I heard Erwin McManus for the first time at the Global Leadership Summit in August 2018. He was by far, the most passionate and dynamic speaker of the whole event. He spoke about the fact that he was diagnosed with cancer a while back. As a result of his battle with cancer, this has helped to put things into better perspective as to living his life in order to make the most impact possible.
While I enjoyed reading the book about his journey with cancer and the lessons he learns, his actual live delivery was incredible. If you ever have a chance to hear Erwin McManus speak then do it. He will get you fired up and inspired. With that said, the book was great also. He focuses his readers on 2 Kings 13. It’s the story of Elisha telling king Joash to grab a bunch of arrows and fire them off. The king fires off some of the arrows but stops with some arrows still available in the quiver. Then Elisha gets upset with him, explaining that the amount of arrows represent the amount of battles the king will win against his enemies, but since he did not fire off all of the arrows he will not be completely victorious in his battles. It is an odd story to say the least. I am impressed with the fact that McManus developed a whole book around this passage. McManus does a great job in using this story to explain how we need to live life fully into what God has called us to do.
McManus begins by focusing on the fact that we were not made to be ordinary or average. He states that “I do not believe anyone is born average, but I do believe that many of us choose to live a life of mediocrity. I think there are more of us than not who are in danger of disappearing into the abyss of the ordinary. The great tragedy in this, of course, is that there is nothing really ordinary about us. We might not be convinced of this, but our souls already know it’s true, which is why we find ourselves tormented when we choose lives beneath our capacities and calling.” (p. 4).
In referring to the quiver of arrows that King Joash partially used, McManus goes on saying that “There is a posture toward life that separates those who end their lives with their quivers full of untapped potential and unseized opportunities and those who die with their quivers empty.” (p. 10). This is an interesting application of this passage of Scripture. I never thought of it this way. He sees the arrows representing all the potential that we have to offer. We are to live life in such away that we live fully into who we were meant to be, holding nothing back for the next life.
Many times we do not develop our potential due to fear. McManus says that “I am convinced of this: you must not allow fear to steal your future, and every day that you walk this earth you must make sure you save nothing for the next life. You must never allow fear to keep you grounded. The moment you choose to play it safe, you’ve lost the game. Instead of running from your fears, lean into them, for on the other side of them is the future you long for. These moments form character and forge the future.” (p.24) We live in a culture that is stoked by fear. But as believers we must not give into the fear-mongering whether it is from our culture or within our own minds. To do so will lead to a less than average life.
McManus gets more specific about living into the life we were called into in that “the one thing where you must never settle for less is the calling that God has on your life, the purpose for which he has created you, the impact he designed you to make in the world. The great tragedy that I have witnessed over and over again is that we keep underestimating how much God wants to do in us and through us.” (p. 28). Primarily, what the author is communicating is that we ought to “seize the day” fully living into all that God has created us to be. He concludes this chapter stating that “You have one life to use everything you have been entrusted with, so you might as well save nothing for the next life.” (p. 30).
Fear is not the only thing holding people back. McManus also believes that some of us live comfortable lives that don’t require us to trust in God. He says that “Perhaps the reason so few of us have received a double portion of God’s Spirit is that the lives we have chosen require so little of God because they require so little of us. I do not want to watch God work from a distance. Neither do I want to hear the amazing stories of God’s work from a distance. Neither do I want to hear the amazing stories of God’s activity in the world as if they are fables made for other people in an ancient time. I want to live the kind of life that cannot be lived without the fullness of Christ in my life.” (p. 89). Some people live their lives in a way where they really don’t need God in their lives because they have created a comfortably average life for themselves. We hear of God doing amazing things in other areas of the country or in the world but never in our context. McManus is challenging the reader to live fully into all that Christ has made us for.
The author goes on to explain why we need to live into this life that Christ has for us in saying that “If for no other reason, we need to choose our most heroic lives, because a world desperately needs to see what it looks like to be fully alive. What the world needs most from you is for you to be fully alive.” (p. 102). We certainly need more people like this. Instead, so many Christians are know for what they are against. If we live into all that Christ has created us to be I would hope that that would attract others to the faith.
McManus goes on to implore that “There comes a time and a place where you have to decide, This is worth fighting for. This is where I stand. This is who I am. This is the life I have chosen. I will not run. I will not allow fear to move me from where I should be to where it wants me to live. I would rather die facing the challenge than exist running from it”. (p. 124-125). We need to find that which God has made us passionate about and pursue it to the fullest.
McManus focuses some of his criticism on the church in that “The church has become an institution that preserves the past and fears the future. It is not an overstatement to say that the church has become more of a reflection of what we are running from than what we are running to. No wonder we have lost our power to change the world. No wonder the church has lost its magnetism to a world searching for hope. We are seen as the guardians of tradition. The church is known for fighting the future rather than creating the future that humanity desperately needs.” (p. 140). This is his most powerful statement against the modern American church. And I pretty much agree. While we learn form our past, we must live into a future that radiates with hope, love and passion. We need to stop being a church that is only known for what we are against.
McManus explains that throughout this process we need to be in line with God first. He comments that “the process must begin by loving God first. It is in loving God with all your heart and mind and soul that he begins to shape your passions. When God has your heart, you can trust your desires. His will is not a map; it is a match. He shows you the way by setting you on fire. You will know God’s desire for you by the fire in you! The fire win you will light the way.” (p. 176). When we make God the center of our life, He will create and shape us into his image and that will develop passion in our lives to seek justice, to love mercy and to walk humble with our God. If God has made you passionate about something that stoke that fire, don’t put it out.
McManus concludes with stating “Don’t make the mistake of living your life waiting for good things to happen – make good things happen. Be faithful in the small things that do not matter to you as much and treat them with the same level of respect and importance as the big things connected to your hopes and dreams. Remember that Jesus laid out this principle for us: it is the person who is faithful in the small things who will be entrusted with bigger things.” (p. 194). When you read all that McManus has done in his life it is pretty amazing. But he is not saying “be just like me”. He points out that we need to be faithful in all things. We need to be trustworthy in the little things of life and that helps to prepare us to take on bigger responsibilities. Don’t wait around for the BIG opportunity but be faithful now in all the things related to your life.
I really enjoyed this book. Erwin McManus is a popular American pastor and writer. He is involved in a lot of great things. But to have to face cancer and to not let that derail you is amazing. Instead, it seemed to light a fire under the author where he wants to make the most of every moment of every day living faithfully for Christ and doing all he can to expand the kingdom of God in the remaining amount of time that he has. His story is powerful and passionate. And to build a book around the passage of King Joash shooting some arrows I thought was great.