When I was eight, I invented a solar-powered car. America was facing an energy crisis in the late 1970s, and I for one was not going to sit idly by and let us go down the proverbial tubes.
The day my marvelous invention materialized was a hot one. It was one of those summer days that calls little boys to explore the wild outdoors, to search for buried treasure, or perhaps discover a slimy crawdad to satisfy their scientific curiosity. Yet though my eight-year-old lungs longed to suck in the fresh August air, an entire country’s economic infrastructure hung woefully in the balance, and I felt a prick within my soul to do my part.
I purloined a sharpened pencil from my mother’s collection and dug up a pile of drawing paper from the roll-top desk in the den, and I determinedly went to work. I must have worn that pencil down to a stub by the end of the day. My hair was tousled and my lips dried and caked from licking my lips in intense concentration for several straight hours.
I emerged from my makeshift office at around four in the afternoon with one of those dazed da Vinci smirks upon my face, for I had done it: I had saved the world.
President Jimmy Carter didn’t have to personally commission me to do this. He didn’t have to offer me money, fame, or a position of power. I gave up an entire day of my summer vacation because I truly cared, and my imagination was fired up and ready to solve our nation’s energy crisis.
I gave my all. I gave my best. I spent myself for my country.
Because that day I had something bigger than little Eric Ludy to live for, something grander than my own selfish pleasure to pursue. Creek beds, gold, crawdads, little green army men, climbing trees, flying kites, the continuing adventures of “Eric the Cowboy” — these could all wait, for there was something more important that needed my best energies and my best resources until all was made right with the world once more.
Unfortunately, my solar-powered car was nothing more than a little kid’s piece of art. At the age of eight, I didn’t understand that a mere drawing of a solar-powered car wouldn’t actually solve the energy crisis. Blessed be those days of blissful ignorance and innocence! Yet thanks to my always-encouraging parents, I really did think I had saved the world that hot summer day back in 1979.
On that balmy day, little Eric Ludy had gone from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. He was not cowering in fear at the looming economic issues facing America; he was staring them in the face and offering his time, his resources, and his artistic talents for the betterment of mankind. As a result, he felt a surge of that strange and inexplicable happiness that courses through the veins of everyone who has ever done the same.
This book is built on a very simple premise: we all need to live for something bigger than ourselves. We need to be part of a story larger than us, a drama grander than our personal aches and pains. We need a blueprint for our existence that is greater than the one we ourselves can draw up. In short, we need to seek God’s agenda for how our lives are supposed to be lived and what we are supposed to spend our time and energy pursuing.
In America, we suffer from a malady I call “puny living.” Most of us spend twenty-three and three-quarters hours each and every day tending to our own life stories. And let’s face it — our stories are not very grand. We spend our best energies, our best time, our best resources, and our best ideas on our smallish lives, hoping to somehow increase our net worth, upgrade our wheels, downgrade our stress, outpace our neighbors, and upstage our graduating class. The long and short of it is this: we are completely wasting this precious gift called life.
When I was eight, I tasted the pure and utter bliss of hero’s work. To experience this taste, I didn’t have to endure cruel torture and privation, storm a burning building, or rescue a drowning child. I merely had to give up my personal agenda in exchange for a much bigger one.
Not long ago, my wife, Leslie, and I were visiting Southern California. While there, we stepped out of a grocery store and ran smack into two young women with a cause. Their eyes were wide with enthusiasm, and their voices were strong with passion.
Their cause? Fifty whales off the shores of Japan.
These well-meaning women were spending their entire Saturday preaching to anyone willing to listen about the atrocities being committed against these poor humpback whales and how something must be done.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have only positive feelings about these magnificent, charismatic creatures. Whales are amazing!
However, let’s consider the fact that there are 163 million children around the world that are orphaned and in desperate need of help at this very moment. Fifty whales just don’t seem important in comparison.
There are more human slaves today than there were one hundred years ago when William Wilberforce fought his noble battle with Parliament to end this brutal injustice. There are scores of little girls between the ages of six and eleven being sold into slavery as prostitutes in countries all around the world. There are little boys being forced to kill their parents and siblings and become soldiers in the Ugandan “liberation” armies. There are more than four thousand little children who are homeless, parentless, and living in a single dump in Guatemala. There are tens of thousands of kids in Brazil hiding from death squads seeking to kill the “orphan vermin.”
Maybe if there were fifty million capable foot-soldiers actively fighting for the cause of the oppressed, enslaved, and orphaned around the world, I could see the importance of turning our attentions toward the suffering of fifty humpback whales off the coast of Japan. But that is simply not the case.
I’m not trying to knock someone for fighting on behalf of the whales. In a fashion, it’s noble and it’s right. But it is akin to trying to rescue the captain’s personal trunk when the entire ship is sinking.
We need to open our eyes to the true scope of the situation we find ourselves in here on earth. We are suffering from puny living, and it’s affected our eyesight. We aren’t seeing the real issues because we can’t see outside of our own little universes.
I’m a Christian and I make no bones about it. I am all about following Jesus Christ and His agenda. His agenda is huge, it’s grand, and it’s a steak dinner for the imagination. There is nothing puny about God’s intention for His children. Yet perhaps the greatest perpetrators of puny living in the past one hundred years have been Christian folk. It’s sad to say, but Christianity is deserving of most of the criticism it receives these days. The church has tried to fit into the world and make itself appealing rather than turning the world upside down and transforming it. Christianity in its truest most historic sense is all about “epic living.”
For one entire day when I was eight, I tasted epic living. I was caught up in the cause of saving the world. What I tasted that day is what every believer was meant to taste every single day for a lifetime. Imagine waking up each day feeling a divine urgency to give your best energies, your best time, your best resources, and your best ideas to something other than yourself. That’s Christianity in its most elemental form. That’s the secret to a life of ever-increasing satisfaction.
The problems facing humanity are much bigger than oil embargoes, whaling, illegal immigration, and global warming. Thirty thousand children are dying this very day due to something as basic as the lack of clean water. And yet our best and brightest are spending themselves on puny convictions and puny causes.
A truly Christian life is one that demonstrates to the world what Jesus would look like, talk like, and live like if He were walking the earth today (Ephesians 5:1–2). A Christian life is nothing more than an everyday human existence given over to the operation and control of the very Spirit of God (Romans 8:6). In other words, it’s God who is living, not me (Galatians 2:20). It’s God who is talking, not me. It’s God who is deciding where to go and how to get there, not me.
Jesus Christ is interested in your life — All of it. He wants every moment of your existence, from now to the end of eternity, to be spent as He deems fit. He wants to turn your paltry little life into something extraordinary. But to do that, He has to own the entirety of it, with no strings attached. He won’t suffer any ifs, ands, or buts. He will rescue you, He will cleanse you, and He will make your life work — but only if you are willing to give up all control to Him.
What would God be doing if you truly gave Him control over your life?
If you are not a Christian, I ask you to please forgive those of us who are not providing an answer to that question with our lives. We’ve muddled the answer to that question to the point where there are now seventy-six different answers from seventy-six different pulpits every Sunday morning. What has happened to the church? How did we arrive at the place where Christianity is about us — our lives, our retirement plans, our futures, our reputations, our personal comfort — without even a mumbled protest from the pews?
Christianity isn’t only about what you know and who you know — it’s also about how you respond in obedience to whom you know. If you are not directing your energies toward that which is the heart of Jesus — the rescuing of human souls and the deliverance of human lives — then, like nuclear waste, you will end up actually corroding the world about you. Jesus said it this way: “He that is not with me is against me,” and, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 11:23, 19:10).
Our God is all about action. He’s all about doing the thing that needs to be done. He’s all about giving. (Doesn’t it say something about that in John 3:16?)
God is in the business of delivering justice and mercy, setting captives free, bringing health to the sick, clearing the debts of the poor, and breaking the shackles of slavery. God burns with fury when He sees the weak and the little ones being exploited. He cries with indignation when He sees child prostitution in Thailand, abortion in America, death squads murdering street children in Brazil, and little boys and girls struggling to live in a garbage dump in Central America.
Our God is not passive, and He is certainly not unfeeling. He has entrusted His foot-soldiers here on earth with the job of expressing His indignation, His compassion, His generosity, and His love here in this physical world. Christians are supposed to be His hands, His feet, His voice, and His response to these atrocities in the natural realm.
If it appears God is doing nothing to halt these horrors, the blame for inactivity falls squarely on the shoulders of those of us entrusted to be His representatives. It’s Christians that bear the onus of culpability. We are the ones commissioned to carry out God’s epic agenda, and if we fritter our lives away pursuing puny goals and do nothing to stop these horrors, then we will stand before God in the end with a stain of responsibility upon our souls.
God’s agenda is to seek and save that which is lost, that which is broken, and that which is oppressed and enslaved. But if God’s children won’t carry out His agenda, who will?
The world is waiting for you and me to begin to live out and practice what we preach. Christianity will be nothing more than a byword as long as those of us that call ourselves by such a regal name sit by and live puny lives while the world about us is ravaged by evil. But when Christians once again take up the epic agenda of God, the world will sit up and take notice. For wherever there were Christians who boldly carried the torch of poured-out love, justice, and compassion, the church multiplied and was added to daily. May Christianity once again be the world-altering force it was in those days when Christ first deposited His very life and fire into the souls of His followers.
This book is designed for all of us, including myself, who have suffered from the malady of puny living. So if you are interested in doing something more with your energies and resources than filling out forms and writing checks . . . if you are ready to be part of something much grander than yourself . . . if you are tired of a crusty version of faith that merely sits in pews, listening to sermons and passing the offering plates, then keep reading. You are about to discover the magnificence and marvel of a bigger, more thrilling, more rewarding vision of life.
May the glory and power of Christ be seen in and through you and me. May the lost hear the hope of the Bravehearted Gospel through our mouths. May the hungry be fed with our hands. May the orphans be rescued by our valor. May we break the shackles of the oppressors with our passion for justice.