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6 factors that determine how long you’ll live

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Closeup portrait of happy elderly woman. (Credit: De Visu via Fotolia)

How long will you live? A new medical report has the answer. Researchers examined 231,048 adults age 45 and up, following them for six years. They discovered six factors that determine how long people live: smoking, alcohol use, dietary behavior, physical inactivity, sedentary behavior, and sleep. The lower your score for at-risk behavior, the longer you’ll live.

As the saying goes, this is not rocket science. Here’s a more surprising fact: Character is related to longevity as well.

Psychologists note that moral character reduces personal anxiety and stress. When we live in alignment with our values, we are happier people. And stress is one of the most significant contributors to disease, alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and early death. To live longer, live better. Choose character.

And to live a life that matters long after you’re gone, choose character as well.

In Genesis 13, Abraham and his nephew Lot chose the land on which their tribes would dwell. Lot “settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom” (v. 12). However, the writer notes that “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (v. 13).

When God warned Abraham that he would judge the city, the patriarch interceded for the people (Genesis 18:22–33). By this time, Lot had moved into Sodom itself (Genesis 14:12).

Then, when the Lord sent angels to judge the sinful city, Lot hesitated to leave (Genesis 19:15). The angels had to seize him, his wife, and his two daughters, forcing them to flee the judgment to come (v. 16). His sons-in-law rejected the angelic warning and died in the judgment that fell. Lot’s wife looked back at the city they tried not to leave and died as well (v. 26). Lot’s daughters then seduced him and bore children by their father (vs. 30–38).

Abraham prayed for Sodom, but Lot chose to live there. Today, more than half the world’s population venerates Abraham as a patriarch of their faith. No one venerates Lot. I have known many men named Abraham. I’ve never met a person named Lot.

Your character is essential to your life and your legacy. If you would live a life that God can bless and use, choose integrity. But there’s a catch: We cannot become the people God wants us to be without the help God provides.

The Spirit wants to conform you to the character of Jesus (Romans 8:29). He longs to manifest his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in your life (Galatians 5:22–23). But he cannot give what you won’t receive.

So ask God to make you a person of greater integrity today than you were yesterday. Submit your thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions to his Spirit. Walk with Jesus and measure success by the degree to which you demonstrate his character. And God will use your integrity to draw others to the Christ they see in you. (For more on this vital subject, please read my latest website essay, “Integrity: The Key to Leadership.”)

Warren Wiersbe was right: “The highest reward for a faithful life is not what you get for it but what you become by it.” David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). I’ve decided to begin every day by making his prayer mine.

Will you join me, right now?



Note: I am pleased to welcome you to our Spring Leadership Lecture, exploring the life and leadership of Ronald Reagan. Join the The Institute for Global Engagement, a partnership between Denison Forum and Dallas Baptist University, on Saturday, February 6 at 7:00 p.m. at Dallas Baptist University for an evening with Jim Kuhn, former Executive Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and author of Ronald Reagan in Private: A Memoir of My Years in the White House, Dale Petroskey, President of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce and former Assistant Press Secretary to President Reagan, and Dr. Jim Broaddus, President and founder of Broaddus & Associates and former Commanding Officer at Camp David during the Reagan Administration. Tickets are free, but registration is required. Please follow this link to register. (http://www4.dbu.edu/leadership/reagan)