This last weekend I attended a three-day convention, Imitate Jesus! What did I learn? When we imitate Jesus we can conquer the world, and yes, we can be happy.
How? Here are just a few ways:
- Stop being anxious. In one of the discourses, the speaker reviewed the scripture at Matthew 6:25-30. It says: “Observe intently the birds of heaven; they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” The birds are not working overtime, slaving to save for the future, worrying about what they will eat. Yet, God takes care of them. Instead of being anxious over material things, focus on spiritual matters. Have faith. Then Jesus says, “Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin; but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” Lilies do not live long, yet God gave them such beauty. Is that not a lesson for us? God does not want us to simply exist but wants us to find joy and beauty in our lives. Jesus asks, “Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?” In fact, science has actually proven that stress and anxiety can affect our health adversely and actually shorten our lives.
- Use the power of prayer. The devout have known about the benefits of prayer, but now science backs up this thought. “Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick — and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster,” said Duke University’s Harold G. Koenig, M.D. An analysis of more than 1,500 reputable medical studies “indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health,” he adds. Jesus prayed constantly while here on earth. Prayers should include supplications (intense entreaties), petitions (specific requests such as asking for wisdom and thinking ability when making a major life decision), thanksgiving, and praise. Linger in prayer. Scriptures show Jesus praying all night. Imitate him by telling God each thought and concern we have in private, in-depth prayers. If we do so, God promises at 1 Peter 5:10, “he will make you firm, he will make you strong, he will firmly ground you.”
- Do not retaliate. The famous scripture at Matthew 5:38-39 when Jesus tells his followers to turn the other cheek is often misinterpreted. This doesn’t mean if someone punches you, you should stand up and allow him to smack the other side of your face. In Bible times, a slap often was associated with an insult. Jesus was telling us not to exact vengeance which can lead to more violence and hatred. If someone offends us, we should take the initiative to make peace with him. Peter denied Jesus three times on the most difficult day of his life. Yet, after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and allowed him to express his sorrow. Jesus wanted to help Peter heal from the guilt and anguish he was suffering. Jesus did not take the attitude, “I’ll never trust Peter again!” In fact, he entrusted Peter with even more responsibilities. Each of his apostles and closest friends left Jesus and abandoned him at the time of his arrest, in his time of need. Still, he forgave them. Copy Jesus. Do not keep account of injuries and let go of resentment.
- Be generous. Mark chapter 5 tells us that when Jesus healed a woman, who for 12 years had been suffering from an embarrassing and debilitating flow of blood, immediately Jesus realized that power had gone out of him. Evidently, healing took a toll on Jesus, yet he performed miracles without expecting anything in return. A number of studies show that giving unselfishly gives us a sense of well-being, lowers stress levels, improves our health, gives us a sense of purpose, and increases happiness. People who give often report feelings of euphoria, which psychologists refer to as “helper’s high.” This does not always mean giving in a material sense. We can also give by being compassionate, encouraging, and consoling others in their time of need. Jesus had a knack for perceiving what a person’s real needs were which made his words and gifts more meaningful. How often do we say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do?” While these words are often said with the best intentions, why not take it a step further and put ourselves in their shoes and ask, “What would I need if I was in these circumstances?”
- Stop judging. At Matthew 7:1, Jesus did not say: “Do not judge”; he said: “Stop judging.” Why? He knew that many of his listeners were already in the habit of being critical of others. That’s because it is our imperfect human inclination to be judgmental, However, this bad habit can cause us anxiety and agitation in the long run. So try to catch yourself before you speak harmful words or send that sarcastic or vicious email or text. Before becoming overly critical or questioning someone’s motives, stop and take a deep breath. We must acknowledge our own imperfections. We must lovingly and patiently try and understand where the person may be coming from. By the way, stop judging also means to stop judging ourselves harshly too.
1 Peter 4:1 tells us to “arm yourselves with the same mental disposition” as Christ. How? Our feelings can be controlled by changing our thinking. Then we can act on those feelings to make positive changes in our lives.
Those are just a few points I learned from this inspiring convention that I felt compelled to share. To be honest, the events this past year left me shaken, but I felt like these three days lifted my spirits and gave me strength to move forward and make positive changes in my life. I am so grateful.
If you would like to attend this free public event, click here for a complete program schedule and a location nearest to you.
Image courtesy of anankkml, David Castillo Dominici, and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.