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Choose to Live Extraordinarily

  • Cliff Young Contributing Writer
  • Updated Aug 19, 2009
Choose to Live Extraordinarily

Every man dies.  Not every man really lives.

—William Wallace

This profound statement was made by the man who led a resistance during the Wars of Scottish Independence, depicted in the movie Braveheart.  He was speaking not to seasoned warriors, but rather fellow farmers, tradesmen and landowners, as he challenged these simple men to step out from their rather routine lives to do something extraordinary—to stand up and fight against the tyranny of the English.

Likewise, God calls each of us—many out of what we think are our mundane everyday lives—to do something extraordinary, to really live for Him.

“We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

Braveheart was shown at the outset of my church’s men’s retreat to encourage and inspire us, the biblically-called leaders in our church, to not accept the status quo of life but to lead and to live a life abundantly. 

As believers and as Americans, we are blessed to have endless freedoms, a lengthy life span and the knowledge of eternal life.  This gives us the foundation and capacity to change the world, if we choose.  However, Ralph Waldo Emerson cautions, “It is not length of life, but depth of life.”

Who and what are you living for?  How deep are you choosing to live your life? 

A Life Worth Living

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.

—William James

I recently saw a heartbreaking, yet encouraging short video called 99 Balloons where this statement was extraordinarily lived out.  It can be viewed here.

This documentary chronicled the story of Eliot Mooney, a baby stricken with Trisomy 18 or Edward’s syndrome, a genetic disorder.  Most fetuses diagnosed with this illness rarely survive to birth, Eliot did. 

His parents, Matt and Ginny Mooney, lived by the aphorism, “You can’t change what happens, it’s all about how you choose to live your day.”  What they chose was to celebrate each day of the life of their son, documenting it with a letter to him. 

The Mooney’s story is not only inspirational, but serves as a lesson for us to receive and live every day as a gift from God. 

Their story has been viewed by millions of people, and in Eliot’s short life of 99 days, he has probably touched more lives around the world than many of us will in 99 years.

Oftentimes it is difficult to find any positives throughout a day (especially from the media), and it becomes almost customary to focus on the negatives in our life.  However, don’t allow your circumstances to dictate how you see your life or how you live your life.  Our outlook, even in the direst of situations, can inspire, encourage and lead others to greatness.

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

Invest in Others

Focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose.

—Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Through his best-selling book, Pastor Rick Warren changed the way many of us looked at ourselves by reminding us our life is not about us.

However, in the midst of all of the challenges we face each day—professionally, relationally and economically, it is sometimes difficult to take our eyes off of ourselves and to focus on a greater purpose.  It’s similar to driving in a snow storm at night.  Most of your attention becomes fixated on the falling snow in the headlights, rather than on the road and where you are headed.
I am reminded of a man who was personally and professionally in financial ruins.  He was trying to support his family, had no money to his name, deficient funds in his business and was told he was worth more dead than alive.  His name was George Bailey, the banker and protagonist in Frank Capra’s movie, It’s a Wonderful Life

At the depth of his despair, George cried out, “Dear Father in Heaven, show me the way.”  Despondently, he resigned himself to the thought, “I wish I was never born.”  Through an angel named Clarence, George was given the chance to see what the world would have been like had he not been born.

Like George, have you ever wondered if you really mattered?  Felt insignificant as an adult?  Questioned if your life has made a substantial difference?   

A sense that we don’t measure up due to a lack of something (i.e. spouse, family, material possessions, thriving career, looks, money, etc.) is just a misguided thought from the enemy to destroy our confidence and faith.  Our indiscriminate feelings of doubt, inadequacy, unimportance and irrelevance are tools he uses to keep us from living our lives to the fullest. 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Besides storing up treasures, we shouldn’t be worrying and consuming ourselves with gaining treasures on earth, but rather investing into people’s lives and souls, which are treasures in heaven.

On George Bailey’s journey through a world void of his life, he made a significant discovery.  He had positively impacted many people’s lives and changed a community for the better through his honesty, kindness, and concern for others.  Although he didn’t possess a great deal monetarily or materially, he had the respect, support and love of family and friends.

The antithesis to George Bailey in today’s world is Bernie Madoff, the billionaire financier who committed the largest investment fraud in history.  He defrauded nearly $65 billion from his clients and with it purchased treasures on earth for himself.  At his recent sentencing, not one person stood up nor spoke up for him.  He is currently serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison.

If we were afforded the gift of seeing what our life has meant to the lives of others, I wonder how many of us would be surprised at how even a small act of kindness or word of encouragement had impacted those around us.  It may even encourage us to do more, to the point of living more purposefully.

What I find most exciting (and agonizing at times) about living a life as a believer are the unknowns, stressful as they are.  However, when I am able to take my mind off of myself (and my worries), cherish and celebrate each day, and search for opportunities to touch and impact others, the anxieties of my unknowns seem to fade away.  I begin living outside of my comfort zone and within God’s.  I begin to live an extraordinary life.

May you live every day of your life.

—Jonathan Swift


Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in's Singles Channel.  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to 

**This article first published on August 6, 2009.