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Overcoming Obstacles to Living an Epic Life

Seven years ago, I had a dream – to shoot a reality TV show of the World Race. I believe that a generation of young people are dying to hear the story of hope it would tell. They are a cynical bunch who think that to be a Christian you’ve got to check your brain at the door. They think that t…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Seven years ago, I had a dream – to shoot a reality TV show of the World Race.

I believe that a generation of young people are dying to hear the story of hope it would tell. They are a cynical bunch who think that to be a Christian you’ve got to check your brain at the door. They think that to follow Jesus, you have to sign up for a boring, self-deluded life where the main thing you’re known for is judging others that aren’t that way.

My experience is that nothing could be further from the truth. God made us to live epic, turbo-charged lives full of adventure and possibility.

Committing to dreams

Committing to dreams is what makes your life epic. We all have dreams and when we discount them, get overwhelmed by obstacles, and give up on them, we join the legions of people who stop short of God’s best for their lives.

I love my dreams and especially loved this one. So I recruited a team and some leaders. We developed a plan. I cast vision for it. We invested $20,000 in equipment. A team went to Peru to bring aid on the heels of a major earthquake and we filmed them. It looked like the dream was going to happen!

And then we failed. We couldn’t capture the story in a compelling way, much less interest a TV network in distributing it. I had to pull the plug – I had nothing to show for my months of time. And I learned how impossible my dream was.

Ugh.

Seven years passed, but I didn’t let the dream go. Yes, the obstacles seemed overwhelming, but that didn’t keep me from asking “what if?” I still could see it in my mind’s eye. I could talk about it to people with a lot more experience than me. It lived on in my imagination in spite of the obstacles.

And then God breathed on the dream and brought it back to life.

Next week, thanks to my friends at Gray Media, we’re taking another run at it. We’re following one World Race squad (K squad). We’ve hired a production crew and they’ve filmed them going through training camp. The footage they’ve got is amazing. And this time, the networks are interested.

I think my dream is a righteous thing and that it’s going to happen.

4 Obstacles

So, what did I learn? I learned that there for every dream there will always be a crowd of nay-sayers who believe it won’t happen.

I learned that the naysayers have a ready stack of arguments that kept them from committing to their dream. With the best of intentions, they want to share them with you to save you the pain of your dream failing.

But here’s the good news: These obstacles are normal, can be anticipated, and overcome!

Here are four of them:

Obligations. This week I talked to a couple whose dream is to care for 40 orphans at a remote location in Africa. Only problem: They’ve got $1,000/month in student debt obligations. It looks overwhelming. Most missions agencies require that you pay off your student debt before going to the field.

But it’s just money. God has got lots of it. I have faced the obstacle of money issues in virtually every dream that I ever embraced. It just comes with the territory. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to shoot a reality TV show.

Money is not our problem – it’s God’s problem. It’s a problem he delights in solving for us.

“It’s too risky.” Yes, it’s risky. That’s why it’s a dream! Dreams are flimsy, gossamer-winged ideas that need to gestate in hiddenness – coccooned in your imagination, sustained by your faith.

It’s risk that lends the epic quality to a dream. We all root for the underdog. We want to see the impossible happen. But most of us have also grown up in families that were risk-averse, that avoided the possibility of pain.

So maybe that defined our families, but it doesn’t need to define us. We get to choose how we’ll respond to risk.

Comfort level. Many of us have made comfort-seeking our greatest commitment. Look at the stuff that fills your home – how much of it is devoted to making you more comfortable? I am sitting on a soft couch in a climate-controlled room as I write this blog post. If I feel a hunger pang, I stop and go to the fridge.

In contrast, Jesus asked his disciples to embrace the ultimate instrument of pain – their cross. He said he had no pillow for his head. He asked would-be followers to leave their comfortable lifestyles.

Comfort isn’t bad and we don’t have to be ascetics. But organize your life to maximize your comfort and you will never live an epic life. You’re going to have to give up a few things.

Go to Florida and look at the retirees who have organized their lives around that objective. It’s a sad way to end up. They’re just waiting to die.

Lack of awareness. “I didn’t know,” we say when we say when we see the world’s pain up close and personal. Karen Dilbeck describes how she googled “Iraqi Christians Persecuted”. What she saw brought tears to her eyes.

With Youtube at our fingertips, awareness should not be the issue. But you can only absorb so much and life is so full. Which is why I say, you have to go.

If your life is already full of comfort, another vacation to feed your comfort-addiction may not be the best investment of time. Consider taking a vision trip that brings you face-to-face with real need and gives you the chance to make a difference.

We don’t choose to live an epic life for personal gratification. We do it because it makes God smile when we trust him. We do it because a spiritual transaction takes place when we commit to dreams.

We don’t choose to live an epic life for the stories that will be told about our adventures. We are not the point. James tells us we are here for just a moment and gone like the flowers of the field.

But flowers are made to bloom. They are made not to stay bound up in a tight bud, but to open up their petals to the sun.

If we’re flowers, let’s let the world see our beauty. It’s what God designed us for. He’s inviting you to an epic life – the obstacles are normal and what make your story so interesting. Why not embrace them and live!

 

For more on what it takes to live an epic life, check out this blog post.

Comments (21)

  • Yes, and AMEN to every point! Here, you have put into words so much of what I, too, see, believe, and am experiencing. Seth, thank you – for your commitment to HIM, and your testimony to living a life of faith. It is an encouragement and a constant challenge, friend! Yes, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecc. 3:11). Praying, and trusting the Lord with you for this dream! It is a joy & a privilege!

    Being His,
    Jen

    • Thanks for the encouraging words, Jen. It is easy enough to dream, but seeing those dreams happen takes a lot of perseverance.

  • I wonder how many dreams died because people lacked the stick-to-it the dream deserves?

    You said several things that stand out to me, but one was in neon, “Seven years passed, but I didn’t let the dream go.”

    Chances are, if we’re really doing something the Lord is calling us to do, we will fail and fail and fail and fail. Each time, we’ll learn. Each time we grow in faith. Each time we connect with others who might someday catch on to the dream too.

    Don’t give up. Ever.
    Thanks for not giving up!

    • I heard one of the top physicists in the world put it this way, “jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the secret of success.”

  • “We don’t choose to live an epic life for personal gratification. We do it because it makes God smile when we trust him. We do it because a spiritual transaction takes place when we commit to dreams.

    We don’t choose to live an epic life for the stories that will be told about our adventures. We are not the point.”

    So… So… good.

  • It is all about and for Him. Such great comments. If we could figure any of this out it would be a waste and so vain. I just heard a sermon
    About how God wrestles with us. That restless feeling inside. The struggle. Yes the victory comes when God gets ahold of us not the other way around.

  • Praise The Lord! One of my favor book is The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Why dreams fail is not because God is not capable, it is because our view of God is too small.
    I like to give assignments that stretch my staff. The ones willing to take on the challenge succeed and move up the corporate ladder. The ones that are afraid to try never get promoted.
    I thank God for your willingness to step beyond your fear and now sharing your lessons learn with us. I will continue to pray for you.
    I am facing my own giants… God called me to start a men’s group in Westchester, but I seems to be unable to find the door. My personal life is also full of challenges. However, I lean on Christ, my Lord and my savior, for strength to face each day. I look to the day that all things will be made right for this is what God have promised for those who place our trust in Him, who is able.

  • Hi Dave!

    Good to hear from you. Sounds like you are approaching your season of change well.

    Hey – I am flying into La Guardia 9/12 if you wanted to get together.

    seth

  • Seth,

    Have you written again about the successes & failures of following K Squad in the field? I would love to read about your views on the documentary process in hindsight.

    Thanks!

    Liz Frantti

    • Liz, I have not. The story is still underway. And maybe it is time for an update. We shot the footage, took on a production company as a partner in Hollywood, cut the pilot, had a few networks ready to commit, and then encountered technical problems that we are still trying to resolve.

  • This is so good!!!! Kenneth and I were just talking yesterday about how we feel us slipping into comfortability – which to us, means it’s time to shake things up! Thank you for this encouragement.

  • Congratulations are in order, Seth.

    For committing to your dream, walking through its death, never giving up. And now seeing it reborn.

    This is the way of the Cross.

    And your faith and fortitude, admirable.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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