From the monthly archives:

September 2011

The Bigger Life

September 10, 2011

The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you… Go and rescue Israel!”  Gideon replied, “How can I?  I am the least in my entire family!”  Judges 6:14-15

“Our story is usually always about us in the beginning – our desires, our needs, our crisis.  This often leads us to a bigger story as a  result of trying to reconcile our smaller story…. Most of us settle for our smaller story.”

Os Hillman, Change Agent


Early in my Christian walk I was told that God would do great things through a life dedicated to Him.  It seemed too good to be true to a young man who had failed so miserably at the most mundane tasks in life.  I was so worn out doing things my way that I had little choice though.  Low and behold… life got better when I submitted to the Good Book.

Soon enough I experienced another reality and it was this; even though life was better, it was still not filled with the promises I heard others claim as theirs.  I was constantly having to decide if it was my lack of faith, my ongoing propensity towards sin or whether I was being duped by well-meaning but ill-informed teachers.  What I learned was that it was not any of those things.

Look at a life in the Bible that you admire, a person whose life you desire to emulate.  Every one of those stories will follow an outline of the following…

  • A call
  • An answer
  • A crisis
  • A failure
  • A demonstration of grace that prevails

This is the cycle that propels a believer through the concentric order of God-ordained events.  What happens after a demonstration of grace though is particularly critical to growing beyond a self-focused Christianity.  This is the shift from self-focus to a Kingdom focus.  No one can decide when or how it will come, but a crisis will produce a failure that will ultimately usher in the the overwhelming grace that corrects the axis of a life bent towards God.

This is not a one time event that finally produces nirvana grace, mind you.  Instead, if I am willing, my life is peeled like an onion over and over to fresh levels of transparent humility.  That is the Kingdom way.

My own story has never struck me as eventful or marked by the miraculous.  In fact, my early adulthood had more failure and struggle than what I would consider success or grace.  Having given up a career path and a college education to attend Bible School, Jan and I started our adventure with little support and naive faith.  A little home church that closed, numerous blue collar jobs and a new baby finally drove me to conclude that God had obviously not called me to ministry, a fact in my eyes that was obvious by the lack of success and the abundance of failure.

As Os Hillman commented, life was about me – my desires, my needs, my crisis – the bigger story would only take shape after the oblivious pursuit of self was curtailed.   I had been taught that if you lived according to right principle then the owed dividends would be obvious blessings, but the reality was that I struggled more than those who simply pursued life on their own terms. It made no sense.

I was standing in our little back yard in Schertz, Texas, crying and complaining.  The tears were real because life was genuinely difficult.  The complaining was the final cry of a failed path that recognized I had no where left to turn and no more strength to keep trying.

The current crisis that rose above all the other setbacks was that I was changing jobs again.  I had been driving a yogurt truck (that’s right… a yogurt truck) when a pickup pulled in front of me and I almost killed the driver.  It was not my fault but I had come too close to killing someone and I was unwilling to take that chance again.

I  had heard God’s call years before.  I answered His call with diligence and determination.  A cycle of crisis and failure continued to erode my confidence in myself and abilities.  It was at that lowest point that I received a demonstration of God’s abundant grace.  These words from the book of Jeremiah erupted in my heart as clear as if I had spoken them out loud.

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not. Jeremiah 20:9

It was my moment of supreme commitment.  Rushing into my already wounded soul was the salt of biblical truth.  God had already made His choice.  The question was would I allow my life – my circumstance, my pride, my failure – to become bigger than myself?  Yes, I heard Him say, I was called.  Now would I follow?… not based on blessings or success but because there was a bigger story to live out than my own.

Are you being called the same way?  Not with the same words or the same experience, but through the path of crisis, failure, divine grace and a new decision to trust His Word.  “Not many wise,” Paul said, “not many mighty, not many noble.  God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong… that no man should boast before God.”

Don’t settle for the smaller life, friend.  Only the crucible  produces the finest gold.