A Faith with a View

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Your God is too small!

That's what J.B. Phillips wrote sixty years ago. The title of his book struck a chord in many hearts. It was an assertion, and a convicting one. It should be even more convicting now, as many people think big thoughts about people today, but small thoughts about God.

Several years ago, my own far-too-small-view of God became strikingly clear. It happened not in the middle of a worship service but, of all places, in the midst of my honeymoon. From the vivid perch where I stood high atop the CN Tower, then the world's tallest self-supporting structure, my eyes could scan the entire city of Toronto. Earlier that day, however, the first time I stood beneath the behemoth, I was overtaken with awe. It soared upwards into the sky some three hundred times my own height (1815 feet, 5 inches to be exact). Silenced by the sight, I just stood there for a few minutes, looked up and was awed as I considered its size and all it must have required to be built. A modern wonder.

Only an hour earlier, as my car first approached the outskirts of the city, the tower stretched above the rest of the buildings to create a sun‑canopied futuristic skyline. The same structure that would later engulf me was, at that point in my journey, merely an interesting blip on the horizon. Reduced by distance, this same tower could fit between my two fingers. The closer I got, the more impressive it became.

A Tower of Another Kind
Paul the Apostle had a similar experience with a "tower" of another kind. In Romans 12:1, as Paul calls believers to a deeper spiritual commitment, he first summons them to take a clearer look at the nature of God: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."

As long as we journey on the outskirts spiritually, the view is too manageable to be marvelous, too scaled‑down to be truly significant. From a distance, everything is reduced. Our view is distorted and unimpressive. From a distance, no wonder is too wonderful, no power too powerful.

Unfortunately, many people today choose to view God in such a manner—distant, removed, even manageable. Their "God" fits between their fingers on the horizon. God, to them, is close enough to consider, yet distant enough that he will never impose upon their lives. Jesus came to change all of that. He came to bring God "near."

The Deep End of the Pool
Just prior to Paul's call to live "in view of God's mercy," he draws our attention to his own vivid and personal view of God. He reveals himself (in Romans 11:33-36) as a man obviously engulfed in the depths of God's character:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.    

Paul invites us into the deep end of the pool. He beckons us from the water's edge of mere belief and calls us no longer to merely ponder, but to plunge...not just to meditate, but to marinate. He challenges us to experience God, to know him and through Jesus Christ to surrender our lives to him. He points us to a larger life by thinking larger thoughts of God and devoting our very bodies to His service.

Between My Two Fingers
As overwhelming as the CN Tower was to me that day, I was somehow captured by the contrast. It occurred to me that this same structure which now had me riveted, had just hours earlier (25 miles away to be exact) fit between my two fingers and done little more than spark a bit of intrigue. What made the difference? Distance and proximity. I wondered, How often have I viewed God that way—merely as one who fits between my two fingers, one who fits into my plans?

When your god is too small, you can put him wherever you want. You can pull him off of the shelf whenever you need him and quickly move him out of sight when you just don't want to be bothered. Rather than fitting ourselves into his world (or Kingdom), this scaled-down-sized God conveniently fits right into ours. Or, so it seems.

People of faith not only live life, they live a larger life because of a larger view...the one Jesus promised to bring ("If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." John 14:9). They learn to love God with their hearts and all their minds. They live larger because they see clearer. What they do for God is directly related to their view of him. They find that the greatest deterrent to sin is not a more determined will, but a more vivid view, a view that is regularly refreshed through the soul-enlarging disciplines (and privileges) of worship, prayer, and remembrance, to name a few.

8/15/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Robert Crosby
    About Robert Crosby
    Robert Crosby is an author and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University. Read his interview with Bobby Gruenewald, the Founder of YouVersion.com (the Bible App) and related articles at Christianity Today, The New Engagers and The Social Network Gospel. Robert Crosby is the author of the new book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press).