God isn’t a mystical figure in the heavens who plays a mischievous game of hide-and-seek. He is a personal God who invades your life through the person of the Holy Spirit. He longs for you to feed the life of Christ in you with his Word and with prayer and then allow the results to reach out into other people’s lives. When we surrender our will to God, seek his heart, hear his voice, and respond to his nudges, we thrive. Life becomes radically different and we no longer hang on just to survive. Suddenly, life resonates with a deep-seeded—almost inexplicable—joy and peace that flows from a Father who is well pleased. When you let Jesus have all of you, he will fulfill his purposes for you and show you exactly why he created you for himself. You will experience a contentment that comes from an assurance that God is right there with you and that he’ll never leave you. And it comes from knowing you are his and that your life thrives because it demonstrates just how much you love him.
Part of the thriving life is to share the gospel—the reason we thrive. The world doesn’t want to hear about rules. Deep down, most people know they’re bad and can’t stop themselves from doing what they don’t want to do. Yet the gospel requires change. The gospel is the good news of a God who makes all things new. Love earns the right to speak the truth. When we love others, they know we’re sharing with them because we love them. Our willingness to share the truth of Scripture proves we really love, and if we’re not telling them the truth, we really don’t love them. We just love our friendship. When we give truth in love, we are ambassadors for Christ. It’s not a reflection on us personally. It doesn’t matter if the other person rolls her eyes or yells at us or says, “That’s cool, but that’s not really for me.” She still realizes you did it in love, and in quiet moments to come, she will remember it. And some day it may take root. Just like it did in you.
There is no secret to learning how to thrive. God spelled it out in his Word, and the only way we’ll thrive is if we know his Word and live his Word. Money and fame do not equate to thriving, nor does a rewarding job. Our job is what we do. If it is who we are, we’re in for a miserable ride. Jesus came to give us life, and not just mundane life. He came to give us thriving life. But he is the door. He’s the way. We have to walk through the door and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to him. We can’t stand with one foot inside the door and the other foot out in the world and expect to have abundant, thriving life. The thriving life means going all in with Jesus. But going all in with Jesus means being willing to minister how, where, and to whom he wants us to minister. We don’t get to pick and choose. It can be scary and even feel uncertain, but it makes for a great adventure and it thrills the heart of Jesus to no end.
The fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Notice that the Bible does not call these attributes the “fruits of the Spirit” (plural). Taken together, they’re the “fruit of the Spirit” (singular), meaning that where the Spirit of God is present, all of these attributes are present in some degree. Some are present more than others, but they’re all there. We also forget that we cannot hang fruit. We try to hang it, but the graft fails every time. It is God who works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure. While growing you, God tries to work himself into all of your life and how you react to people and circumstances. The fruit of the Spirit is produced when we instinctively seek out God’s nourishment through spending time in his Word and in prayer. Our focus is simply to know him, to be fed and refreshed by him, to rest in him, and to love him by loving others in his name. This is what it means to thrive.
(My youth pastor just talked about this last night!)
You’re here on purpose, weaknesses included. You are all God’s fault. But guess what? He knows what he’s doing. God doesn’t call extroverted people to be introverted or introverted people to be extroverted. He doesn’t call creative people to handle the church calendar, and he doesn’t call detail-oriented people to write dramas. He made you totally on purpose. God also knits together your personality for whatever he’s called you to do. But he uses his Holy Spirit to work the you part out of you. He always works on your rough edges, but God doesn’t want you to be somebody you’re not. God can use you just where you are—your gifts, talents, and strengths—but in using you, he will change you and conform you to look more like Christ. Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all for the glory of the Lord. When you work, do it as though working for the Lord. Use your gifts. Pour into others. Listen to that inner tug. See the hole you’re supposed to fill. Get busy thriving.
There is something about the way Jesus sees people that invites us to want to know him more. Until we have a true love for Jesus, until we search out his heart, our hearts will not be broken by what breaks his. The more I walk with God—not practicing religion or doing ministry but getting to know the person of Jesus by spending time with him—the more I see people the way he sees them. When I start seeing people like he sees them, I start hurting like he does. Even better, when I spend time with him and I’m grounded in his Word, I minister out of pure motives and not sappy emotionalism. Sappy emotionalism runs out of steam. Biblically grounded and Spirit-led outreach, in contrast, stays consistent and strong, like the thick branches of a giant oak that thrives with abundant life. When you walk into your office or your school, do you see people as road cones on your way to bigger and better things? Or do you see them as God’s providential appointments to reach? Do you see a chance to thrive?
Doing big things for God is not some grand movement to shoot for in the future. Doing big things for God just means doing the very next thing he says. It’s the very next person you need to love on and forgive. It’s the very next person to tell about Jesus. It’s the very next temptation to resist. One decision at a time, we should seek to look at it the way Jesus does and trust him for the results. Are you surviving life right now, or are you thriving through your life? Survivors tend to think that tomorrow will be easier, tomorrow will work out better, and if they can just get to tomorrow they’re going to be okay. We’ll always anticipate another tomorrow, and tomorrow will never fill us. Only Jesus will bring us fulfillment and peace now. God wants us to see with the eyes of Christ right here and now. Only then will we see a purpose for being where he has us at this moment. He tells us to redeem the time, and the time is now.