September 9, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
I love to hike. Hiking is my favorite hobby, my favorite form of exercise, and my favorite way to delight in the wonders of God’s creation. In fact, just a few days ago I enjoyed a glorious hike in the High Sierra of California. (The photo is from that hike. My son, Nathan, and I are sitting on a ridge above Treasure Lakes, near Bishop, California.)
Most of the time, I hike on well-designed and well-maintained trails. But every now and then I set out into the wilderness, hiking where there is no trail. Such cross-country hiking allows me to see sights enjoyed by very few human eyes. Plus, hiking off the trail virtually guarantees perfect solitude. (In the photo, Nathan and I went about a half-mile off the trail.)
There are risks involved in hiking, especially the cross-country version. Weather and wild animals can be dangerous. Hikers can get lost. But, perhaps the greatest risk in hiking is injury. It’s not unusual for a hiker to sprain an ankle or to trip and fall. Even relatively minor injuries can ruin a good hike. Thus, when I’m trekking along in the wilderness, I always (or almost always) pay close attention to where and how I’m walking.
Ephesians 5:15 uses the metaphor of paying attention while walking to encourage us in our daily living. The beginning of verse 15 reads in the NIV, “Be very careful, then, how you live.” The original language could be rendered more literally, “Examine carefully, then, how you are walking.” We have already seen in Ephesians how walking serves as a metaphor for living (Ephesians 2:2,10; Ephesians 4:1,17). In 5:15, we learn that we had better pay close attention when we walk. We should always watch our step.
How can we do this, practically speaking? Today, I want to suggest one down-to-earth way of looking carefully at our lives. In future Life for Leaders devotions I’ll add a few more suggestions.
When I hike, especially when I’m off the trail, I need to be intentional about watching where I am going. I can’t just cruise along without scanning the ground ahead of me—looking for rocks that could twist my ankle, roots that might trip me, and even snakes that could bite. Sometimes I must stop completely to think about where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. Plus, when I stop, I am better able to delight in the beauty of my surroundings. I can drink in the glory of God’s creation, filled with awe and gratitude, humbled by the power and majesty of the Creator.
So it should be in daily living. We also need to stop moving, to stop hurrying on to the next thing so we can take time to think about how we’re living. I’m not suggesting we have to overthink everything. But I do believe we need to pause regularly so we might examine carefully how we’re living in the present moment and where we’re headed in the next moment. As in hiking, those moments of stopping also allow us to delight in the goodness of our lives, offering thanks to God and humbling ourselves before God’s majesty.
Of course God built a kind of stopping into the very fabric of life. On the seventh day God rested from his work, setting aside one day a week for stopping. Part of the purpose of Sabbath is to give us the mental and emotional space to pause so that we might examine our lives with God’s help. God really wants us to enjoy the gift of Sabbath, the gift of stopping.
So, as you go about “hiking” through this day, see if you can take at least one time to slow down, even to stop. Rather than pressing on to the next thing, take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Examine carefully how you are living. Look down the trail to see what’s coming. Thank the Lord for the gift of life, for the gift of this day. Ask for wisdom to live attentively and fruitfully, for God’s purposes and glory.
Something to Think About:
Do you regularly stop at least once a day to reflect on how you are living? Why or why not?
What keeps you pressing on to the next thing and the next thing, rather than pausing for quiet and gratitude?
What helps you to stop so that you might pay closer attention to your life?
Something to Do:
At some time today, stop the busyness so you can examine carefully how you are living. Even if you only have five minutes for stopping, use that five minutes well. You may even want to put your stop time into your calendar. Ask the Lord to help you see accurately how you are living today and where you should be headed.
Gracious God, Ephesians urges me to examine carefully how I am living. Sometimes I do this. But often, as you know, I don’t. I just keep running from one thing to another, reacting rather than acting thoughtfully, doing what’s urgent rather than what’s important. Forgive me, Lord, for all the times I live without thoughtfulness or intentionality. Forgive me when I fail to stop and rest.
Today, by your grace, I want to live differently. Help me to stop so that I might look at how I’m living. May your Spirit help me to see clearly how I am living and how I might live even more fully in your grace and for your purposes. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project:
Created to Rest: Entering Into Joyful Communion With God
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.