This is my thirty-ninth year. God has been very good to me and every day I realize just how blessed and favored that I am. As I start to count my blessings and thank God for His provision I can’t help but look back and see how far He has brought me.
Twenty years ago I was nineteen and in a state of transition, as many at that age are. I had just started college, a semester late and a semester behind most of the other kids my age. I was away from home for the first time and every day was a new learning experience. Although I greatly enjoyed my college years I can look back and recognize mistakes I made and habits that I developed that I wish I hadn’t.
They say wisdom is gained through experience. I pray that I gained wisdom from my errors and have learned a better way. Even so, if I could take a few things that I know now and tell my nineteen-year old self back then, this is what I would say:
1. A life lived in complete surrender to God is the richest and fullest life you can have. This is the absolute most important truth that I could impart to anyone, at any age. Surrender is such a difficult concept for us humans and I believe that it gets tougher as we get older. The younger you are when you decide to fully surrender your life to God and start to take the necessary steps to live a Godly life, the better off you will be. The reason why? Because God takes our surrendered lives and produces love, joy and peace in us and through us, something we can never do on our own.
2. You can’t take it back. I’ve said some things in my life that I wish I hadn’t. And as sorry as I might be after the offending words have left my lips, I have never been able to call them back. My words have hurt people, led them astray and many times have been full of foolishness. If you are like me, you can identify moments in your life when you wish you had said something different or just kept your mouth shut. My goal at this point in my life is to try and make sure my speech matches up to Colossians 4:6 which says “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Speak grace (unmerited favor) and wisdom and you can never go wrong.
3. Don’t live in debt. Financially speaking. Don’t spend more than you make. Live below your means. Live well below your means because that is the truest and best path to prosperity. Don’t waste what you earn and what you are given on fruitless pursuits and on things that don’t bring glory to God because you will only regret it later. It’s so easy to use a credit card and to buy things that seem like fun now only to realize that you can’t afford to pay it off at the end of the month. It’s easy to dig yourself into a financial hole and very difficult to dig yourself out of one. Learn to handle money wisely, respect your resources and get into the habit of saving money. That way you can give your tithe and offerings to God with a clear and unburdened heart and know that God will bless you for it.
4. Be patient. All things happen in God’s time. Despite what our society is telling us, you really can’t have it all right now. Some things can and should be waited for. Be patient and pray for faithfulness while you look for your cue from God that it is time to act. Wait for sex until marriage, it really is worth it. Wait until you’ve grown up a little bit before you buy a really nice car or other big ticket item because without the benefit of maturity, you won’t appreciate it properly. Wait for experience and study of God’s Word to teach you wisdom and knowledge of the truth. If you keep your focus on God then you won’t miss anything good that God has coming your way. Getting impatient and doing things out of order just causes problems for you and for others and can bring you heartache and pain.
5. God can fix it. Inevitably you will mess up. I have actually failed at all of these in one way or another! Amazingly, God still loves me and there isn’t a mess that I have gotten myself into that His love and His grace haven’t been able to get me out of. That isn’t to say that we should ever take God’s grace lightly or forget what it cost Him. Sin is serious and there are always consequences for our sin. But praise God that His grace is always greater than my sin and He can work any problem, error or mistake out for ultimate good. Only an awesome God could do something like that and I know that when I fail I can always turn to Him for His help. If you’ve messed up, let God have it and let God fix it, because only He can.
These are the five things that I would tell myself twenty years ago, if I could. Although it isn’t possible for me to deliver this message back in time, I can deliver it to you and ask you to deliver it to anyone that you think it might help. I want the best possible life for everyone I meet and if someone else can benefit from my experiences then I will thank God for that.