I remember meeting with an influential friend of mine a while back. He was a well-recognized minister to the high-capacity, influential people. I had been requesting some hangout time with him and it took months to finally get on his schedule. I was hoping he would see something in me that would move him to invest some more of his time in me on a regular basis. After the initial pleasantries, I recall him looking across the table from me and asking, “But what exactly is it that you do that makes you feel like you are giving God your best?”
I answered, “I consciously invite God into most moments of my day, and surrender to him. If I am thinking in a prideful, selfish, angry, negative or lazy way, I surrender that to him. If I am thinking negative about a co-worker, customer, my spouse, child, friend, etc., I surrender that to him. I seek direction for words and actions throughout the day, and when my head hits the pillow at night and I reflect on my day, I feel that for the most part, I have followed Jesus and that I have done what I was supposed to do that day. I feel, for the most part, that I am doing what God wants me to do in my everyday life.”
He flashed a smirk as I finished speaking. He looked at me and said, “Yeah, but, look at the scope of your influence. How many people do you really influence every day? I work with people who are speaking to hundreds and thousands. People who run companies worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. If I invest in those people, I get a huge return on my investment.” He went on to conclude that, because my business was small, and my influence was primarily family and close friends, I was kind of average in God’s eyes. Not worth the investment of a mentor to high-capacity people. It wasn’t done in a mean-spirited way. It was kind of an honest, “I don’t see a good fit here” moment. And, he was right. It wasn’t a good fit for either of us.
I walked away from that meeting with a strange sense of peace and confirmation. I have long pondered what the evidence for a “high-capacity” life looked like. Is it big numbers? Is it speaking on stage at conferences? Writing books? Leading large organizations, be it businesses, non-profits or churches? How will I know when I have arrived at high-capacity? I feel like God wants me to be “high-capacity” so I need to understand what the evidence of that would look like in my life, so that I can measure my progress towards that goal, get better, and finally make it one day.
Of course, when I go to God in prayer and ask for a “high-capacity” life, and meditate in his word, I am gently led away from such language. Jesus leads me to desire an “abundant life.” He talks about this in John 10:
- I have come so that they (Bob Clinkert) may have life, and have it more abundantly – (NKJV).
- My purpose is to give them (Bob Clinkert) a rich and satisfying life – (NLT).
- I have come that they (Bob Clinkert) may have life, and have it to the full – (NIV).
- I came so they (Bob Clinkert) can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they (Bob Clinkert) ever dreamed of – (MSG).
So, Jesus came for the purpose of me having an abundant life. Like when Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber said to the waiter when he asked about the Soup Du Jour – “That sounds good. I’ll have that.” The abundant life sounds good. I’ll have that. But, how exactly do I get it, and just as important, how do I know when I have it so I can celebrate and stop looking for it? I have been pursuing those questions in my life for decades now. I’ve done in depth study of the Greek and Hebrew biblical text. I have studied science and the Bible. I have tried fasting and meditation. I have gotten heavily involved in leadership in my church, in the community, in local mission work, in global mission work, etc. I’ve invested a ton in being a good spouse and father. But, the abundant life has seemingly eluded me in all of that.
I am not alone in my exasperation with the desperate quest for the abundant life. Most everyone I know is on a similar quest – young and old, rich and poor, “high and low capacity,” religious and non-religious, etc. I remember praying one night and hearing the still small voice say, “What if you are searching for the wrong thing? Looking for the wrong evidence?” Huh. Is it possible that I have been wrong all along about the high-capacity thing? Is it possible that my definition of abundant and full life was the one given to me by the culture rather than the true definition given by God?
It’s seemed so obvious in that moment. The first will be last, the last will be first. The small are great and the great are small. The woman who gave two pennies gave much more money than those who gave millions. If you wish to be a leader become the servant of all. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Most things in God’s kingdom run almost entirely opposite to the cultural definitions.
What if the high-capacity life wasn’t entirely about more of things the culture sees as valuable? What if it wasn’t about entirely about bigger crowds, bigger stages, bigger platforms? What if it wasn’t entirely about a stress free life full of happiness and devoid of pain and suffering? What if all of those things could be present, or could not be present, in the abundant life? What if those things were not the rock solid evidence of it? What if you took two mega stars with huge platforms and crowds, and one of them was living the abundant life, and one was not? How could you tell the difference?
One of the most profound “opposites” of Jesus is that you must become like a little child to enter the kingdom. I have come to discover that “becoming like a little child” means is continual surrender to God on a daily, hourly, moment to moment basis. Children are entirely controlled by the adults in their lives – and a big chunk of what they really want to do – eat too much candy, stay up late, skip school, not brush their teeth, play all day, have the toys they want – they do not get.
As I have been inviting Jesus’ control into every minute of my life, every thought, every word, every action, my life has begun to change tremendously on the inside. At the same time, I still think things I shouldn’t think, say things I shouldn’t say, and do things I shouldn’t do. I still experience some amount of frustration, sadness, depression, anger and feelings of worthlessness on a daily basis. I still feel defeated. I still have some significant issues I am struggling with in the lives of my kids and close friends. I still have issues in my business and with my partners, co-workers and customers.
In all of this, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, “Jesus didn’t come to make us safe. He came to make us brave.” The difference in my life, the major evidence of the abundance in my life, is the way in which I see my struggles – not the absence of them. I embrace my struggles. I am thankful for them. I want to do well in them. I no longer ask for removal of struggles. I pray that I may reflect the character of God in my struggles. I see my struggles and difficulties as proof of a full and abundant life.
Now, that is not to say that I do not have a lot of fun along the way. I thoroughly enjoy my life – in the midst of the ups AND downs. Only few people truly know all of my struggles and issues I deal with every day – but I am filled with a peace that surpasses all understanding deep within my core. I still panic at times – but it is short-lived, and does not go as deep as it once did.
I also have faith. Faith that I am also living a “high-capacity” life despite the evidence some of the high-capacity gurus out there might throw at me. God is responsible to bring fruit through my obedience. Period. When I try too hard to make the fruit myself – that is when I fail the biggest. And not only me, but every single “hero” and “high-capacity” person in the Bible. When they try to do the God-part in their lives they fail miserably – whether it’s Abraham trying to make the baby thing happen or Peter slashing an ear trying to make his version of the revolution happen.
My obedience, in the daily moments of my life, make a huge difference in God’s kingdom – even when I do not perceive them to. I am God’s Masterpiece – created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good works God has prepared in advance for me to do. I have come to discover that what I perceive to be good works, and what I perceive to be high-capacity, and what God sees as high-capacity, and good works, are often two completely different things – and, doesn’t that make sense that they would be? I am after all not God. His thoughts are not my thoughts. As high as the heavens are above the earth is how much higher God’s thoughts are than mine.
I am living a pretty cool story – but I have the confident faith that I only see a small portion of the story I am living. The story I do not see, the story I do not know about, would blow me away. Not because I am awesome, but because God takes my two fish and five loaves and multiplies it by the thousands. I am living the abundant life right now. If I die today, and I am never on the world stage, never make Oprah, and never get named Time’s person on the year, I have already lived an abundant life – because I have chosen childlike, humble obedience. It’s not the lack of, or the presence of a big platform. It’s the ongoing surrender of my life to God. On the world stage or in the obscurity of my family room. It’s the inside of the cup, not the outside, that makes it clean.
I am right where God wants me to be, living the abundant life of his Masterpiece – because I am surrendered to him in my daily thoughts, dreams, speech and actions. Not perfect, just surrendered. My struggles, depression, laughter and silliness are the evidence of my abundant life. I want the abundant masterpiece for the rest of my life, I want to spend my life helping those I influence realize the abundant masterpiece for their lives as well.