“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord”- Romans 12:11 (ESV)
Last Sunday evening, millions of people across America and around the world tuned in to watch what is arguably the single most celebrated American sporting event of the year- the NFL’s Super Bowl. For the better part of three quarters, the Atlanta Falcons- quite surprisingly, to most fans and observers- absolutely dominated the New England Patriots, to the tune of a seemingly insurmountable 28-3 lead. At this point, many parties began to wind down, and likely many TVs began to be turned off, because it was over…right? Right?!
From the 8:51 point of the third quarter on through the end of the regulation and overtime, Tom Brady and the Patriots would orchestrate the single greatest comeback in NFL playoff history, capped by a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, to defeat those Dirty Birds by a final score of 34-28. If you are a Patriots fan, it was, of course, absolutely exhilarating. And if you have the misfortune of being a Falcons fan (which is quite a misfortune in its own right!), the misery of your championship-less history was extended and deepened in a most gut-wrenching fashion.
As I reflected on this historic game late Sunday night, I thought back to the message I had preached at FC Airline that morning. Working from Jesus’ powerful words in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, we were challenged to “go beyond” in our giving, our going, and our loving- to live every aspect of our lives with “second mile mentality.” As I thought more about that hauntingly high standard, and about the incredible happenings I had just witnessed on my TV, this statement struck me…
Just enough is not enough.
It wasn’t enough for the Falcons to finish what they started in that fateful Super Bowl loss, and it isn’t enough for those who have been named with the name of Jesus. In fact, it is never enough if we are to live the life that God has called us to live as His unique people.
If we’re being honest with God, ourselves, and each other- “keeping it real,” as we say- I think we’re all pretty well acquainted with “just enough,” aren’t we? In many ways, it is the natural bent of our sinful hearts; we want to live our lives in such a way that we appease God and assuage our guilty consciences, but don’t get “too radical” about things. I confess that I have lived too many days of my life with this very mentality. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. So what are some ways that “just enough” plays out practically in our lives today?
“Just enough” giving. We don’t keep everything to ourselves. We write a check to the church or to our favorite charity from time to time, and maybe toss a couple bucks to the homeless guy on the corner. This helps us to feel like we’re “doing some good,” but never works to release the relentless chains of greed, materialism, and “possession obsession” from our hearts.
“Just enough” confession. Nobody wants to be known as a “fake.” But at the same time, true authenticity is pretty scary stuff, isn’t it? So we often settle for the halfway version of honesty. We share the safe stuff, the surface level symptoms of the sin-sickness that afflicts the depths of our hearts. Because we’re sharing something– again, nobody wants to be perceived as claiming perfection- we justify the things we continue to hold shamefully in secret.
“Just enough” service. Just as nobody wants to be seen as inauthentic, likewise no one wants to be called lazy. In an effort to avoid this, often we choose to serve somehow– but in a halfhearted, “bare minimum” kind of way that doesn’t stretch us into the realm of the uncomfortable or challenging. Tragically, many Jesus followers are selling short the Spirit’s great power and giftedness within them simply because we don’t want to make the sacrifice to use it to its fullness.
“Just enough” discipline. This is one the foremost hallmarks of lifeless, routine, “checklist Christianity.” Sure, we may crack open the Bible regularly- perhaps even daily- and toss a casual prayer to heaven each morning and evening, but we do so without any real engagement or expectation. We do it “because we’re supposed to,” or maybe “because we’ve done it for years,” but the freshness and impact that God promises- and truly desires to give His children- is long gone.
“Just enough” leadership. One of my all-time favorite statements on leadership comes from Andy Stanley- “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary, and you are accountable.” That’s rich- and for many of us, uncomfortably weighty. As a result, many of us avoid stepping fully into the leadership responsibility and opportunity that God has laid before us. We use false humility as a defense mechanism- “Oh, I just don’t think I’m qualified for that…” Essentially, we play it safe- when God has instead called us to step boldly into His call in our families, schools, workplaces, churches, and communities.
I recognize that these are tough words, but they aren’t intended as a condemnation- far from it! God’s invitation to the “second mile life” is an incredible act of grace and generosity. He wants us to know Him personally and powerfully– in all His glory. He likewise wants us to be used by Him personally and powerfully– all for His glory. He wants our lives to echo into eternity, leaving a legacy of spiritual impact on those who we have the opportunity to touch. This is what we were made for- all of us!- and this is where true joy, “real life,” is found.
Because of this truth, “just enough” just isn’t enough; it is a profound and tragic “selling short” of God’s design and desire. Where and how have you been settling for “just enough” in your life lately? What would it look like to live with a “second mile mentality” in one of the areas mentioned here- or perhaps another? What would it look like to live a life “worthy of the calling to which we have been called” in Jesus Christ? My hope and prayer is all of us will step out today to find out.