By Allen Liles
Practical Christianity has been described as “the teachings of Jesus Christ applied to everyday life.” During His brief ministry, Jesus taught eternal values that still serve today as a practical guide for living. His timeless instructions offer us helpful insight for any situation that might confront us.
What are some examples of how the teachings of Jesus can be used to deal with the concerns most of us face each day?
“Do Not Worry”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counseled His listeners about worry. In this illumined but matter-of-fact discourse, He advised: “Do not worry about your life …. Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?… Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow” (Mt. 6:25, 27, 32-34).
Jesus offered His listeners this most useful insight because He knew that worry saps the energy of even the strongest person. For example, our economic worries can often seem overwhelming. Most of us have, at some time, been distressed about the lack of a job or job security as well as about rising debts, future retirement, or the need for financial support for ourselves or others.
Yet, Jesus promised that God can be trusted to furnish what we need. Perhaps we will not receive everything we want, but God always supplies what we need. Jesus told us not to worry about things, such as food, drink, and clothes. He also gave us the secret to not letting worry consume our thoughts and immobilize us so that we fail to take positive action to improve our lives. He did this by reminding us to be free of anxiety about tomorrow-or, simply, to live one day at a time.
The bottom line of this practical advice: An abiding trust in God’s benevolent promises reduces or eliminates worry.
“Do Not Judge”
Many people live in a world that seems beset with critical voices. Surrounded by so much criticism in the media and in our daily lives, we allow conflict to become a way of life. Jesus focused on the negative results that come when we dwell on tearing down other people.
Again, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us a wise bit of practical advice: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (Mt. 7:1). Or do not criticize and you will not set yourself up to be criticized, in turn. Jesus taught us to first focus on our own shortcomings before we take the inventory of others. By honestly assessing our own lives, we often find the traits we dislike in others mirrored in ourselves. Accepting our own humanness brings us a less judgmental attitude toward others.
The practical bottom line: Examining ourselves before we judge others brings more forgiveness and harmony for all.
“1 Will Get Up and Go to My Father”
We make literally dozens of decisions every day. When to get up, what to wear, what to eat, and how to react to the countless things that happen to us are only a few of the choices we encounter each twenty-four hours. Using God’s gift of free will, we can shape our lives any way we choose. In His teachings, Jesus used parables, miracles, precepts, and actions to give us clear direction on how to shape our daily choices. The parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke, Chapter 15, illustrates how a spiritual decision can overcome otherwise negative circumstances. The younger son disregarded his father’s authority. He took his share of the family wealth and left home. Soon his money was gone and he was reduced to feeding pigs for a living. Poor choices had caused him to hit bottom-a reality that many of us may confront at some point in our lives. Yet, the pain that comes with bad decisions often acts as a catalyst for change, and in this parable the son decided to return home and admit his failings. He planned to ask his father for a job as a hired hand. However, the father also faced a decision when he saw his son approaching. He could have turned him away with an “I told you so!” Instead, he rushed out to greet his son with a kiss and warm embrace. The father’s choice demonstrated love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and understanding.
In considering the daily decisions that influence our lives, choosing these everlasting values can help keep us on track. As we set about to consciously apply the concept of practical Christianity to making choices, we first turn to the presence of God that dwells within each of us. When we go to God in prayer and meditation, we discover the divine guidance that lights the path to a correct and beneficial decision.
The practical bottom line: I have within me the answer to every question and decision, and I can find it through prayer and meditation.
“The Father and 1 Are One”
Today’s hectic and often chaotic pace of life has produced a high-decibel stress level that touches almost every person. We find our peace and serenity challenged as never before. Unremitting stress can produce serious health problems and a personal unhappiness with our lives, in general.
Jesus Christ also faced incredible stress. He dealt with ridicule, rejection, and misunderstanding by His closest friends. He endured persecution, trial, and crucifixion. How was He able to cope and move forward with an incomparable mission that would forever shape and uplift humankind?
Jesus knew who He was. He was confident of His divine assignment. He believed in His role as teacher, healer, comforter, way-shower, and instrument of God’s grace. Although He was in a stressful world, He was not of it. He was able to detach Himself from the pressures and personalities around Him and focus on His true destiny. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” He sought to always dwell in a consciousness of pure harmony with Spirit, and in this state of oneness with God, the stress of human life was powerless to deter Him from His mission. By constantly affirming God’s presence and power in our lives, we, too, can experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
The practical bottom line: Knowing who you are spiritually can alleviate the stress created by the material world.
“1 Am the Light of the World”
Everyone has encountered or will encounter minor or major health problems at some point. Almost all of us have taken a deep breath or said a prayer before receiving the results of a medical examination or test. The practical truth is that good health adds tremendously to the overall quality of life. What pragmatic advice do Jesus’ teachings offer us about our health concerns?
Jesus Christ was the greatest healer who ever lived. He sought to attune us to the healing power within. He taught that the true source of all healing flows from God. He demonstrated His divine power by raising people from sickness and death. Jesus brought the light and love of God to heal, cure, and bless.
In healing the man blind from birth, Jesus told the disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn. 9:5). The healing light that shines within us to counter any health problem originates from God. But the mending of our physical minds and bodies can also come from God’s reflection-through doctors, nurses, proper medications, and state-of-the-art medical procedures and technology. When faith and confidence in our divine connection to the source of all life are united with the spiritual power of prayer, any healing is possible.
The practical bottom line: We are better able to confront any threat to our health when we focus on the spiritual power and perfection of God that reside in ourselves and others.
Jesus taught His practical methods for living in a loving but direct manner. For dealing with these and all other human challenges, His teachings are positive instructions about how to live life from the inside out, rather than reacting to an always changing outer world. The mark of any great teacher lies in the ability to inspire his or her students to realize their own divine potential. According to this standard, Jesus Christ succeeded by leaving us a priceless legacy: practical Christianity.