really well. There are points of strength . . . but then there are also places in our lives that get neglected.

It makes sense to sit down from time to time and look at the whole picture . . . to address the whole person. We need to say, “Lord, how am I doing in my relationship to You? . . . in my prayer life or my devotional life (which is so important)? How are things going in other areas as well?What’s the quality of my marriage? How am I relating to my spouse? How are my kids really doing at this particular juncture of their lives, as they’re constantly growing and developing?”

Nancy: I’m thinking about that passage in 2 Kings 4 with the Shunammite woman. Her son dies, and she goes to Elisha to get help. He goes to meet her and he says, “Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with your son?” He’s really just probing and asking, “How are you doing in various areas of your life?”

We’re really talking about asking ourselves—and asking others to help us—to look at those various areas of our life and say, “Is it well? How is it doing?”

Del: What a great picture. Isn’t it a tremendous thing that God cares about every area of our lives? He has resources, He has grace, He has wisdom that will inform the areas that really matter to our daily life. The vitality plan is about opening up to Jesus’ wisdom, into the wisdom of Jesus followers in your life. It's about being honest, getting an assessment, getting a thirty-thousand-foot view of how things are going.

It's about asking yourself that basic question in each area of your life. Whether it’s with my marriage or my family or in my relationships or with my health, with my finances, and, of course, in my disciplines of seeking God. How are things really going? What’s going well? And then, conversely, what’s not going well? It's beginning to take some notes before the Lord.

Nancy: So walk us through this tool. I hope listeners have pulled up the pdf file from ReviveOurHearts.com. (You can print it out or look at it on your screen.) Just walk us through that tool, what it is, how you use it. And the starting point is to set aside some time, maybe a longer period if you can do that, or if you get an hour or two here or there this holiday season. You don’t have to do it in one fell swoop. The thing is to just do it.

You get this form, you look at it, and how do you get started in this process?

Del: You’re absolutely correct—the first step is to just do something—because if the greatest danger is the fact that we drift with the tyranny of the urgent, then the most awesome challenge is that we just do nothing. So we’ve developed this plan called the vitality plan that basically, graphically, represents the different areas of most people’s lives.

It can be tailored to your life in particular, but this is what made the most sense to use in our community. It lists out maybe ten different areas . . . things like seeking God.

Nancy: Explain what you mean by that. What might be included?

Del: It gives some practical categories as to what would be pursuits in connecting to God.

Nancy: It could include Bible study, prayer, praise, Scripture memory, meditation.

Del: That’s right, and we included finances as well because that’s such a huge component of our practical lives in following Jesus. There are things like service, giving, and volunteering. For those of us who are involved in hot pursuit of purity in our lives, we’ve got a section there to really evaluate practical areas of holiness.

This is one that a lot of people are surprise by, but it’s a fun category. It’s a category to look at rest and recreation. We have a need for sleep. We have the need to celebrate and to enjoy and to create moments like that in our lives. Sometimes we don’t think of that as spiritual, but Jesus cares about our joy. So there’s an area there to look at some of those rhythms in our lives.

And then very, very practical here—physical health. I don’t know how many of your listeners think of their body and that habits that support it as being a part of following Jesus. But if you try neglecting that for a time, you’ll find that that becomes a discipleship issue. Jesus cares about our wellbeing.

Nancy: You can’t separate out your physical wellbeing. I know for my life that when my physical rhythms and disciplines are neglected or off-course, that does affect every other area of my life. It affects my ability to respond to pressure, to love Christ and others, to serve well. It’s all tied in together.

Del: That’s right. There’s a section on relationships. Of course, marriage and family are relationships and there’s a separate component for them. But friendships . . . friendships are a part of following Jesus.

Nancy: Am I so busy that I’m not nurturing friendships well? That’s something that may come out in the course of doing this.

Del: Sometimes we’re familiar in Christian circles with the idea of accountability. Maybe that would fit under that relationship category—the way we get counsel, or don’t get it, in our lives. Are we meaningfully involved in small groups or gatherings of Christians who help us follow Jesus?

These are the ways we’ve broken it out. I think, Nancy, when you sat down to do it, you added some categories.

Nancy: Yes, a couple areas that really came to my heart as I’ve been working on this over the last couple of days is my whole use of time and technology. Those, for me, are very tied in. I knew it in my head, but I hadn’t actually put it on paper to say, “Look, this is an issue in my life.”

My iPhone is helping me to do some really effective things in ministry and growth, but also, it’s the fact that it’s the first thing I reach for when I wake up in the morning. I realize it’s sapping some spiritual life and some joy and vitality from my life.

So, just to start to identify what some of these areas are that are robbing spiritual vitality was really helpful for me.

Del: And the tool can be adapted. The point is not that listeners use our categories—it’s that they think about their whole person in following Jesus.

Nancy: Another area that I identified was just overall emotional health. As I took some time to think about this, I realized that in the course of the stress and the pressures and the busyness of this season, my spirit has not been peaceful, I’ve not been at rest.

I’ve been acting stressed and not experiencing the kind of joy and encouragement that I know the Lord wants me to. Just identifying that and saying, “I’ve been uptight.” If I’m realizing that, probably other people are realizing it, too. That’s not thriving. That’s not personal or spiritual vitality.

So, a starting place to dealing with those things is just to identify in these different areas. It's to assess, “Where am I?”

Del: People can tailor this to their needs, and I think one of the things that it’s important to recognize as you do go through the exercise is that it’s possible to be really full in one area and weak in another. And that’s a paradox, because we tend to think I’m ether doing well and succeeding, or I’m failing, and you can really get on that roller coaster.

The truth is, every honest Christian following Jesus probably has real points of breakthrough and strength and at the same time a need for strengthening and grace and help in other areas. So, when we ask the question, “How’s it really going?” what you discover as you look at the bigger picture of your life and work through some of these categories, is that you’re going to find points where you’re doing really well. And those are points you can celebrate before the Lord.

Nancy: And that’s a question that’s part of this tool: “What is going well?”

Del: You may find that there are strengths or ways Jesus has led you that have led to this strength, or you’ve tapped into grace and help that can be really instructive for areas where you’re not doing so well. So, what’s going well? What’s not? And the tool has a little place where you can record that category by category and make some notes for yourself.

So you’re basically in this posture of listening to the Holy Spirit, asking these questions for wisdom, identifying places of strength, and then just being honest. “Wow, this is not going that great.”

Nancy: It may be areas that have just been neglected, that you haven’t thought about. It may be places where there hasn’t been a train wreck yet, but by identifying some of these areas . . . “Oh, man. I haven’t been dealing with this area of my life. I need to. If I do deal with it now, I may avert a train wreck down the road.”

Del: Yes, it’s really a discovery process with Jesus. It's taking the time to make some notes on those things, and it can really be revealing. I know you were talking to me this week about having done that yourself. Even though you’re obviously a wise, mature Christian, it was really helpful to sit down and get this all in one place.

Every time I do this, Nancy, I’m struck by how grateful I am that I took the time to listen to the wisest person in the universe, Jesus Himself. He’s just confident. He knows how life works, and He actually will share His heart with me.

So, we ask these questions:

  • What is going well? 
  • What is not? 
  • What are some achievable steps that I could take to shore up some areas of weakness or to build on the strengths? 

Then we want to answer the questions, “What steps do I need to take to address what I’m finding, about what’s weak?”

Nancy: That’s where we can ask the Lord, too. Ask Him not only to show us what the needs are, but as you said, He’s so wise, and His Word and His Spirit will help us to know, “Here’s some practical steps you can take to see growth in these areas.”

Del: There have been so many times, Nancy, that I’ve actually brought with me three or four years of the vitality plan. I’ve been doing this personally. Mine is not so elaborate as yours—as I’m looking—but I’m kind of a scattered kind person. I sit down and make some notes and as I look back at things the Lord has touched over the years, I’m really grateful.

I’m just really grateful that Jesus Himself has shared wisdom. He’s given me some practical steps to take.

Nancy: Can you give us some examples?

Del: Yes, I really can. It’s a little silly in some ways, it feels silly to share some of these things, but let me tell you how simple it is for me. I actually have on here some things from two or three years ago when I asked Jesus this question, “What do I need to address?” He put his finger on the fact that I needed to go to the doctor and actually get a physical checkup.

I was gaining weight, my energy level was bad, and I 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 pretty novel concept.

So I went there and the doctor was pretty straight. He said some very pointed things that required some significant rearranging of my life. It was not easy, but I feel Jesus has given me that as I listen to Him, so I try to move into those areas with faith.

This is the way it works. It’s not super theological or scientific, in that way. But it’s very practical, I find, when we just open up to the daily areas of our life.

Nancy: You say it’s not theological, but I find it’s very biblical. I’m thinking, as you’re talking, about that benediction in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5—what an appropriate verse to share with our listeners as we come to the end of this year. This would be my prayer for myself and for my friends and for our listeners—1 Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who called you is faithful, he will surely do it” (vv. 23–24).

So there’s this heart we see that God has for us in every area of our lives—to be pursuing godliness, to be sanctified, to be becoming more like Jesus. I love the balance in God’s Word, because there are places where we’re told to fight the good fight and to pursue godliness. And yet we see in this verse also that it’s the grace of God and the faithfulness of God that enables us to become who He wants us to be in those different areas.

Del: Yes, and that’s what I think I want your listeners to grasp, that Jesus will meet you in this process, as clumsy as it is to carve out those precious moments and to bring our life as it is before Jesus. As we take that step of faith to break the inertia and to break those habit patterns and to get before Him, He’ll meet us there.

Some of these things, as I look back, I realize now have become part of the fabric of my ongoing life . . . where I’ve focused on two or three things there. I’m reaping the fruit because they became ongoing habits and I was able to move on then to something else.

That’s the way that growth happens. Growth really does happen in the trenches as we take simple steps of obedience.

Nancy: It’s like thousands of little adjustments through the course of a year isn’t it?

Del: It really is. Sometimes we think of our standing with God on the basis of our performance. We think when we do an exercise like this what makes us valuable to God is that we’ve got everything right.

Nancy: Like a report card . . .

Del: . . . right, like a report card. I’ve got an A or a B or C or D, or I’m failing. But what I’m learning more and more is that Jesus cares about the trajectory of our life. He cares about our connectedness to Him and our attentiveness. He wants us to live our lives with Him, and He wants to live His life with us.

And so, this tool can become a springboard—not just into behavioral goals, but into relationship. What we’re really seeking when we seek vitality is a closer connection to Jesus, and He’s there for us.

Nancy: We’re going to continue this conversation one more day. We’ll come back tomorrow and talk about how others can be involved with us in the process of spiritual growth and vitality, in transformation into the life of Christ. Let me reiterate what we’re trying to say today.

Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. It won’t happen if we’re not intentional about it. And that’s why I’m so thankful that you, Del, have helped us develop a tool—a personal vitality tool. If you need a track run on, if you’re the kind of a person, like me, who likes a chart and a piece of paper to jot some notes on, you can pull this up on our website. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com, there’s a pdf file there. You can print it out; you can make adjustments to it. But do something.

Purpose to set aside some time over this holiday weekend to stop, to be still, be quiet, to get before the Lord. Don’t just eat and watch football your way into the new year and miss out on the potential of something that a year from now. You could be really, really thankful you did, because you’ll see the growth.

You don’t see that growth overnight. You see it when you look back and realize that you’ve been intentional, day by day, little by little, and that God in the process has been growing you up and making you more like Jesus.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Del Fehsenfeld about the personal vitality plan. You can get a free copy at our website.

Would you let Del Fehsenfeld know what you think of today’s program? Or, you can ask him a question. He’ll join the Revive Our Heart’s listener blog today. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com, click on today’s program and scroll to the end of the transcript. You’ll find comments from our listeners, and you can add your own.

Del will be reading those and answering questions today.

So, say you’re going through this personal vitality plan, and you need help in every area! How do you avoid feeling overwhelmed? How do you prioritize? Del and Nancy will be back to talk about it tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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