A life unlived is a premature death.
What is mediocrity? Some would tell you, and accurately so, that mediocrity is settling for a life that is below your potential, staying put in a life of good enough. A mediocre life accomplishes little, if anything, of value or importance. It’s ambition is to not “rock the boat.” If quality of life was visualized as a continuum with brain death at one end and a joyful, fulfilled and generous life lived in accordance with God’s purpose at the other, mediocrity would comprise much of that which is in between.
Another definition can be found in the book of Revelation: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (3:15-16). That may seem a little harsh, but the reality is we need a reality check. We need a reminder to constantly re-evaluate our Christian walk. Have we abandoned our first love (Revelation 2:4)? Is there still passion in our relationship with Christ?
Most people living in mediocrity aren’t even aware that they are there. There are many paths that lead to it. A negative self image can lead to a reluctance to take chances or a resistance to engage in relationships. This can be brought about by any number of traumas: failures, few or many; unfair treatment at the hands of others; physical, mental, or emotional abuse; and many others. Maybe they were encouraged to quit when they weren’t good at something, or it didn’t come easily, or it looked too difficult. Or maybe they are gun-shy, having been knocked down every time they’ve ever gotten up the nerve to make a stand. These experiences may be of no fault of the person wronged. But it is not the experiences which define us, but rather our response to those experiences.
Those living in mediocrity occasionally put in a half-hearted effort toward “the good life,” but when there are hard decisions to be made; or life becomes uncomfortable; or the path too difficult; or friends and loved ones don’t understand, or worse yet, make fun; they resign themselves to maintaining the status quo. Mediocrity puts in just enough effort to get by, but not enough to get ahead. Mediocrity is existing, not living.
Erwin McManus, in his new book The Last Arrow states, “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.” I agree with his statement, but I would add that we often “choose to live a life of mediocrity” by default, by failing to choose to live a life of higher calling. Deuteronomy 30:19 states, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life.” Now no one in their right mind would say, “I think death and curse sounds pretty good to me!” But, at the same time they aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to choose life. For some reason they fail to realize that failing to choose is, in fact, making a choice.
By now you probably have a pretty good idea of whether you are living a mediocre life. If you are you’re probably wondering how how you can break free from the bondage of mediocrity and raise the temperature of your spiritual walk. The answer is simple, but it isn’t easy. We as Christians need to be brutally honest with ourselves and constantly evaluate the State-of-the-Union of our faith walk with Jesus. We then need to determine where we stand in relation to the fruit of the Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). We need to understand from scripture how we are to live such that the fruit of the Spirit naturally develops. We need to discover through the Word and our obedience what God’s plan for our life is. Then we need to live intentionally to bring that all to pass.
Now, when I say live intentionally I don’t mean to imply that we can live a sinless life by working hard at it. And I certainly don’t mean to imply that we can in any way, shape, or form earn our salvation. But, while the Holy Spirit desires to live in us and work through us, He will never force us to do anything. That involves choice and action, worked out through a disciplined life. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, italics mine).
I believe that God has a plan for each of our lives; we may or may not know now what that is, but I’ve found that He seldom gives us the big picture all at once. If He did, I’m quite sure we would be overwhelmed into inaction. He prompts us through his Word and His Spirit with things that we should do. That tugging at your heart that you should go speak to that friend about Jesus, or volunteer to help in the church nursery, or lead a Bible study, is God’s way of testing your willingness to be used by Him. He is giving you a choice! Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). As we have proved faithful in the littlest of things we will be given opportunities to do greater things. We constantly have choices to make of whether we will do the right things, even if they are hard, or do nothing because the alternative is hard. Like Tim Ferriss said, “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
God also uses those choices to develop in us the fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned earlier. We are presented with opportunities to demonstrate, for instance patience. No one ever desires to ask God for patience, because he most certainly will place us in situations where we will have the opportunity to practice patience! But that is exactly what we need to do (for all of the fruit of the Spirit!). He is asking us to choose to be more like Him. He uses the fruit of the Spirit to help us to be more about Him and others, and less about ourselves. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
But it’s not enough to have good intentions. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus tells us to, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”. Despite what you may believe, Jesus didn’t suffer and die so that we could have an easy life. He did come that we could have “abundant life” (John 10:10), but abundance is not easy. Mediocrity is easy. Intentionality is hard, but the rewards are heavenly!
The life God has planned for you is not going to come knocking on your door; you need to hunt it, and pursue it with every fiber of your being, until you catch it and make it your own. But before you can have what you want, you need to know what you want. The Bible is very clear about what you will want to want!
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead…. I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own…. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:7-14, italics mine).
The vast majority of people are seemingly content with life in the “daily grind.” They are going through the motions of life, but they are far from living. A life unlived is a premature death! Chose to flee mediocrity and live intentionally.
All scriptures are in the English Standard Version.