Raising My Standards

Happy woman standing with hands up on long straight road facing

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT) Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Does my life measure up to the full and complete standard of Jesus Christ? Well, one would hope so but how can I really know? Am I satisfied with my natural life? Am I making a supernatural influence and divine impact on the world around me? Has my relationship with Jesus Christ raised my standard of living? When it comes to economics, standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, material goods and necessities available to a certain socioeconomic class in a particular geographical location. In other words, it changes from person to person, class to class, country to country and even county to county. Success and failure are often determined in this life but what we have or do not have, what is achieved or attained. The gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge of a country’s economic health but gives no insight to a soul’s survival or well-being. It is the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period and based solely on human ability not godly influence.

“Equity, dignity, happiness and sustainability – these are all fundamental to our lives but absent in the GDP. Progress needs to be defined and measured in a way which accounts for the broader picture of human development and its context.” Helen Clarke, UNDP. I agree with Ms. Clarke. Too often people become consumed with a better way of life and not raising their standard of living. Comparing our lives to those around us, it is difficult to achieve success and happiness beyond what we know now. People and society is always changing. Supply and demand drive economic influences producing a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction. For example, I can buy a new cell phone or computer today and in six months it will be obsolete. Why? Supply and demand can never be satisfied and produce a healthy national economy. Consumed by needs, wants and desires there is no cessation to our greed and drive to attain more so when it comes to the standard of Christ which means less of me to have more of Him – humans are locked in a battle. Our heart wants God, but our flesh only wants more…

My standard of living in the world’s terms has vastly improved since I was a child. I remember spending a cold night in a frigid mobile home with no electricity because our mother did not have money to pay the bill. My brother and I went to live with our dad when poverty struck our mother. I will never forget that night and it became a driving force in my life to make sure that my children had everything they needed and more. As long as I worked hard and stayed motivated, all would be good right? The economic outlook for our life is good. My husband and I are blessed with stable jobs and incomes. We can provide for our children better than our parents were able to give to us in those days. What profit is it if I gain the whole world but lose my soul? These are the words running through my thoughts today.

Matthew 16:25-27 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard.” (Romans 3:23) God’s Standard of Living is not a set of rules and regulations given to us to follow and adhere to at the risk of judgment. Since we have all sinned, the standard of living produced by God for us and in us has been abandoned so humanity set up their own standards and moral code. Over time, it becomes convoluted when the rules are constantly amended and adjusted to meet the criteria of an imperfect society filled with dysfunctional people. When Jesus came the first time, it was to provide the grace that is needed to establish a new life of righteousness again. Our Savior came to provide one last chance for us to be made right with God, not to judge mankind but lead them to fulfillment. (John 8:14-15) He made us righteous when we accepted His Gift. Our ability ended with our choice to be saved. Jesus became our Savior in that instant. However, the choices and decisions taken in future endeavors determine whether or not one chooses to make Him Lord. This is vitally important to one’s survival. God put us on the earth not to survive but multiply. He wants us to thrive. However, our standard of living must change in order to achieve success in this area. I will never be content in things. My prosperity in life begins in my soul. If my soul prospers, my life will too.

The standard set before me is Jesus Christ. Sin was not a problem for Jesus. He didn’t know what it was like. He and the Father were one. Sin had no place in their relationship. Jesus consciously laid down His Life to take up the Cross and become the Way, Truth and Life through which I became able to achieve a higher standard of living. It does not look like man’s way. It doesn’t always produce economic wealth or financial growth but it grows me from the inside out into the person I was created and called to be. Christ completes us. We must choose to be made whole again.

Romans 9:30-32 (NLT) What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.

Is your spiritual growth today stuck between a rock and a hard place? The Rock is Jesus. The hard place is often in our heart. We want the Lord our way not His Way. We do not want to “wait” on the Lord but have His Best right now. When not immediately gratified as conditioned by the world, it is all too easy to throw in the towel and settle for less. Every act of obedience to God produces prosperity in our life. Blessings are found in the smallest of gestures. Grace abounds in the slightest act of kindness and generosity. If we do nothing more than ask Jesus to be our Savior, our life is made better so too often it is the place of comfort where many stop. We ask Him to be our Savior but do not make Him our Lord.

Faith is the only thing that establishes right standing with God. Faith in His Son. Faith in His Word. Faith in our future with Him because of His Son’s Sacrifice. Trust is the catalyst of strong spiritual growth in our life. He must increase. I must decrease. (John 3:30) Now hold on just a second, I was born again to die to self. Who would want that? Why make Jesus Lord if less is more? Well, less of me allows room for more of Him and with Christ all things are possible, all things are made new, and my standard of living has the potential to be complete. There is nothing I can do – it is all about who I become in the releasing of my control and power to let Christ rule in me.

Jeremiah 6:16-17 (NLT) This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ I posted watchmen over you who said, ‘Listen for the sound of the alarm.’ But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’

True satisfaction and complete contentment are God Products in our life. The Holy Spirit works in us to produce soul prosperity that is not dependent on our natural conditions. Jesus raised my standard of living when He became my Savior. I attain it when I make Him my Lord. We stand at “crossroads” every single day. Just like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. (Matthew 19) He was comfortable following the Law with all its rules and regulations even asking Jesus for the specific ones to follow. Jesus replied that he must not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, and not testify falsely. He was to honor his mother and father along with loving his neighbor as himself. The rich young ruler went down the list checking each one off. We do this so often comparing our life to the Law rather than the example set before us by Jesus. Jesus then told him that if he wanted to be “perfect” that he must sell all his possessions, give his money to the poor AND come follow me. Jesus basically told this rich man with power and influence that he must give up all he had worked for and held in his possession to follow Him. To trust Him. To have faith in Him. See we must all consider the cost when we decide to take up our Cross each day. This man came to the crossroad and chose the less not the more.

“Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive.” (Joel 3:14) Each day I stand in the valley of decision and choose the standard for my life. Will it be Christ? Or will I choose something far more comfortable than faith? Will it be to raise the standard of my life to God’s Glorious Standard if it means less of me or waiting endlessly for His Completion? What must I give up today to have more of Him? Pride is usually the first casualty of faith. Control is forsaken for trust. Well worth the trade but you cannot have one without giving up the other. So today believers wait at the crossroads of choice and valley of decision not because there is no promise or potential for greater and even the impossible to be made possible. No, we are still counting the cost. Do I want my pride or Jesus? Do I want control or Christ? Do I want the best life ever or something more manageable? More of Him will always require less of me. He must increase which means I must decrease with every crossroad and choice.

Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT) Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 6 that once you experience the Goodness of God there is no turning back. Those days that I struggle to have my way and follow Jesus. Those times when I do not want to wait anymore, I am reminded of the Goodness and Grace I have experienced those times when I chose to give up my way and do things His Way. Those moments when I laid down my pride to let Him rule in my heart. Those situations that seemed impossible – yet I dared to hope in the Lord. Few and far between those were the times that my life benefited with fulfillment and completion. The best is yet to come. I have experienced the Goodness and Greatness of God and I am hooked. Faith is worth fighting for. You are not alone. When you come to crossroads, His Spirit will always point the way. When you are in the valley, His Spirit is guiding you like a light in the darkness. It is not a problem concerning God’s Faithfulness or Commitment to us but rather our willingness to give up substandard living for God’s Glorious Standard of Life. Compromise will never produce a better way of life even for believers. Substitutions will always take the place of that which is genuine and real. Waiting is a requirement as the Lord perfects that which concerns us beginning with what is inside of me. He promises that all things will work together for my good. I must trust and believe Him enough to choose His Way each day.

John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

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