A Checklist for Living Well

There’s a great NPR podcast titled How I Built This. I love it! It’s about people who have created, invented, or started movements that have become highly successful.

I’ve listened to interviews with the founders of Whole Foods, Spanx (Every woman say AMEN!), Lyft, Crate and Barrel, and Kate Spade, to name a few.

Every interview seems to involve shared themes:

  • Each story begins with a vision to meet a need most people have that hasn’t been met.
  • This vision leads to a passion to create something to meet the need.
  • Next, there’s inevitably a massive, unexpected hardship that sweeps the rug right out from under their feet—a flood, money shortage, rejection—something that threatens their dream.
  • However, by adjusting, persevering, seeking options—by adapting to what is possible—each business pulls through.

VICTORY! (Along with a whole lot of grit, sweat, and tears.)

God’s Standard of Success

Not everyone is called to be an inventor or entrepreneur. As Christians, we are called by God for a unique purpose—every one of us, including those who are challenged or disabled. We are also called by God to keep an eternal perspective in defining success.

In Ephesians 5:15–20, the apostle Paul wrote a “How to Build This [Life]” for believers to assess their success by God’s standards. Let’s read what he wrote:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NLT)

Paul was writing to the church he had started in Ephesus, hence the book named “Ephesians.” Paul is the ultimate “How I Built This” kind of guy— a visionary with enormous passion who endured massive hardships.

However, he kept his “reframing” goggles on and found a way to adapt to his circumstances, regardless.

“So Be Careful How You Live”

While the church in Ephesus was strong, it was still comprised of mere humans. Paul had been around the block enough to know that with humanity comes all sorts of problems because we all have a sin nature.

He knew the nature of Ephesian culture:

  • Idol worship
  • Lust for power
  • Selfishness
  • Bickering

Not much different than our culture today. We may not call that which we worship “idols,” but anything we love more than Christ is an idol. OUCH!

“So be careful how you live.” How relevant for us today!

Like a loving parent or wise teacher, Paul began his letter with a multilayered word of caution: be careful how you live today by keeping an eternal perspective. Every day we have the choice to spend our time and resources wisely or foolishly.

Paul dove a little deeper in verses 16 and 17. Make the most of each day and commit yourself to doing what is moral, good, and right, and constantly seek God’s will and direction. That is living a “thoughtful” life. Learn. Grow.

(Image from Unsplash)

Let’s look at verse 18. Notice that the passage does not say:

  • Don’t touch wine (or any alcohol)
  • Keep a list of those who drink wine (so when “prayer request” time comes around, you can talk all about their sinful lives)
  • Wine always leads to alcoholism

Scripture speaks for itself. One commentator reflected on the passage this way:

Paul emphatically brands drunkenness as “excess,” a word properly signifying “recklessness”—“incapable of saving,” or denying itself anything, and naturally passing through this want of self-restraint into profligacy—rightly translated “riot” in Titus 1:6, 1 Peter 4:4, as the corresponding adverb is rendered “riotous living” in Luke 15:13. For drunkenness is at once the effect and cause of utter recklessness. It is the effect of a self-abandonment, by which the sensual or passionate elements of the nature are stimulated to frenzy, while the self-controlling judgment is drugged to sleep.[ref]Note on Ephesians 5:18 in Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers,, accessed May 30, 2017.[/ref]

Notice the other references from Scripture which support Paul’s description of reckless, wild, uncontrolled living.

Paul’s point is to exercise self-control (a fruit of the Spirit). It is the law of sowing and reaping; give in to any form of excess and plan to reap the results.

Wine is used as an example, not as the central point. In other words, learn to control your human passions with constant dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Paul encouraged Ephesian Christians to show gratitude to and worship God daily. Neuroscience today has observed that the human brain shows physiological structural changes and resulting emotional shifts when a person practices gratitude.

The overflow of dependence on the Spirit is a foundation of gratitude and praise to God. The Spirit can literally transform the believer inside and out.

Let Me Hear from You

What kind of life are you building? Are you investing in things that matter, meeting needs, possessing a full and grateful heart?

Or have you given up on life after hitting a few bumps? Remember those four observations I mentioned earlier:

  1. Vision
  2. Passion
  3. Hardship/failure
  4. Adaptability/change

These characteristics are not limited to entrepreneurs; we all need to put these into practice to build a godly life. What is the hardest or most meaningful part of Ephesians 5:15–20 for you to put into practice? Why?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.