Plymouth First United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Byron W. Kaiser
February 6, 2022
“How to Live an Epic Life”
What makes a movie epic? Donald Miller (born August 12, 1971) is a best-selling American author and public speaker based out of Portland, Oregon who focuses on Christian spirituality as "an explanation for beauty, meaning, and the human struggle".
Donald Miller shares about how two movie producers approached him wanting to make a film about his life. He was extremely excited about the idea, especially after the producers promised to pay him a lot of money for it. The only catch was that they told him—very bluntly—that his “real life” was too boring, and that they would need to make up things to turn his life into an entertaining movie. In the process of writing the script, Miller came to this powerful realization:
The things that make a movie great are the same things that make a life great. The things that make a character great are the same things that make a real-life person great. Ultimately, it all comes down to the size of the conflict a person is willing to face.
In Miller’s book, at one point he turned to the movie producers and asked, “Is this going to be a good movie?” and they said yes. Then he asked, “Is this going to be a great movie?” and again they both agreed it would be. Finally, he got cocky and said, “Do you think our movie is going to win an Oscar?” They answered, “No. Only epic movies win Oscars.”
He asked, “What does it take for a movie to be an epic movie?” They responded that, in an epic movie, if the main character doesn’t overcome their conflict, then either they or other people die. In other words, there are life-and-death consequences if the hero doesn’t succeed in their mission. Like an epic movie, an epic life has life and death consequences. The death and the life may be yours.
Please pray with me:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
What makes a life epic? Here is a life and death story of an epic life. Soul Surfer is a 2011 American drama film about the life of surfer Bethany Hamilton. At the age of thirteen, Hamilton lost her arm to a shark attack.
The film details the events surrounding this attack and her struggle during the aftermath. The film is directed by Sean McNamara, who based the screenplay on Hamilton's autobiography of the same name and on the filmmakers' interviews with the family.
The title refers to a term coined in the 1960s to denote someone who surfs purely for pleasure, but the word soul has a double ring as a reference to Hamilton's Christian faith, which helped her recover her surfing career after the attack. Anna Sophia stars as Hamilton, and Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt star as Hamilton's parents.
You learn quickly in the movie how Bethany lives an epic life. She prays a simple heartfelt prayer: “God, please use me.”
Remember, in the second half of John 10:10, Jesus says to his followers, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” To pray, “God, please us me.” Makes us available to the fullness God desires for us.
Jesus delivers Epic Life. Jesus came not just to forgive you of your sins, but to free you to live a one-of-a-kind life. Following Jesus is so much more than staying out of trouble; it’s about discovering the life He put you on the planet to live.
Simon Peter has an epic life. Notice in this passage that while Jesus teaches, Simon and the other fishermen are cleaning their nets from a night of fishing. Now, nets are clean. Tackle stowed. Jesus says, “Go out.” Ugh. They have been up all night. Jesus says, “Go to the deep.”
Did Simon know that he had a front-row seat to a miraculous catch? Simon’s spiritual awareness peaks because of this once-in-a-lifetime catch. From the text, we can tell that the miracle and Jesus’ presence overwhelms Peter. Faced with an abundance greater than he can imagine, Peter can only conjure feelings of unworthiness rather than feelings of awe. When I think of Simon in this moment, all I can think about is Wayne and Garth, bowing saying, “We’re not worthy.”
Jesus says, “Let’s go.”
Did Jesus and Simon know each other before this morning’s events? Possibly, yes. With Jesus’ fame spread across all the Galilee. Certainly, people of Capernaum, Simon’s hometown, knew about Jesus. For Simon, complying with this “Rock Star” of a preacher to use the pulpit or bow of his boat as a place to teach was a courtesy to the celebrity. Simon taking the boats out for another round of fishing pushed his reasonableness. Receiving this catch of lifetime awoke his spiritual life.
Here is where circumstances get fishy. Jesus invites Simon, James, and John to leave the catch behind. Come with him and go deeper into the waters of God’s plan. I guarantee you that those fish did not rot in the sun. Plenty of competing fisherfolk were on the shores of the great lake. If Simon, James, and John where not going to take them market, others were willing able to benefit from the catch.
Now they are going even deeper. Most people settle for the catch. Most people settle for the windfall. Most people settle for the “shallow” water. What about you? If Jesus hands you the windfall of your dreams, then asks you to walk away from it with him, are you willing to “Go to the deep?” Are you willing to go with Jesus?
There is challenge in an Epic Life. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).
Note that at that time, there were only a handful of Christians living in Ephesus, and it was illegal to assemble in Jesus’ name. After Paul planted this church, he was run out of town by thousands of angry people who wanted to kill him. So, the mission to which God called the Ephesians was difficult.
Look through the different people written about in the Bible, and you will find a common theme: They had difficult lives. God’s favorite – Job. God’s friend – Abraham. God’s handmaidens – Hannah and Mary. God’s wholehearted king – David. All of them experience heartache and betrayal. In John 16:33, Jesus even promises this to his followers. He says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In the movie, Soul Surfer, we learn just how hard the road for Bethany is. Before getting to a place where she could be an inspiration to millions of people, she lost an arm and came close to death. She relearned life.
There is timing of an Epic Life. In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet of God writes, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Let me give you the context of this oft-quoted verse. It was written to the Israelites while they were in captivity in Babylon. Their worst nightmare had come true, and they had been taken from their homeland and dragged to another country that believed in different gods. On top of this, it says in verse 10 that they will be there for 70 years. This meant that those first-generation refugees would die in a foreign land.
Bethany will never get her arm back, but she chooses each day to live the mission to which God has called her.
Obviously, we live in a culture that craves instant gratification. We’re upset if a movie takes 30 seconds to load, or if our fast food takes five minutes, or if someone doesn’t text us back immediately. But as you look through scripture, you see that God did powerful things through the lives of people because they persevered and were patient for His timing.
Place yourself in an Epic Life. Listen again to the story of Jesus calling Simon. You may close your eyes or unforce your eyes. Attend to the images that come to mind. Attend to the sounds and the smells in the images. Imagine the sand in between your toes. Smell the seaweed and fish in a hot morning sun. Be in this moment. Feel the frustration of having a poor catch of fish the night before. Feel the exhaustion. Feel the heaviness in your eyes.
“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.”
While Jesus was speaking, the future disciples busied themselves cleaning their nets. With what are you busy? What things in your life that take up most of your time?
“He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.”
Jesus asked Simon to leave his spot on the beach and take him into the shallow water so that the crowds would keep back from Jesus and Jesus can teach. What’s one small way God may ask you to step out of your comfort zone to trust Him?
“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”
Jesus tells Simon to put the boat out into the deep water. Jesus wants us out of the shallow. Jesus asks us to act in faith. What does that look like for you? Ask God to reveal to you what it means for you to enter deep waters.
“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So, they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”
Jesus wants to do outrageous things in and through your life. What are the dreams or prayer requests on the forefront of your mind? Ask God to overflow His blessing into those areas of your life.
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken.”
When Simon realized that this was God he was talking to, his only response was to fall on his knees and confess his inadequacy. Is there anything in your life you need to confess to God?
“Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch people.’ So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
Simon learns that God wants to overflow his life. Simon may have chosen to stay and to clean fish. Simon may have chosen to keep the answer to his wildest dream to date. God had made Simon to catch fish, yes. But not just to catch fish. God made Simon to catch people. Before Simon could catch people, he had to catch fish. For what has God created you?
God made you to live an epic life. Attend to the present with me. Reconnect to this space. Notice the dark wood and white walls.
God placed you on the earth to live such a story as this story. It will be difficult, and it will take time. Your epic story starts now with life and death held in balance. The consequences hinge on your ability to pray, “God, please use me.”