You were made to live the larger life. That's right. According to the Gospels, not only are we called to live life as believers, but according to Jesus, we are called to live life "to the full" (John 10:10) -- in other words, to live the larger life. But, just what does that mean? It seems that in our hearts we know there is "something more"... more to see, experience and to know in life. But, how can we embrace or realize it? How can we live the larger life?
One of my favorite stories is of a father who walked into the family room and saw his 6-year-old son on the floor surrounded by crayons and busily at work on an art project.
"What are you drawing a picture of, son?" the father asked.
"God!" the boy confidently replied.
"Aw, c'mon now, nobody knows what God looks like," the father said.
"They will in a minute!" he fired back.
I love that story! It rings so true: No one really knows what God looks like, but we can know what he is like. And, in order to live the larger life, we first need a larger view.
J. B. Phillips wrote a best-selling book several years ago entitled, Your God Is Too Small. The title struck a chord in many hearts. Without even opening the book's cover, the title itself was and still is convicting. It's convicting because we live in a world that thinks big thoughts about men and small thoughts about God. And, there are few things that can hold us back more in our Christian life than this -- that our view of God is just way too small! In fact, a small view will keep us living a smaller life.
Atop the CN Tower
Several years ago my own too-small-a-view of God became strikingly clear to me, not in the middle of a church service ,but of all places in the midst of my honeymoon. I'll never forget what happened.
My eyes could scan the entire city of Toronto from the vivid perch high atop the CN Tower, the world's tallest self-supporting structure. And the first time my wife, Pamela, and I stood beneath this behemoth spire, I was overtaken with awe as my eyes surveyed this man-made structure soaring upwards some 300 times my own height (1815 feet, five inches, to be exact).
Just an hour earlier, as my car first approached the outskirts of the city, the same structure that now engulfed me was merely an intriguing blip on the horizon. It was reduced by distance. Actually, from afar, this same tower could fit between my two fingers. Up close, however, my senses were absolutely overwhelmed by the view. It stretched above the cityscape to create a sun-canopied futuristic skyline that stamped a modern and unmistakable image on my memory. The closer I got, the more impressive it became.
Paul the Apostle apparently had a similar experience with an engulfing "tower" of a different kind. In Romans 12:1, Paul calls us to a deeper commitment, but first he summons us to take a clearer look... at God: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship."
Interestingly, Paul attaches this essential doorway of commitment to a "hinge" in the form of a phrase: "in view of God's mercy." In essence, the principle of offering one's body as a "living sacrifice" is connected to a new perspective. Doing God's will is somehow linked to the grace of being able to "see" more of who he is and of what he has already done for us.
As long as you continue to journey on the outskirts spiritually, the view is too manageable to ever be marvelous, too scaled down to ever be truly significant. From a distance, our view is distorted and unimpressive. From a distance, everything is reduced -- no wonder is ever too wonderful, no power too powerful, no master ever too masterful.
Unfortunately, many people today choose to view God in such a manner -- distant, observable and manageable. To them, he is close enough to consider, yet distant enough never to impose nor interfere.
The Deep End of the Pool
Just prior to this passage in Romans 12, Paul draws our attention to his own vivid view of God. Paul reveals himself as a man obviously caught up in the depths of God's character and person.
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:33-36
Clearly, Paul's view of God and his mercy was no distant image. Rather, there was a depth to his awareness and experience in God. Take a closer look at what he said: "For from him and through him and to him are all things (Romans 11:36, italics mine)." In other words, God is the origin ("from him"), the propulsion ("through him"), and the destination ("to him") of life itself. These verses at the close of Romans eleven were meant not just to be read and considered, but powerfully experienced and searched out.
Paul invites us into the deep end of the pool. He beckons us from the water's edge exercises of weighing insights and he calls us to no longer merely ponder, but to plunge... not just to meditate, but to marinate... to experience God, to surrender our lives. He calls us to live the larger life by thinking larger thoughts of God and devoting our very bodies to His service.
Paul's eyes suddenly and unrelentingly turn from the glories above (Rom. 11) to the opportunities below (Rom. 12 - "Therefore, I urge you, brothers..."). With passion, he musters a trumpeting call to every believer within striking distance. By now, he is so overwhelmed with his larger view of God's grace towards us that his words swell with passion. As his view of God enlarges, the apostle recognizes that commitment and obedience on man's part are neither an astounding response, nor above and beyond the call of duty. It is simply a reasonable and appropriate response to a clearer view of something simply astounding -- the mercy of God and God himself.
Between My Two Fingers
As overwhelming as the CN Tower in Toronto was to me, there existed still in the back of my mind a thought of absolute contrast. It occurred to me that this same structure which now seized my imagination, had just hours earlier (25 miles away to be exact) fit between my two fingers and done little more than spark a bit of intrigue. In much the same manner, we often see God that way -- as one who fits right between our two fingers.
When you have a god who fits between your two fingers, you can place him wherever you want. You can move him out of your way whenever you want. You can pull him off of the shelf whenever you need him. This smaller-version of God is accessible enough to be periodically admired, and yet small enough to be quickly placed out of sight when you just don't want to be bothered or interrupted. Rather than having to fit ourselves into his world, this smaller-kind-of God, somehow conveniently fits right into ours.
Make no mistake! Living the larger life requires getting a larger view of God, his person, his character, his greatness. In fact, many of our struggles in life and obstacles to spiritual growth can be traced right back to a wrong, or too-small, view of God. Think about it:
"If God is only a Sunday-morning focus in your life, perhaps... YOU JUST DON'T HAVE A GOOD ENOUGH VIEW!"
"If you are not engaging in honoring the Lord with your resources, your finances and your tithes and offerings... the problem is likely YOU DON'T HAVE A GOOD ENOUGH VIEW!"
"If you're not entering into worshipping God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, it stands to reason that... YOU DON'T HAVE A GOOD ENOUGH VIEW!"
A Better View
Enjoying lunch while sitting atop the 143,300 tons of reinforced concrete that makes up the CN Tower, my wife and I took our time at the revolving Sky Pod Restaurant. We were determined to savor every morsel of a delicious meal and to give our senses ample time to absorb the vivid panorama of this beautiful city. As we ate and, later, toured the structure, my mind reeled with wonderment over all that must have gone into creating this place -- the dreaming, the imagining, the planning; such an undertaking and impressive accomplishment. The more I pondered, the bigger it all seemed and the smaller I felt. The more I thought about it, the more content I was to just stand still, to be quiet, to hold Pam's hand and to behold, for those few moments at least, the wonder of it all.
But just how can you and I enlarge our view of God and of his greatness today and in this new year? There are a few "windows" God has provided that help widen, deepen and broaden our perspective of God. Here are a few:
Pray. The greatest communications system in the world is not Verizon Wireless, but the God-given resource of prayer. And, when you have a relationship with Jesus, prayer is no longer something you have to do; it is something you get to do. Prayer is much more than a place we simply (and methodically) take our laundry lists of requests and petitions. More importantly, it is where we go to know God better, to experience his presence, to seek him and to pour out our hearts to him. Prayer is a window to heaven.
Remember. David learned to improve his view and refresh his relationship with God by simply remembering his faithfulness. The book of Psalms itself is a record of David's memories of God's goodness in his life and in the nation of Israel ("O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you." Ps. 89:8). Whenever David began to be emotionally overwhelmed with whatever life was dealing him, he would pause and remember the "good times" in his walk with God.
Meditate. David's psalms also affirm that he was generally accustomed to thoughtful worship and meditation even as he lay in his bed: "On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night." (Ps. 63:6) "My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises." (Ps. 119:148) It's a great way to begin the day, and to end one, as well. David knew how to love God with his mind.
Adore. Praise and worship are something God wants us to do more often than once a week at a worship service. It occurs anyplace and anytime we pause and express to God our adoration, our affection and honor. Sometimes I like to just go right through the alphabet and tell God of his greatness ... "Lord you are Awesome. You're Beautiful. You are the Christ. You are the Divine One. You are the Everlasting Father! ... etc." My view is improved whenever I do. He is magnified and my thoughts of him enlarge.
Take time to think bigger thoughts of God in this New Year, and watch your soul and your world grow!
Follow Robert C. Crosby, D.Min. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rccrosby