When I graduated High School, 41 years ago, I visited with Mr. Carr, a respected church elder in his eighty’s, and asked him the simple question, “If you were my age again, what would you tell yourself?” He gave a very short answer, “Keep it simple, Stephen. Keep it simple.” While I tried to grasp all that he meant in his reply, the blanks surrounding his summary statement were more than my eighteen years could fill. I believe I can do better now approaching my sixtieth year.
Keep it simple by keeping God first. – Jesus said, “Many will say, “I did good things in your name! We ate together!” and yet, they will be told, “I don’t know you.” So, what does putting God first mean, because these folks seem to have done it pretty well? I think the evidence of God being first in a person’s life is what they do when no one is looking and no one will know. Jesus said what is done in secret will be rewarded. The most secluded, least public room in a person’s house is their closet; the secret place in a person is their heart. What happens in your heart is of chief importance, to God.
When you begin your day, do you seek Him? When you have free time, what do you do with it? Play video games, talk with friends, check Facebook? None of these are inherently evil, but if your escape is chronically to them, it reveals your heart. Jesus was always snatching moments away with His father — early in the mornings, late into the night, when he was distressed in Gethsemane, or when he wanted to share something special with friends. What He did in his spare time reveals what was in his heart.
Keep it simple by speaking to build up. — Words are so powerful. It was with words that God created the universe. He could have used his hands, but he didn’t. Words were more powerful. Scripture says words hold the power of life and death. James tells us to exercise great caution, “Be slow to speak.” You have the power to choose what you will say. That is great power.
Choose to use your words to speak good of and to others. Say what builds people up, gives them hope, draws attention to their best. It is a common practice of our Enemy to accuse and ridicule, but God’s way is to overlook an offense. Practice the best uses of your words – be an encourager and a promoter of what is good and possible in people.
Keep it simple by listening deep. — If you are talking, you aren’t listening. As powerful as words are, listening is even more powerful. Silence is golden; it is valuable. As powerful as Jesus’ messages were, He listened first, “What I say is only what I have heard from my Father.” We can’t actually know WHAT to SAY until we LISTEN. Therefore, listening is the higher virtue.
Train yourself to hear the feelings, emotions, and motivations intertwined with what people are saying. Learn to hear the heart within the facts. When you hear God say, “Give to the poor,” there is more going on than a discussion on giving money. If you are listening well, you’ll discern His command includes giving with humility, giving in such a way as to protect the dignity of the poor, giving to the limits that are best for the recipient, giving without seeking recognition for yourself, giving in trust that God will supply your needs, giving as an extension of God’s compassion for those in need, etc.
Excel at listening. Give one ear to your Heavenly Father and the other to His children. Listen deeply, below the surface, hear their hearts — and then choose your words carefully. Listening simply keeps relationships from becoming complicated.
Keep it simple by living for forever. – Jesus said, “Work for things that last.” Paul agreed, “If for this life only, we have hope, that’s miserable.” Don’t live your life for now, live it for forever. Paul said it, well, simply, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. Do something useful and share with others.” There is the “closet-life” (quiet, no fanfare, God-first type life) again. Do you also see the “other-focused life” that listens and encourages? They are all bundled together, but what a challenge it is to keep life neatly bound in that simple package! Society and circumstances complicate and multiply the list of things required for happiness and wellbeing. My old friend’s advice will keep you free from the burden of those entanglements and complications
Keep it simple:
- God first.
- Listen deeply.
- Speak to build up.
- And Live for forever.
It’s what I’d tell my self if I were eighteen again…. and one more thing…. I’d tell my self to tell Mr. Carr, “You were right. Thanks.”