People are always searching for purpose, something that makes them feel complete and happy and worthwhile. As they search and don’t find, they come up with new ways to live that they think will introduce the solution and end the searching.
What’s been emphasized lately is intentional living.
In a nutshell, intentional living means trading a habitual lifestyle for living in a way that makes us happier, more satisfied; it means living on purpose.
It’s an attempt to make today matter.
It’s a very appealing way to live — with good reason. Most of us live in a go-go-go society with a busy mindset, and the result of this is living our lives without real focus on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. All of this leads to stress and overwhelm, and even doctors are suggesting that people slow down. These consequences of a too-full lifestyle have made people want to change and evolve their lives into lives of substance.
One of the ways people choose to do this is by focusing on their own well-being so that they can cherish each day. The main facets are mind, body, heart, and soul (in a spiritual sense, not always a God-focused one); this would include meditating, exercising and being mindful of what you eat, being grateful, unplugging, spending quality time with loved ones, and finding time to do “soul-nourishing” things, things that make you feel happy and alive.
I love white space on the calendar, time to rest and reset, and having a reason for what I do. So, naturally, I’m on board with this new mindset. In fact, I think most of the concepts are more than beneficial for mental health and spiritual growth.
But, there’s a catch that’s often overlooked — one more thing missing that would enhance these concepts and make living on purpose have real purpose: living intentionally, but for God. What I mean by this is living with a focus on God, with every thought and action we decide to make based on God’s word and His will and His purpose. It means recognizing that everything we do should be for the glory of God.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31
Romans 8 discusses trading living for the flesh (earthly things) for living for the Spirit because living for the flesh is a fruitless bondage. Living for the flesh means that our minds are set on the things of the flesh. Some of these are also things that intentional living tries to avoid, such as materialism and unbalanced priorities, so most of the intentional living principles are excellent ways for Christians to live! They emphasize the fact that we need to prioritize and be steady-minded and careful about how we choose to live our days.
The problem is that the focus is often on serving self. Many times the reason people choose to live intentionally is because they want to be happier or more fulfilled. I don’t disagree that these are good things, but happiness is a stepping-stone, and fulfillment is found Christ.
I was recently watching a YouTube video made by another Christian. In this video, she discusses minimalism (intentional living applied to physical belongings) as Christians, and she says,
“I think as Christians we are just called to live that way, to live more intentional lives, and to be more aware and thoughtful of how we live. And so minimalism is just kind of like a side part of that…I feel like if you’re really trying to be aware and mindful and a good steward of what you have, and just trying to live a life that is pleasing to God and just being more mindful in your walk with Him, I feel like minimalism just naturally…comes out of that.”
— Joyful Mothering
I think this is spot on. Intentional living, and even minimalism, are just small facets of a bigger purpose for living, which is following Jesus Christ and pleasing God. The only difference is that now, these facets have trendy names! This zoomed-out mindset can be a hard thing to achieve, and amid this intentional living movement, I often find myself forgetting that intentional living isn’t the point. Without God in the picture, intentional living is empty.
Here are some intentional living concepts that are rooted in basic biblical principles:
1 | Living in the present, living as if it’s your last day | Don’t worry because God holds your days, and live in a way that demonstrates you don’t know how much time you have on this earth (Matthew 6:25-34; Psalm 103:15-16; Psalm 90:12).
2 | Knowing and trusting in something bigger than yourself | Recognize God’s power and realize how small we are compared to Him and eternity, and trust Him to take care of you because He loves you (Isaiah 55:8-9; Psalm 8:3-4; Luke 12:4-7).
3 | Living a grateful life | Live a life of thankfulness to God, and express that thankfulness to Him (Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
4 | Keeping a relatively open schedule so you aren’t overwhelmed | Don’t overfill your life with worldly things so that you can focus on God and His purposes, not the things of this earth — make time for God first. Give Him your first fruits! (Matthew 6:33; 2 Timothy 2:15-16; Ephesians 5:15-17).
Though I don’t think God is always purposefully left out of this equation, especially among Christians, I do think that often the emphasis shifts from Him to our introspective selves and stops there.
I’ve started asking myself why. I ask myself why I want to be more intentional in my life — is it because I want to serve myself or because I want to be better and more stable so I can serve God? If the answer is the former, then I need to regroup and change my heart.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.“
If you’re looking for peace and substance and spirituality through intentional living, then look to the One who really has it! Let everything else simply follow suit. The peace He gives surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and the substance and spirituality you’ll receive is a transformed, eternal life.
Try intentionally living for God. That’s how you’ll make today matter.
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