When I was 19-years-old, a deep fear came over me that I might waste my life. I had just spent the last four years of high school goofing off, living wild, partying with friends, and basically ignoring God. In our senior class yearbook, I was voted with the best laugh. That was my legacy thus far. Thankfully, however, God was not laughing with me or ignoring me.
He brought a deep, loving conviction on me and I repented to him. But I knew I would continue to waste my life if I didn’t do something drastic to change my habitual sinful behaviors. Living around all those people and influences that were a part of my aimless lifestyle was too tempting. Even though I wanted to change, I was learning it’s just so easy to waste your life.
In a last ditch effort to “find God,” be close to him like never before, and not waste my life, I went to Liberia West Africa on a seven month long mission’s trip with Mercy Ships. To make a long story short, God used this decision to change my life forever.
When I was on this mission’s trip, I read a book that gave me the direction I was looking for, “Don’t Waste Your Life,” by John Piper. You should read it for yourself (it’s free right here), but the core message of the book is that to not waste your life, you must joyfully live to glorify God above all things.
Over a decade later, I’ve learned that no matter how far you go with God, it’s always still so easy to waste the rest of your life. It’s so simple to live on past laurels rather than to seek God and his glory in the present. While there is ultimately one way to not waste your life – glorifying God in every aspect and expression of life – there are literally countless ways to waste it.
What follows is a non-exhaustive list of fifty easy ways to waste your life ordered in no particular way. May we seek God daily so that at the end of our lives, we can look back at the culmination of our days and praise him for all the meaning, purpose, and direction he gave us for his glory.
- Never set goals. Without godly goals, we waste our life and don’t even know it because we have nothing to measure our progress by. (Philippians 3:13-14)
- Never receive criticism from others. God often brings direction through the correction of others. Not every criticism is true or worth much thought, but to ignore patterns of criticism will lead to a wasted life. (Proverbs 27:6)
- Never self-critique. Besides God, no one knows you better than you. If we never take the time for honest and loving self-evaluation, life can slip by with limited personal growth occurring. (2 Corinthians 13:5)
- Always self-critique. Perhaps more dangerous than never self-critiquing is to be overly critical of self. We can often be our hardest critics, defeating ourselves before ever really beginning new endeavors. (Mark 12:31)
- Live to rest rather than rest to live. Self-care is crucial for living a purposeful, productive life for God. God gave us the Sabbath for a reason. But if we idolize rest, revolving are lives around it, we are defeating the purpose of godly rest. We must rest to work better. Rest is not the end goal. (Proverbs 20:13)
- Don’t get enough sleep. While Jesus rebuked the disciples for sleeping rather than praying (Mark 14:32-42), God made sleep to be a significant part of performing at our highest levels. While we can sleep our life away if we are lazy, we can also waste our lives if we do not sleep enough and thus drag ourselves through the limited amount of days God has ordained for us. (Psalm 3:5)
- Love material possessions. Whatever you worship is what has power over you. If you love material things, you will be owned by this pursuit, wasting your life on things that will remain on earth and rot while you move into eternity. (Matthew 7:19-24)
- Put your trust in untrustworthy gods. We humans have limited knowledge of the future. Therefore we are forced to trust something for security. Money, relationships, and self are common anchors we trust in to keep us stable. If God is not our hope and trust, we either live anxiously or we will be consistently let down when our false gods fail us. (Exodus 20:3)
- Choose your career over your family (or potential family). We often go to work to provide for those we love, but if we let it, our careers will try to replace those we love. Some even delay or forsake having a family for the sake of a career. Having and loving a family of your own, if God has called you to this, is crucial for glorifying God and not wasting your life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
- Slack off in the workplace (or in your family role). While work should never be the main thing, God originally created humans to enjoy meaningful work. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or you have a full-time job out in the workforce, to work half-heartedly is to waste a huge chunk of your life as many years will be spent in these places. (Colossians 3:23)
- Never think about world missions and local evangelism. We can suffocate our souls if we limit our worlds to suburbs and personal safety. Not everyone is called to fulfill the Great Commission the same way, but it is a calling on all Christians. If we neglect this call to reach neighbors and nations for Christ, we will feel the pain of a wasted, small life. (Matthew 28:16-20)
- Be prideful. Humility gives us clear sight to see God’s purpose for our lives. Pride keeps our perspective limited to self. A wasted life is always grounded in pride. (James 4:6)
- Have a poor understanding of your purpose. Whatever you believe about your purpose for existence will guide your time on earth. With a poor understanding of what the Bible says about your purpose, you will drift between shallow pursuits you think are lofty while you do them. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
- Be selfish. A useful life is one that serves and helps real people in real ways. Nothing undermines this more than selfishness. (Romans 12:21)
- Misuse Netflix. I didn’t say Netflix is evil or a complete waste of time. Mentally unplugging to watch a show or two has value. There’s also a lot of educational material there too. The temptation, however, is to binge watch our lives away, becoming experts in the details of shows rather than in truth and living for God. (Proverbs 6:9)
- Pray superficially. Most Christians pray, but we can always pray better. Our power will be equivalent to the authenticity of our prayer lives. To connect with God daily is essential for a non-wasted life. Platitudes and rituals masquerading as prayers just won’t do. (Matthew 6:7)
- Rarely read your Bible. The world is full of false northern stars. As we navigate through a world full of lies, we must make sure we are guided by truth. Everything must be tested by the word of God. (James 1:25)
- Idolize marriage during your singleness. Some are called to a lifetime of singleness while more are called to marriage. However, God has purpose for every season of singleness. If we waste our singleness by waiting for marriage, we will miss out on an amazing gift from God; for according to the Bible singleness really is a gift. (1 Corinthians 7)
- Date your life away rather than get married. Dating must always be viewed through the lens of marriage. If you date endlessly as a goal in itself, it is like digging a well but never drinking. Marriage is one of the most crucial places to show the world the gospel in action. (Ephesians 5:31-33)
- Never become a member of a church. While not everyone is called to marriage or parenting, every Christian is called to be a part of a local church. Here is the primary place to love other believers. To avoid real church membership, not superficial membership, is to waste much of your life. (Hebrews 13:7)
- Take no risks. Safety at all costs will cost you a glorifying life. While we are not called to pursue martyrdom or persecution, we are called to risk whatever is necessary to fulfill the purposes God has for us. (Luke 17:33)
- Take unwise risks. Many hear a sermon on risking for God and use this as justification to quit their jobs and pursue a career on the pro golf circuit, invest in unwise business ventures, or dive into risky relationships that have massive potential for disaster. While we cannot be ruled by safety, we will waste our lives if we are not guided by God’s wisdom. (Ephesians 5:15)
- Stay in unhealthy relationships. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). New seasons of healthy relationships can’t begin until old unhealthy seasons end. As the popular saying goes, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
- Forget about the reality of heaven and hell. C. S. Lewis wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world are just the ones that thought the most of the next. . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so in effective in this. Aim at Heaven and you’ll get the earth thrown in: aim at earth and you’ll get neither.” (Matthew 25:46)
- Live in your heard. Sometimes we love theology and reading so much we forget to love real people and God. Over thinking leads to under living. (James 1:22)
- Never think deeply. If we never think deep and hard about truth, God, or own life, we will be ruled by waves of circumstances. Good, healthy thinking is crucial for an impactful life. (Philippians 4:8)
- Get addicted to anything. Drugs, food, video games – it really doesn’t matter. If you get addicted and stay addicted to anything, you will waste your life seeking your drug of choice. (1 John 5:21)
- Replace real friendships with Facebook “friends.” Ironically, social media in unhealthy doses actually makes us less social. Being an encourager, helper, and contributor to a real community of people is core to not wasting your life. (2 Timothy 2:22)
- Avoid pain at all costs. A commitment to personal pleasure at all cost will bring pain in the end. Jesus tells us to count the costs of following him because although grace is free, the Christian life is not a cheap, painless lifestyle. (Luke 14:25-34)
- Never forgive people. To have meaningful relationships for the kingdom of God, forgiveness is crucial. Perfect people don’t exist. Therefore, forgiveness will always be foundational for community. (Matthew 18:15-20)
- Never ask for forgiveness. Jesus’s argument for our need to forgive others is that we ourselves will need to be forgiven often (Matthew 6:12-15). To live a glorifying life, reconciliation must be pursued whenever possible. (Matthew 5:23-24)
- Pray small prayers. How frightening the words, “You don’t have because you don’t ask” (James 4:2). If we limit ourselves to cookie cutter prayers, we will never be disappointed by unanswered prayers, but we will be disappointed by a mundane and unmemorable life. (Philippians 4:6-7)
- Use your smart phone more than anything else. Technology is a tool. We must use it for good purposes. If we do a time audit on our lives and find our smart phone use is at the top, this is a red flag. (Ephesians 5:16)
- Cram your spiritual gift into a bad ministry fit. Choosing a ministry that is conducive with our personality and spiritual strengths is not always possible, but to ignore your traits and spiritual gifts will lead to much disunity between your desires and your reality. (1 Corinthians 12)
- Complain a lot. The only thing that can make a bad situation worse is complaining about a bad situation. Life will have tons of hurdles. It is all too easy to waste our lives complaining about problems rather than solving them and enjoying the good in life. (Philippians 2:14)
- Be under educated. Many doors of opportunity and service remain closed without a degree or without the knowledge necessary for certain tasks. Seminary, for example, is often a part of the path to the pastorate. We can minimize our impact if we refuse to put in the work needed to be educated. (Proverbs 18:15)
- Over educate yourself. While a lack of education was once a greater threat, for many in America the greater temptation now is to get lost in academia. Debt, wasting time, and a delayed usefulness are all problems that can arise from seeking to over educate ourselves. Get as many degrees as you need to fulfill what God has called you to do. Being a career student will keep you from having a real career. To seek education without using it or to get degrees for your ego is a waste on many fronts. (2 Timothy 3:7)
- Minimize the importance of having children. Not everyone is called or capable of having children, but for the vast majority, procreation is core to our calling from God. To willfully reject parenting for sinful reasons is to rob yourself of so much joyful service. (Genesis 1:28)
- Believe popularity equals importance. To seek the approval of man over God always leads us to a wasted life. (Galatians 1:10)
- Have a lot of friends you don’t know very well. A rich life will be full of love. You can’t love deeply if you only know people superficially. Some of us are more social than others, but we all need an inner circle to love and be loved by. (Matthew 17:1)
- Never do anything unless you can lead it. Real leaders lead through service more than by telling others what to do. To only participate when it is done your way will lead to an unproductive life and to limited opportunities of ministry. (Mark 10:42-45)
- Use porn. Porn is the plague of our day. It infects millions every second. If you really want to waste your life, use porn. You will go to it for a moment of pleasure but it will imprison you for decades. It will take you deeper into darkness than you ever wanted to go. It will ruin your authenticity and effectiveness for ministry. You start out using it but in the end it is Satan’s tool to waste your life. (Matthew 5:28)
- Make lots of excuses. C. S. Lewis put it best, “If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” (Ephesians 5:16)
- Be a perfectionist. Perfectionism kills productivity. It can often hinder us from starting because we are so afraid of making mistakes. A person seeking to not waste his or her life will try valiantly but will have a history full of failures and successes. Perfectionist experience little of either. (Hebrews 10:14)
- Don’t pursue excellence in every area of life. While perfectionism never works, those who desire to achieve much by the grace of God must seek excellence in everything. (Colossians 3:23)
- Listen to a lot of online sermons, but never sit under a real pastor or authority figure. Learning is one thing, but living is another. You can learn from anyone, but learning to live is different. Few things are as valuable as a real pastor or mentor willing to train, rebuke, and support you. (Hebrews 13:17)
- Blindly pursue your dreams. Not every dream is meant to be lived. To accomplish the lofty goals coming out of our deep hearts, we must pick and choose what we are able to truly put our efforts into. To pursue every dream will lead to a wasted life because you will accomplish little if you seek to do everything. To accomplish a dream always requires more work than you originally would predict. (Proverbs 20:5)
- Never dream big. Fruitful ministries, healthy families, and widely read books all start with a dream. To never pursue a lofty dream is to set yourself up for a wasted life. (1 Chronicles 22:7)
- Don’t love people. “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. . . And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:3, 13).
- Don’t love God. A wasted life is ultimately defined by a lack of love for God. To love God is everything. Everything. If we make him the central goal and pursuit of our lives, we will be far away from the danger of a wasted life. (Matthew 22:37-38)
Heavenly Father, may we not waste it! May we not waste the lives you give us. In Jesus name, Amen.