The animating center of your life should be a growing, adventurous, powerful, satisfying, and reciprocal relationship with God. If you are not incrementally and consistently heading in that direction, stop and turn around because you are going the wrong way. Let me explain how to do that.
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Step One – Draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. Now draw a larger circle around the center circle. You have a smaller circle inside the larger circle. Now draw straight lines connecting the outer circle to the inner circle as though you were making pie pieces. Continue to draw those lines until you have made many pie shapes.
Start filling in the pie shapes with different details that represent your life–the things you think about and do throughout your day and week. You can have as many items as you want. Don’t limit yourself.
The more you have, the more effectively you’ll be able to assess yourself. If you need a few tips, check out some of these examples. Maybe these are some of the things that accurately reflect you.
- Small Group
Your Fun Things
- Time Management
Your Heart Condition
Perhaps you have different items on your list than I do. That’s perfect as long as all the details accurately reflect who you are. Before we move on, notice how I grouped them.
- The first grouping is mostly about your relationships.
- The second group is more about things you do.
- The third group is about things that you do for yourself.
- The fourth group is about matters of your heart.
Step Two – Now that you have filled out your chart, I’d like for you to think about the one thing that gives animation to all of your attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions–the one thing that drives all the items that you inserted in your chart.
I’m asking, “What is the animating center of your life?” What is the one thing that controls you more than anything else? Whatever that thing is, it goes in that center circle. The center ring is command central–the main thing that determines the quality of your life.
Whatever you center your life on will control all aspects of your life. Let me say it this way: Whatever thing you put in the center ring will influence all that is on the perimeter. Some of you may have already thought,
I don’t have any one thing in the center of my life. My life fluctuates, and what controls me at any given moment is not always the same thing.
You are normal. But over time, you will discover that there is at least one recurring theme in your life, and whatever that thing is, it will be what predominately influences and controls everything else. Here is my rendition of the pie chart.
Of course, you know that you do not compartmentalize each element of your life as though it is hermetically sealed and impenetrable from your animating center. You cannot neatly package your life. Whatever is in the center will affect and impact every area of your life. Let me explain.
Biff Is Selfish
Biff is a selfish man. He spends most of his time thinking about himself. Even when he is thinking about others, there is usually an angle to his “other-centered thoughts” that are self-serving. It would be fair to say that the word “selfish” accurately describes his animating center.
As you observe Biff for a while, you will see a recurring theme of selfishness, whether you are watching his marriage, religion, money, hobbies, eating habits, or his worldview. His selfishness bleeds over into everything that he thinks and does.
Mable Is Lazy
When you observe Mable’s life, you will see a laziness theme repeated, e.g., her laziness influences her eating habits and time management practices. You could also say that she is selfish like Biff, which would be accurate because both labels–selfishness and laziness–are different iterations of a similar thing.
The selfish man is lazy, and the lazy woman is selfish. Though it is almost like splitting hairs, there is a difference, and the more you observe Mable and Biff, you’ll soon conclude that it makes sense to label them differently.
Biff seems always to have an angle to suit is self-serving agenda. And Mable is not so much working “an angle,” as she is merely a lazy woman. She’s too lazy to contrive an angle.
The other commonality in their lives is what I call the bleed-over effect: Mable is lazy with time management and her eating habits, but it does not stop there. Sin is like cancer that spills over into every other area of her life.
- Mable binges on T.V. shows
- She insatiably shops.
- She has out-of-control debt.
You can only imagine how the rest of her life is going, like her relationship with God, which consists of sporadic to non-existent prayer times. She is also a critical gossip, who judges others as a way of justifying her behavior. You have to be lazy mentally to give yourself over to this kind of speech patterns.
Biff does not contain his “bleed-over selfishness” to a few isolated behaviors, but every aspect of his life. Who he is (ontology: his inner being) sets the course for what he does (function: his outer person). He is (selfish). Therefore, he does (selfish things)
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45
Jesus was saying that who a person is at the level of his heart determines what his behaviors will be. You can think of this in either direction and come to the same conclusion: Who a person is at the level of his heart will determine his behaviors. What a person does behaviorally will tell you who he is at the level of his heart.
The point is that none of us are inconsistent. Who we are and what we do are two sides of the same coin, whatever that coin may be. You may try to alter your behavior (outer self) to fool people, but over the long haul, you cannot disguise your true self (inner selves) to those who know you best, especially those who live with you.
What Characterizes You?
Perhaps you would put “fear” in the center of your circle. If you do, you’re quite ordinary. A lot of people struggle with fear, even though they may not use the word “fear” to describe themselves. Fear has many biblical synonyms. Here are a few.
- Fear of man
- Depression (there can be many causes to depression)
- Indecision (Procrastination)
- Honesty and truth-telling (afraid to tell the truth)
- Inflexible – (afraid to change your mind or admit wrong)
Maybe some of these ideas represent you. If they do, fear may be your animating center. Fearfulness may be your “control central,” the rudder that determines the direction of your ship. It should not be a stretch to understand how a single thought like fear can set the entire course of your life, even how you think about God or religion.
One of the most common temptations with the fearful person is to hide the things that are wrong with them (Genesis 3:7). Being honest with God and others is a daily battle that can undermine the fearful person and their relationships. That’s the bad news.
Time for Jesus
The good news is the exact opposite, even though it works similarly: Whatever good thing that you put in the center of your life, it will impact all areas of your life. Let’s suppose the gospel was in the center of your life.
As you know, the gospel is the good news, and the good news is Jesus Christ. Jesus was the promised Deliverer who was prophesied to come to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). You were some of those captives–assuming you have been rescued (Ephesians 2:1-9). If you have been born again (John 3:7; Romans 10:9, 13), you have experienced the Good News: you have experienced Christ.
- The gospel is the Good News.
- The Good News is Christ.
You could say it this way: The gospel is the person and the work of Jesus Christ. The gospel is everything that Jesus Christ was, is, and will forever be. The gospel is everything that Jesus did, does, and will ever do.
The gospel reaches into two eternities–past and future–through the person and work of Jesus Christ. What if the gospel (Christ) was the animating center of your life? What if He was the one who defined who you are as a person?
If Christ were the main thing (1 Corinthians 15:3) who defined who you are as a person, He would be the one who would have the most impact over everything else in your life–all of your thinking and your behaviors.
What Does It Mean to Be Gospel-Centered?
May your ambition in life be that simple. May the immediate and long-term goal of your life be a desire to be like Christ. Though you may have a long way to go, if you desire that, you have figured out the most significant secret to life. A lifelong pursuit of Christ should not be discouraging. What is discouraging is to try to be something other than Christ (Proverbs 14:12).
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul. – Matthew 16:26
A wasted life is a person who spends his entire life defined by and pursuing anything other than Christ. How awful would it be to get to the end of your life only to realize that you made that crucial mistake?
It does not have to be that way for you (Hebrews 3:7-8). You can decide right now to who or what you are going to submit your life. May I recommend Jesus? You won’t be disappointed (John 4:14).
If you choose to follow anything other than Jesus, you will never be satisfied, and you’ll spend your entire life chasing something that you’ll never find. (The world utopia means no place: it does not exist; it’s an imaginary place or idea.)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. – Joshua 1:8
What Does It Mean to Be Gospel-Centered (90-second video)
Find a Friend
In addition to these things, you may find it beneficial to also connect with a small group of friends (or at least one other person) who are passionate about allowing the Word of God transform them into the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Transformation happens best in a community. As you do these things and as Christ becomes the animating center of your life, you will have found the secret to life.
Call to Action
- What would you say is the animating center of your life?
- What is the main thing that not only defines who you are but has the primary influence over every area of your life?
- Ask a friend to give you their perspective on what drives you. Maybe it would help to talk about the content of this article.
- The animating center of your life should be a growing, wild, powerful, satisfying, and reciprocal relationship with God. If you are not incrementally and consistently heading in that direction, stop and turn around because you are going the wrong way.
The animating center of your life should be a growing, adventurous, powerful, satisfying, and reciprocal relationship with God. If you are not incrementally and consistently heading in that direction, stop and turn around because you are going the wrong way.
Also published on Medium.