How Much of a Life Do You Have?
Which One Are You Living?
God is a part of our lives constantly. He is present and aware everyday, every moment of everyday . Nothing goes unseen by Him. Nothing catches Him by surprise.
We, however, sometimes scratch our heads in wonderment thinking,
“where are You now God, when I need You most?”
The answer is He’s right where He’s always been. He hasn’t moved or changed. He operates by the same principles for everyone.
Deep down we know this is true but still question Him anyway not because He isn’t present but because He isn’t doing exactly what we asked – resolve some horribly embarrassing dilemma immediately – and instead of questioning our request or motive or approach we assume He didn’t hear or can’t answer or is being passive aggressive.
Saying nothing or doing nothing, however, is a response.
When He doesn’t give us what we ask for, the correct assumption is to think He wants us to change our perspective. He isn’t the talisman that helps us solve life’s problems. He provides the wisdom to solve these problems and then expects us to do something with it.
If we are going to find Him in life, we are the ones who must change.
The problem is most of us don’t really know what “Life” is. What does that term really mean? And defining “Life” isn’t the only problem. According to Jesus we can adopt one of two possible life’s so after we define the term we need to figure out which one we’re living.
Obviously, “Life” is not a simple term to define and the different ways people talk about it doesn’t help.
Some people think of life as a drudgery to endure. For them “It sucks,” meaning it’s mostly hard and difficult with very few high points along the way. These people become despondent easily.
At the other end of the spectrum are people who think of life as one exhilarating moment after another. Adrenalin junkies. They live for the “highs” and like addicts need them more frequently as time goes on. They don’t handle the tween times well.
They also say some very strange things about life.
Some claim they are never more alive than when navigating the edge, perilously close to death.
Sky divers, tight rope walkers, race participants, rock climbers, stunt men and women and more claim this sense of exhilaration when close to death.
Dan Osman, for example, was a rock climber who invented the sport of rope solo-flying. Solo-fliers jump from a high point tethered only by a rope. No safety chute, no safety line, no safety net, just air. Dan did this jump many times and at this writing I believe he still holds the record for the highest jump, over 300 meters (1000+ feet). Incredible!
He was also known, not for rock climbing, but for speed climbing. You can see him do a 400+ feet climb in less than five minutes here. It looks more like rock running than climbing.
Unfortunately Dan died at age 35 when a rope failed during one of his jumps.
I don’t doubt the feeling of “aliveness” these people claim. I would not, however, refer to that sensation as life. A part of life for some, yes, but it isn’t a universal reality or foundation of life.
Life, real life, is composed of every moment. All the moments before and after the adrenalin peaks and every personal response to those moments.
All the things that qualify you as a person contribute to life.
Your abilities, your character, your focus, your discipline, your direction, your experience, everything. Life is very broad and very deep.
It includes biology but is not limited to heart beats and brain waves.
When someone asks if you have a life they aren’t asking if you are alive. Comatose people are alive but no one thinks of them as having a life, not in any desirable sense of the word.
Life is more than blood, breath or nutrition. It is more than an adrenalin rush. It is more than material wealth. It is more than ability.
Life is all of those things and is either enhanced or retarded depending on how you manage those benefits.
It is where you are going and what you’re attempting to achieve. Going nowhere is a living death. Failing to try for fear of failure is a painful way to live.
Life is measured more by meaning than length.
There are many dimensions to life. I’ve mentioned only a few.
All of this is important, of course, because Jesus made some interesting statements about life.
He said, and I’m quoting . . .
I have come that they (the sheep, disciples, believers) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10, NKJV)
That is an intriguing statement. He implied that everyone has a life even those on the outside looking in.
And there are degrees, not only of aliveness (how you feel at any one moment), but also of life however you define it.
And that understanding calls for a change in the way we ask our question.
Instead of, Do you have a life? we should ask How much of a life do you have?
Or, Do you have all the life you want to have . . .
Or, Do you have all the life you can have . . .
Or, Do you have all the life God wants you to have?
That one small statement by Jesus adds an important layer of meaning to the concept of life. And that’s not all He said.
Another statement by Jesus gives us even more to think about.
He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt. 10:39, NKJV)
Talk about a paradox.
This is a very unusual statement but one we need to take seriously because Jesus made the point several times. He wasn’t kidding or being melodramatic. He meant what He said.
Unfortunately, He didn’t exactly explain Himself so He apparently thinks we are capable of figuring out exactly what He meant.
That is His way of complimenting out intelligence. If He thought we were dim witted He would have filled in all the blanks. He didn’t. This is also His way of saying “I believe in you.” So, since He has confidence in our abilities, let’s try and figure this out.
Here again, many truths are implied in His statement.
He Is Not Recommending Suicide
He is asking you to live not die. Quitting, signing off, becoming despondent are not the reactions Jesus is looking for. Becoming shiftless is not a good response to this teaching.
He wants you to live, not lay down and give up. Jesus was emphasizing purpose not redefining life.
Obviously, Jesus was speaking of two kinds of life, two purposes, neither of which is compatible with the other.
He was encouraging us to lose one, so we can adopt the other.
But this doesn’t represent two different definitions of life, it only represents two different purposes, the first one being the self-purposed and the second one being the others-purposed.
“Self” is the dominant principal in the life we should lose. “Others” is at the center of the life we should find. An “Others” centered life creates a balance that a selfish centered life cannot achieve.
But there are two things you need to understand:
- One, life is exactly the same in both cases.
You don’t have to change jobs, or move to a different area, or stop being who you are, or forsake all your friends to live the better life.
You’re still on the same track, heading in the same direction and the only time that wouldn’t be true is if you’re involved in illegal or self destructive activities.
If everything is as it should be, the only change you need to make is infusing all areas of your life with a broader purpose.
Please understand that God doesn’t desire to remodel you as an individual or revamp your life. He only wants to realign your purpose.
But there is a second truth to understand here.
- God isn’t trying to eliminate your interests, pleasures or personal needs.
He is asking us to reposition self not exterminate it.
The problem is this.
A person can be so narrowly focused on what he or she wants or thinks or feels, they can’t see the broader picture. And the answer isn’t to eliminate the “self” principle and focus only on every thing and everyone else. The answer is to broaden the focus so that self and others and God all become a part of the mix.
The Bible teaches self denial not self annihilation. The only vehicle you have to change this world is “self.” Annihilating self leaves you nothing to work with.
Understand that Jesus isn’t asking us to evaporate. He is asking us to put self in its proper place. He would encourage you to develop your individuality. It is the infrastructure of self and the foundation of life. The less it is developed, the less life you have to offer.
Remember this: A self centered life impedes a purpose centered life, but an undeveloped self impedes life itself.
An individual life cannot be contained in self but it cannot exist without it.
Life Is An Opportunity That Needs Developing Not A Finished Product
Life is a gift that God gives to every person, but it is not a finished product.
Life isn’t like a painting you unwrap and hang on a wall. It’s more like a blank canvas with paints and brushes.
Not a figurine someone else made, prominently placed on a mantel, but a model airplane you must assemble.
All of us are given the chance at life but no one automatically has one. This is a very, very important concept because . . .
The command of Jesus to lose your life in order to find it doesn’t apply to everyone. You must have a life before you can lose or trade it for a more noble one.
The abilities of some people haven’t been developed. Their talents have never emerged. Their usefulness has never been established. They don’t have a “self” life to lose.
And the basic building blocks of life are the same for everyone.
It doesn’t matter how wealthy or poor you are, or how advantaged or disadvantaged your background. Life building for every person always starts at the bottom and works its way up.
The Bible mentions nine of these building blocks and privilege is not on the list:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Some of those qualities we know well and some are no more than philosophical wall hangings but if you want a complete life and one that is to be aspired to, learn them all and use them well.