Recently, I was in Portland, OR doing a full-day seminar on time management and organizational skills. Basically, my job was to help a large group of very busy people, learn how to get a life! At the beginning, I asked permission to enlarge the focus from just “Time “Management” and make the day a “Life Management” class. “We only have 168 hours a week. You can’t add a single minute to it. So we’re not just trying to manage time, we’re trying to manage our lives.” Everyone agreed that this was okay.
During the first part of the morning, we talked about “life values.” I asked them to define the word ‘Value.’ I got answers like, “Things that are important to us,” or “Things that help me know what to do,” or “Things that make me feel good.”
I then took them through an exercise to help them determine what their top eight values were. It was a fun little exercise that really opened their eyes.
Why is this so important? Most people never get specific about exactly what is important to them in their lives. Zig Ziggler called these people “Wandering Generalities.” By understanding what your values are, you can become what’s called a “Meaningful Specific!” You can learn to live your life congruently with your values, which tends to bring great joy and satisfaction.
At a certain point, I asked them if I could tell them what my top three were—“just for sake of illustration.” They all said yes.
“My number one value in life is my relationship with God,” I told them. “I am not a religious person, but I have an very good relationship with my Father. I spend time with him everyday. If this relationship isn’t good, nothing else seems to work for me in my life.”
I told them a couple of things that I do to make sure the relationship is strong. Then, I went on to describe in detail my number two value–my relationship with my wife and our kids, and my number three–physical fitness. I explained why there were important, and how they had changed the way I did life. I could tell by their nodding heads that they were beginning to see what focusing on their values could do for them.
Later that day, a young man who looked to be in his early 30’s came up to me. This was a pretty large class. I could tell by his body language that he was a little hesitant approaching the “speaker.” (Like I don’t put my pants on the same way he does each morning…)
“Robert, you said that you’re not a religious person. But you have a great relationship with God. What did you mean by that?”
The question made me pause. I had to think for a few seconds before I spoke. I could tell that this was a very important question for him and that he really wanted a good answer. And I could also hear God’s little voice telling me to slow down and take this seriously.
“Well, I’m really not a religious person. Religions are man made. They try to get to God by what we do—by deeds and actions. It’s all based on our own efforts. Religion has to do with rules and regulations. It’s all about work.”
“On the other hand, a relationship with God is not based on our efforts, but on His amazing love and grace for us. It’s not based on work. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do want to do good things, and serve him, but I fail at that all the time. I’ll never be perfect. But he loves me anyway—in spite of my failings.”
It’s just like my relationship with my kids. Like me, they make mistakes. Many times they tell me about them. I don’t love them any less. It’s just not like that—quite the contrary. I love them even more. Just as my kids want to please me because they know I love them, I want to please God. And the love I have for them pails in comparison to the love that God has for us. Religion tends to get in the way of that.”
He seemed to understand, thanked me, and walked away. I said a little prayer for him right then-and-there.
As I thought about it more, I realized that there are additional differences.
With religion, the goal is to “earn” your way in. It’s all about works. Since no one is perfect, it many times leads to apathy, frustration, guilt, and fear.
With relationship, the goal is to “trust” and then to enjoy the relationship. You want to please Him, but you won’t always succeed. This sort of relationship produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (The fruit of the spirit!)
The problem is that many people see God as they might see their dad. Maybe their dad was mean, or an alcoholic, or abused them. I’ve heard countless stories about these kinds of fathers. Growing up, I experienced a dad who didn’t pay much attention to me. He was indifferent.
But God is different. He is concerned about every detail of you life. If you want to learn more, pick up a Bible and begin reading the first book of the New Testament—Matthew. Just read a little bit each day. Then go to the next book, Mark. Then Luke… After a while you’ll begin to understand.
So maybe you’re like that young man. Maybe no one has ever explained it to you the way that you could make sense of it. Maybe your parents never understood.
There’s only one way to enter into a true relationship with God. I’m not going to go into that here. But if you’re interested, email or call me and I can explain it to you. My contact information is on my website. But whether you contact me or not, explore it. Dive in. Ask questions.
I can tell you this—the decision to have a relationship with Him was the best decision I’ve ever made. Bar none!