Are You Living the Good Life? (#1)
Are you living the good life? Christopher Morley once affirmed that the good life consists of three basic ingredients: learning, earning and yearning. To a certain extent, we can agree with this. But, in my estimation, we must insist that there is more to the good life. It seems that Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevski captures this concept when he declares: Neither man nor nation can exist without a sublime idea.
Even though life revolves around what we sometimes call the daily grind, it involves much more! We are here to serve and glorify God. We do this by yielding our lives to the Lord, letting Him direct our lives. As jet streams provide steering currents for massive weather systems, the will of God should determine the course of our lives.
In Philippians 2:5-8 we are told that the mind of Christ determined the course of His life and sealed His destiny. If you think about it, you see this at every milestone in His life: at age 12, Luke 2:40; at age 30, Luke 4:1-13; and at age 33, John 17:3.
The up’s and down’s of life sometimes distract us. They can even rob us of a clear vision for the future. If, however, we take yielding our lives to the Lord seriously, we will embrace His vision for our lives. His will for our lives will remain the “steering current” which determines the direction of our lives. This seems to be what Jesus had in mind when He stated: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
So, it seems like we should spend a few minutes exploring this topic. This should help us discover Gods sublime idea for our lives.
Where Have All the Visionaries Gone?
How many visionary leaders do you know? Many of us can recall the names of only a handful of visionaries? Some of us even wonder what it means to be a visionary leader.
I once read that a visionary is someone who describes tomorrow’s possibilities as clearly as yesterday’s sunset. Because resistance to change is so common in established institutions, many visionaries have either given up or have moved on to more welcoming environs.
In far too many instances, we have mistakenly adopted a philosophy that resists being part of anything that we cannot control or explain. We cannot conceive of a God who is able to do more than we can conceive. So we presume to limit God’s operation in our lives to that which we can, by mere human insight, comprehend.
Following this line of reasoning, many people conclude that anyone who challenges us to see the sublime is foolishly over zealous and will soon learn better. If I’m correct in these observations, many would hold Christ’s greatest visionary disciple in contempt for following the Holy Spirits leading and writing things like what we read in Ephesians 3:20-21…
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
If we refuse to be stirred by a sublime vision, that which Paul emphasizes in his prayer becomes a casualty. We must not permit the subterfuge of the sublime; instead, we should promote the two types of visionary thinking described in these verses:
(1) Prayerful Thinking If we believe that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ASK, we will be doing the ASKING! It’s interesting to note that the root word in the original language for “ask” is aiteo, which means “to call for, crave, or desire.” This speaks of exercising our faith! Several passages underscore the importance of ASKING
Matthew 7:7-8, “7Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.”
James 4:2, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
(2) Possibility Thinking God is able to do immeasurably more than all we IMAGINE. Wow, imagine that! God is bigger than our ability to conceive Him! In this instance, the word translated as “imagine” derives from the root word noieo, which means to exercise the mind. To hear some people tell it, we’ve got to park our brains to be followers of Christ. That’s just not the case. God wants us to exercise our minds. In fact, His ability to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can think is, in itself, an invitation to let our imaginations run.
What Is Christ’s will for His kingdom people?
God wants us to be able to see the sublime. Whats more? He wants us to be visionaries! Because some of us have known so few visionary leaders, some are left to ask: “How does one act?” To be sure, a visionary is a PATIENT OVERCOMER (a conqueror, one who prevails and gains the victory). This is, in fact, how all who trust in Jesus should see themselves, according to 1 John 5:4b-5, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Visionaries are nicked by thorns but still smell roses. Visionaries get sand in their shoes but still hear the ocean’s surf. Visionaries are soaked by rain but still anticipate rainbows. —Dale, Keeping the Dream Alive, p. 14.
A visionary follower of Jesus is a PASSIONATE PURSUER, a dream chaser. Our lives are to be characterized with the same intensity as Christ’s. It’s more than a positive mental attitude? It’s being positive about doing God-things! I believe it was Oliver Wendell Holmes that once said that men either act on their passionate vision or risk never living at all! Some people look at the way things are and ask, “Why?” Those who are able to see the sublime look at the way things ought to be and ask, “Why not?”
So, what do you think? Who are the visionary people that you have known? What made them visionaries? How can we encourage one another to live into Gods sublime idea for our lives?
Are You Living the Good Life? (#2)
As mentioned in the previous post, God definitely does have a sublime idea for our lives. Visionary people are not only aware of this, but are also willing to surrender to it. If you look at Rachel’s comment on the previous post, you’ll see that she was blessed to have a grandfather who embodied this idea. Against this back drop, it seems reasonable that we should ask:
How do we surrender to God’s steering current for our lives and ministries?
First, we must believe our God is a “Can Do” God. Remember the observation of James:
You have not, because you ask not!
We must exercise our faith! Maybe I’m getting a bit too personal, but I really must ask: Is your personal prayer life getting flabby do to lack of exercise? Our prayers should also consist of more than vague generalities. If we believe God can do anything, we can trust Him to direct our lives into the flow of His will.
Exercising our faith does involve more than prayer, though. See: Philemon 6. Here we are told that we exercise our faith by sharing our faith! Does your activity in sharing your faith reflect a belief that God is able to do immeasurably more than all that you ask? Do you pray, “Lord, give me open doors” and then refuse enter? Do you pray for God to give you wisdom and courage to speak out, only to clam up?
Second, we are free to imagine what God can do, according to His power that is at work within us! Therefore, we must exercise our minds! Many of us have already spent far too much time dwelling on why we can’t do too many things for far too long. If God wants us to do something at this place at this time, He will provide the means! God never calls us to do anything that He will not enable us to do! There are many biblical examples of such thinking:
Noah, Genesis 6-9;
Gideon, Judges 7-8;
Paul, Acts 9:15; 26:17b,18; cf: 2 Corinthians 9:8!
If God places a burden on your heart for a particular ministry or labor of love, don’t fret over the things that might not work out. It’s amazing how many good ideas come to those who dwell on the positive rather than the negative. And there is nothing in the entire world more positive than knowing that God is working in our lives!
Third, we must get on board! That’s another way of saying that we have been blessed with one of the greatest opportunities possible for humans. God allows us to join Him in His work in the world. The Gospel train is leaving the station! We’ve been called to get on board! If you think that God can work in and through your life; I you ask God to work in your life; then expect God to work in and through you life!
Did you notice the acrostic? If you Believe God is able; if you Imagine where and how God is at work; and Get on board with what God is doing, then these three things unite to yield something really B – I – G !
The bottom line: God has a sublime idea for our lives. If we will surrender to Him, He will steer us in the direction that we need to go.
Sometimes, though, we just have a hard time doing this. Perhaps this is because we’re trying to be too rational about things. If, however, the imagination is gone from our lives, it will be very hard to see the sublime. What do you think?
The Lord willing, I’ll share a story in my next post that involves one of my children which will help tie all of this together.
Are You Living the Good Life? (#3)
In two previous posts (Are You Living the Good Life? (#1) and Are You Living the Good Life? (#2)), I wrote about living the good life, equating this with intentionally living into Gods sublime idea for our lives. This requires becoming enthralled with and surrendering to Gods will. I believe a child might help us learn to yield to Gods sublime idea for our lives
Many years ago I started telling our children bedtime stories. It was great fun to make up fanciful stories about far away places. Sometimes the characters would do fantabulous things. They might wear absurdly funny clothes. They would sometimes do things that just wouldn’t square with the reality. All four of our children have at one time or another looked over at me with an incredulous grin and said something like: “DAD?! That’s not real!”
My response has always been, “Sure it is in the wonderful world of make-believe.”
They would usually nod acceptingly. We would then pick up the story from where we left off. Sometimes they would not be able to suspend their disbelief and would say, “This is just too silly to believe.”
There were times, however, when we really did get into the story. We would allow our imaginations to carry us away to the far-away-places of my imagination. The wonderful world of make-believe was really real to us. During these times, it would give me the deepest sense of pleasure when one my children would start leading me on return visits to the wonderful land of imagination. It would warm my heart to see the beautiful flower of imagination blooming my own child’s heart.
Some time ago, when my story ended too soon, my youngest child did just that. As I knelt beside her bed smiling, I listened with joy and awe as she began filling in important details pertaining to the beautiful princess I had been telling her about. My heart was bursting with joy. The wonderful world of make believe was certainly real in her eyes.
As I reflect on this, I can’t help but think that it must give our heavenly Father the same kind of pleasure when He sees His children believing and imagining that He can do wonderful things. It must give Him great pleasure when we become so enthralled with His story that we are caught up in it and carry away with it. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God has a sublime idea for our lives? It is even more amazing to think of just how eager He is for each one of us to surrender to His will and experience the full measure of His blessings.
There is a heaven full of possibilities for those who see the sublime—those willing to take God at His Word and let their imaginations run free. God has given those who love and serve Him a free pass into the wonderful world of imagination and said to us all: “If you can think it, I can do it, and more. And, I will do it for you, if you’ll just ask!”