Extremely Driven Christians

We live in an A-plus-driven world where C-minus outcomes just don’t cut it. To do our best is the standard, to be the best is the goal, and anything less is to simply not make the grade. Just how driven is our world for superior performance? Consider this:

“An Australian professional football player said Tuesday he plans to have one of his fingers amputated in an attempt to improve his game. Brett Backwell . . . has suffered from pain and restricted movement since he broke his left ring finger three years ago. . . . “To chop a finger off, that’s a bit drastic,” Backwell told the Australian Broadcasting Commission. “But I love my footy, and love playing sport, and if that’s going to help me to succeed at this level [emphasis added], then it’s something you’ve just got to do.”1

Backwell is the first athlete known to have amputated an appendage simply to enhance his performance—to raise his grade in one area of his life. At first glance, he seems a bit eccentric. But upon closer examination, Backwell is a poster boy for our culture. He may well be a poster boy for your family and your church because, like most American evangelical Christians, you are probably driven to excel. If so, you might—like Brett Backwell—be systematically amputating some of your most important appendages in your quest.

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Did Jesus Do All Things Well?

Did Jesus do all things well? The apostle Mark reports this reaction from those who followed Jesus: “They were utterly astonished, saying, ‘He has done all things well’” (Mark 7:37). What Jesus did, He did A-plus well. But did Jesus do all things? All your things?

But Jesus didn’t have a home or a high-mileage donkey to maintain (Matthew 8:20). Jesus didn’t have a wife to care for, and any married believer will agree that Paul knew what he was talking about when he said being married meant dividing one’s devotions (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). Jesus didn’t have kids. Those who say living with the disciples was like having kids, obviously never had kids. Jesus didn’t get up at 3 a.m. to help Peter throw up and change his sheets, or haul 12 disciples to 12 different soccer fields for twice-a-day practices.

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Plugging the leaks

My in-laws former house was a registered historic landmark – a large, stately three story rich, in history.  It was a great place to visit, but a lousy place to get a relaxing shower.  My shower would change from a torrent to a trickly, from soothing to scalding to shivering with breathtaking speed.  One toilet flush and your shower became a steambath.  The hot water cycle of the washing machine or dishwasher turned it into a late October rain.  A second shower started in the floor below turned a refreshing downpour into a depressing drizzle.

Though I’m half- Swede, and Michele half-Norweigan, neither of us ever warmed up to this sauna-to-snowbank style of freshing up.  The plumbing in this big, stately house stunk.  The pipe bringing water from the street was too small.   The main lines in the house were too few.  There was not enough water or pressure to keep more than one steady stream going in the house at the same time.

Multiple burns and frostbite over the years inspired an unwritten but inviolable rule in the Canfield residence. “Never shower without sounding the alarm!”    To turn the shower knob without sounding the alarm was like pulling the pin on a hand-grenade.  The family developed plumbing’s version of ‘Scissors, Paper, Rock.’  Showering was rock, flushing the potty was scissors.  Everything else was paper.

Water pressure is a good way to illustrate our lives.  If the pipe coming in is too small, and the faucets spilling out too many, life turns into a dash between torrent and trickle, between scalding and shivering.

My in-laws old house teaches a key principle of a life worth living:  balance the input and output, the fill and spill.  We fill with activities which bring refreshment and wholeness of soul.  Scripture teaches the main pipe into our souls is an authentic, intimate relationship with the God who made us.   Jesus used a plumbing analogy to describe this inflow to a Samaritan woman who came to a well for water [Jn. 4:14].  It is essential for a life lived well that we enhance the filling, be it a time of worship, time in the word, a walk in the woods, or the gift of rest.

We all need a large pipe flowing into our life.  Only then is it possible to flow into the lives of others.  While the problem for many of us is the filling, for many others it is the spilling – there are too many activities and people draining our time and energy.   There are too many too many faucets, and not enough people sounding the alarm.   It’s time to play ‘Rock Scissors, Paper’ and plug the leaks.

Nehemiah plugged the leaks.  Responsible to quickly rebuild the massive walls of Jerusalem, everyone had hands on his faucets.  Yet, Nehemiah had the courage to say to matters of lesser importance, “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.”

The Apostle Paul played plugged the leaks.  Paul was surrounded by draining people and circumstances, too.  He writes, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize…” [Phil 3:13-14].  Paul sounded the alarm, saving his spilling for what God had called him– to proclaim the good news of Jesus in all its fullness for all the Gentiles to hear [2 Tim. 4:17].

Jesus plugged the leaks. Everyone wanted a piece of him.  Jesus habitually would sound the alarm, sneaking off to feed his soul after the steady drain of needy disciples and the clambering crowds.  It was said of Jesus, “Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do His will.”  Jesus saved his spilling for what mattered most – to give His life a ransom for many [Mk. 10:45].

Calvary’s mission statement contains the basic spiritual plumbing:  Our filling pipe is passion for God, and our spilling pipe is compassionate ministry to God’s people.  Let’s learn a few lessons from my in-laws historic old house, and from Nehemiah, Paul, and Jesus:

  1. Filling comes before spilling
  2. Spilling can’t exceed filling.
  3. Spilling more here means spilling less there.
  4. God does not want us to drip and trickle on the trivial, but to be a refreshing blast on the things that matter most.
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