In his book “20,000 Days and Counting” Robert D. Smith gives practical advice on “squeezing every last day, hour, minute, and second out of life until your life is done and you’ve given, loved, and celebrated all you could.” While being no small task, Smith has figured out how to do so in 105 pages!
Stated simply, Smith suggests to his readers that we count the days we have been given so far and ask ourselves if we have put that many days of life to full use. Since we are alive for a short time, it is important that we make the most of what we have been given. Though this suggestion seems platitudinous, Smith distinguishes his advice from others in that he tells his reader to “draft your life’s story, then live it!” In other words, put in writing who you are, what you are all about, and what you want to do- then live every day with the needed intensity to complete these goals.
His advice is helpful, but I believe that the advice this book and other bravado- based motivational books offer is most hopeful when it is applied on the far side of… well- spiritual brokenness. I am searching for a more tempered word choice, but it is the only one that fully embraces our need. While writing from a Christian- theistic framework, Smith’s advice is as applicable to an atheist salesperson who wants to muster more motivation as it is to a retired Christian who wants to focus his remaining years on his family. Smith’s advice is good, but it is fleeting.
I believe there are two spiritual truths that will allow a Christian to live with the purpose and intensity that Smith has described in his book. The first is best described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “The Cost of Discipleship” and it is having single-minded obedience. The third chapter of his book describes in detail how a Christian decides to obey God- not daily or hourly, but moment by moment (he does so by examining the Gospel accounts of the disciples who followed Jesus). This type of radical obedience (and the resulting repentance) brings the believer into a relationship with Christ that is as intense as it is liberating. All desires must be seen as subordinate to obedience, and once obedience is primary- many of our desires find their God intended place. I recommend the entire book- and most importantly, I recommend the Gospel accounts to which his book is responding!
The second truth is learning to be led by the Holy Spirit in this moment by moment obedience. Living a Spirit-filled life is necessary in order to obey God, and obeying God can only be done by the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is our Guide and Comforter, often prompting us to make decisions and show love in unnatural ways. The Spirit will work as wind in our sails, setting the course for our obedience.
Once these truths have been applied, reading Smith as an enjoyable primer on “staying focused” is helpful- consider the book to be a friend who prompts you along the way. However, I do not think a person will find his book to the springboard needed for long term commitment to intense goals. I believe this is best done by having a single-minded focus to obey God and being led by the Holy Spirit.