Running at Redline

“What you are about to do, do quickly!”  ~ Jesus

We tend to try and do a lot of things quickly.  The demanding pace of life at the beginning of the 21st century often leaves us haggard, panting, and longing for “good ole days” when people had the luxury of sipping iced tea while they relaxed on the front porch and chatted with neighbors.  Front porches have mostly disappeared (other than for aesthetic purposes), we are told sweet tea isn’t good for us, and the “chatting” we do now is often with “Siri” as we sit in our cars responding to the latest urgent texts and attempting to figure out how we are going to make it to the three places we have to be in the next 30 minutes.  Yet, despite all our activity, more and more of us are feeling a hollowness in our own souls that we just can’t seem to shake.

Jesus only asked one person to hurry – Judas! (John 13:27)  As you look at Jesus’ life, he doesn’t seem to be stressed, harried, or in a hurry.  His life was full and oftentimes busy, but somehow he seemed to live life well below redline.  He took time to get alone regularly. (Luke 5:16)  He didn’t allow the incessant demands and expectations of others to dictate his schedule. (Luke 4:42-44)  His rhythm and pace seem to be dictated by the peace of God that ruled in his heart and mind.  If anyone had reason to rush and to live life at maximum RPMs you would have thought it would have been Jesus.  Only 3 ½ years of public ministry to bring in the kingdom of God and to prepare his followers to assume leadership in this kingdom – no time to waste, no time for R&R, lots of overtime hours should be expected.  Yet, that wasn’t the Son of God’s approach.  In fact, he seemed to lobby against our tendency to push ourselves and focus on “results” rather than relationships.  He recognized the possibility of burnout in his followers and scheduled a retreat. (Mark 6:30&31)  He didn’t seem overly impressed with big “successes” in ministry (Luke 10:17-20).  He recognized that frantic activity, even when done for him, tends to distract us from what is most important. (Luke 10:38-42)  He, like Paul after him, realized that his relationship with the Father was his most significant “work”.  (Phil 3:7ff)

I say I want to live like Jesus, but when I look at my life I realize in many areas those are words ring a bit hollow!  I like speed and activity.  Ironically, I often feel best about myself emotionally when I am most busy and exhausted physically.  For some reason, a large portion of my self-esteem is determined by the “busyness” of my schedule.  That’s why it is hard for me to relax…even on vacation.  That’s why I often feel I have to do more – far more than God intended me to do, far more than others expect me to do, and far more than my aging body is designed to do.  Inwardly, I am still striving to “prove” myself to someone or to God…failing to grasp the wonderful implications of grace – that I am loved and accepted because of Jesus not because of how many items I was able to check off my To Do list today!  As I talk with people regularly, I highly suspect that I am not alone in this struggle!

We are not getting much help from the current crop of evangelical Christian authors in our attempts to be still and know our precious God. (Ps. 46:10)  Despite what I think are very good intentions, the message of a host of young, energetic, and evangelical Christian authors is that we can and must do more to change our lives and the world.   We need to be “radical”, “more than a fan”, and “crazy lovers” as shown by our crazy busy lives.   The Christian life should be “epic”, “revolutionary”, “impactful”, “ultimate”, “extreme”, “awesome”, “alternative”, “innovative”, and “edgy”.  I have to have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).  I must be part of the “Next Big Thing”! In one sense, some of this is very true but if we are not careful this intoxicating elixir may simply feed our own lust for endless and exhausting activity in an attempt to prove how “sold-out” and “authentic” we really are.  The key is our motivation.  Am I joyously responding out of a deep sense of His love and acceptance to a call from His Spirit to live more radically for him in a particular way or am I responding out of a sense of inadequacy, guilt, or even boredom in an attempt to demonstrate to myself and others that I’m not just an “ordinary” Christian.

Jesus, very unlike me, didn’t have to stay busy because he knew that God’s children don’t have to prove something through their performance.  He spent 90% of his life in relative obscurity being faithful and pleasing to the Father in what were likely very ordinary activities.  Our world tells us we have to be “epic” and “successful” to be of value yet the Word tells us that our value and significance comes from the worth God has given us.  I am created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)  He valued me enough to send his Son to die for me (Romans 5:6-8).  He has chosen me, forgiven me, and adopted me into his family (Eph.1:3-8)  I will one day be a co-heir with Christ of every good thing (Romans 8:32) and the best part is that none of these benefits comes through my performance but is solely the result of his generous grace. (Eph. 2:8&9) The Father really does love us – right now! (I John 3:1)  We are fully loved and accepted children of God through Jesus Christ and it is His Spirit at work in us that will enable us to do what He has called us to do. (Eph. 2:10) We can and should rest securely in this wonderful reality.

Please don’t use this brief article as a justification for leading an apathetic or mediocre Christian life.  That is not my intent at all!  However, I write in order to comfort those of us who have callings that are less than “epic”, who have giftings that are not “exceptional”, and whose BHAG maybe is just staying faithful to Jesus and others in the midst of “ordinary” life.  We can (and should) celebrate those with “exceptional” gifts whom God has called to make an “epic” “impact” for the kingdom.  Yet, we can (and should) celebrate those who are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ through “ordinary” obedience, “ordinary” service, and the “ordinary” loving of their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  The more I grow and the more I know people – the more I realize how living an “ordinary” life as a follower of Jesus is truly extraordinary!

I’ll close with an anecdote from the life of a truly “radical” and “innovative” follower of Christ – Martin Luther.  Once, Philip Melanchthon and Martin Luther were deciding on the day’s agenda.  Young, enthusiastic and brilliant Philip proposed, “Martin, this day we will discuss the governance of the universe.”  To which Luther replied, “This day you and I will go fishing and leave the governance of the universe to God!” I think a lot of us need to go fishing with a friend!!