The Builder: 7.1 Think Big
The city of Chicago is an architectural wonder. Towering, sleek, modern skyscrapers of steel and glass fill the sky. Wedged between them, unapologetic and unintimidated, stand stunning older structures of ornately carved stone. The city silently and powerfully tells thousands of stories: the histories of bold men who dreamed, dared and built great things.
“Make no little plans,” said Daniel Burnham, one of Chicago’s early architects. “They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever growing insistency. … Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big” (emphasis added throughout).
This is just the way the ultimate Builder, God, thinks!
Look at the size of the universe! Scientists’ most recent estimates say there are more than 2 trillion galaxies. That means there are far more stars in the cosmos than there are grains of sand on Earth. How many of those could support habitable planets with life in the future? God created the universe to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). He intends to one day “plant the heavens”—to seed them with life! (Isaiah 51:16). Isaiah 9:7 says the increase of God’s government and peace will never end—and because God is so zealous, passionate and determined, He will make sure of it! He thinks big.
Challenge your mental smallness. Train yourself to expand your plans like God does. Don’t just wonder what the world holds for you. Think about what you hold for it.
There’s a Wider World Out There
Small thinking is everywhere, and for most of us, it comes so naturally we don’t even realize it. Our thoughts remain comfortably confined to the cramped quarters of self-interest.
Many men devote all their spare time to personal amusement and gratification of no value. Others may seem like model citizens, maintaining their property and providing for their families, yet their liberality never extends beyond the bounds of their closed, immediate circle. This too is a self-focused masculinity.
Yes, developing true biblical masculinity must start with self-improvement and personal character. It must extend to fulfill duties to wife and children. At a fundamental level, a man’s most important contribution to society is a solid, successful family. When a man rears children who grow to contribute to society rather than taking from it, he has avoided adding problems and burdens on others. Additionally, a man plagued by headaches at home is in no position to contribute significantly beyond it. And success in other arenas is undermined by a failure in the home.
However, your ultimate aim as a man should extend beyond. Ask yourself: What are you contributing to the lives of others? Shaping the future isn’t just for other people. It’s for you. It’s part of your duty as a man. As you develop as a man, you must seek to make positive contributions in an increasing sphere of influence.
True biblical manhood is ultimately about becoming a real builder of the lives of those around you and of the wider world.
Life, Fire, Wing, Force!
Big thinking inspires—and demands—vigorous action.
Amid a spiritual revival among the early American colonists, a man named George Whitefield bestrode the scene. Here is how another man described him: “He lived. Other men seemed to be only half-alive; but Whitefield was all life, fire, wing, force.”
That description also applied beautifully to Herbert W. Armstrong. His autobiography hums with vigorous fire and force. “There was always the sense that I had to hurry!” he wrote. “I was learning to plunge into a task with dynamic energy.” When he was almost 83 years old, he wrote, “There is no question I am asked more often, it seems, than ‘What is the secret of your long life, youthful vitality, energy and drive?’” (Plain Truth, July 12, 1975). Eighty-three!
Evaluate yourself. Are you really maximizing the physical life and mental capacity God has given you? Or have you allowed yourself to be trapped—to be small, narrow, timid, dull?
Mr. Armstrong once had a temporary job at a small business journal. He recognized potential for it to grow into a far more important position, so he worked hard at it and exploited that potential. That big thinking led him to establish a successful business of national scope right in bustling Chicago. “This is the quality, rare among people (but why should it be?), called vision,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Most men are never able to see any possibilities of expanding their present jobs. They do merely what they are told—what someone higher up thought out and laid before them. … [They] never think out ways to do the job better, or to develop or expand their own job into something bigger, or to be preparing themselves for the better jobs ahead and promotions to them …. [T]he application of some of these principles makes all the difference between employee and employer; between mediocrity or failure and success.”
Consider your roles in life: student, employee, co-worker, husband, father, boss, Church member and so on. Have you settled for mediocre? Could you be doing more within each of your roles to achieve something bigger, something nobler, something greater?
For example, Mr. Armstrong said that when God calls someone to support His Work, we are to contribute to furthering His mission on Earth through our “prayers, encouragement, tithes and offerings.” We can do these things like we’re walking a treadmill—or we can seize these mighty God-given opportunities and always look for ways to do them bigger and better! A man who keeps in mind the spectacular future God has promised His people—to use those who are called today as Earth-wide king-priests—will more easily recognize the excitement in supporting the Work today. Instead of just “making sure to pray for the Work,” he will zealously, fervently, powerfully pray for the Work!
Use each day to its potential! What more can you accomplish? What more can you do today to help your family, to help God’s Work, to develop yourself, to train for more future responsibility? Think big! Don’t wait for the future to come to you. Don’t wait for the chance to help others to come seek you out. Go after it!
Among Mr. Armstrong’s secrets of youthful vitality, he shared these: Have the right goal, one that keeps you looking forward in anticipation. Keep your mind active and spry through continual education. Maintain good health through careful diet, good sleep, exercise, fresh air and water. Keep a determined prod on yourself! “Often, when I feel like letting down, I have to use determination and force myself to keep driving on!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Never give up; never just lie down and quit! Many a time I’ve felt like it. Sometimes I have given up and quit at bedtime, but after a night’s sleep it’s all a new ball game, and next morning I’m plunging into it with renewed vigor and enthusiasm!” (Plain Truth, op cit).
A Cause Greater Than Yourself
Being a true builder requires vision. You have to open your eyes to see things as they are—then, imagine things as they could be.
Read again Section 1.2 of this book, “Anoint Your Eyes.” It is about recognizing the needs in the world around you. This starts with, and should always include, observing needs on a small, intimate scale: seeing, for example, the shaky confidence in a fatherless boy in the local congregation. As a man grows in maturity, perception and insight, his recognition scales up to include major problems within the community or broader society.
A builder sees that need with compassion, as a problem that should be addressed. He seeks God’s perspective about it, and aims to ascertain how God would solve it. He looks for ways to take responsibility to be part of the solution. He is willing to devote his resources, effort and attention to it, making personal sacrifices as required. And he is determined to follow through with the work even over the long term.
The problems in this world are too great to be solved on a broad scale until Jesus Christ returns to Earth to establish His Kingdom. Some men have spent themselves entirely on vain and fruitless efforts to solve insoluble conundrums. In many cases, men make problems worse because of misperceived root causes and reasons, misguided solutions, halfhearted effort, a lack of persistence or poor follow through.
Still, the need remains for a man to commit his thoughts and energies toward a cause, or causes, greater than himself.
Every man must exercise wisdom in identifying the problems and causes to which he should dedicate himself. With God’s help, a man can make a tremendous impact. Do not minimize the power of one man. Don’t underestimate the difference you can make in the lives of others and in the world around you.
Consider one example of a real builder, a man who thought big, who recognized needs and was willing to take action in order to fill them: Nehemiah.
The Jews were in captivity in Persia, yet Nehemiah had risen to a high position as something of a bodyguard for King Artaxerxes himself. When he received news of the affliction and persecution being suffered by a contingent of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, Nehemiah was moved with passionate, godly grief (Nehemiah 1:4).
The Bible has many such examples of strongly emotional, yet extremely manly men. True men of God strive to develop more godly emotion and passion. We should regularly ask God to give us more of His zeal and emotion, including proper grief such as Nehemiah demonstrated here.
Proper godly emotion impels us and drives us toward right actions. Nehemiah immediately sought a solution, praying and fasting, beseeching God not just to fix the problem supernaturally, but to open a door for him to act. God loves to see such desire; He can really use a man who is eager to turn thoughts and feelings into deeds. He answered that prayer, giving Nehemiah extraordinary favor with the king, who granted his request to go to Jerusalem.
Nehemiah immediately traveled to the city. Once there, he wanted to assess Jerusalem’s rundown state. Knowing the Jews had many fierce enemies, he recognized the danger and urgency of the situation, and he was highly motivated to get something done—fast. He personally undertook the dangerous reconnaissance mission under cloak of darkness (Nehemiah 2:12-13).
Once he ascertained the requirements of the situation, Nehemiah speedily summoned the Jewish residents. This was not a man who looked around wondering, Who will fix this? This was not a man who pondered how to build consensus. This was a man who saw disheartened, fearful people succumbing to pressure from God’s enemies and who took charge. He was in close partnership with God. He relied on God’s authority, God’s direction, God’s protection. With God behind him, he was swift, confident and decisive. He communicated with vigor and power. His words were few and his plan was clear.
Such manly leadership is a dynamic force. Nehemiah inspired hope and courage in those who heard him. His passion, motivation and energy were contagious! The Jews responded enthusiastically. They said: Here is a man we can follow! Let’s get to work! (verse 18). His example lit a fire in those men!
A Mind to Work
Nehemiah seized the initiative and dove into the details of the work at hand. He directed the people, giving everyone a specific job. The Jews, so harried, so ineffectual before this man came on the scene, rallied mightily now that he was in control of it.
The renewed buzz of activity did not eliminate the threat to the Jews—it intensified it. Their work attracted concern and scorn from their enemies. They arrived on site in person and did all they could to stop the project. But Nehemiah set an extraordinary example of focus and determination. He knew he was on a righteous mission, and he absolutely refused to let anyone prevent him from completing this job!
Those who labored under Nehemiah followed his lead and drove themselves even harder in their work (Nehemiah 4:6).
Without one man—Nehemiah—this job would never have gotten done. These were the very same people who had been so helpless about the destruction of the city just a short time before. But now, with a spectacular model of godly manliness at their helm, they put the cause above their own comfort and safety. In the face of even greater persecution and peril than that which had stopped them, they summoned tremendous resolve and built.
Add just one ingredient—energized, godly leadership—and it is awesome how much people accomplish! One man committing himself to this job created a whole force of people who “had a mind to work.”
Because of Nehemiah’s leadership, the Jews built the fortification wall—part of which God preserved so we could see it and ponder its lessons to this day—in a lightning-quick 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).
Dynamic, forceful godly leadership gets things done. And it inspires others. It is literally a force multiplier!
How can God use you to stir and to lead others to greater effort? Every man should work to develop the skills and the mindset of driving, energetic leadership—the kind that will inspire others to follow. Prod yourself to become the kind of leader who can rally whole groups of people to take action for God!
God is pushing you to work harder. He has a lot to accomplish, and He wants to do it through you. Ask Him to correct you and to give you His emotions. Cultivate His passion, His urgency. Then use it to drive yourself—and others—to action.
Our Source of Life
Consider how Jesus Christ presented Himself while on Earth. “In him was life,” the Apostle John wrote (John 1:4). He could have added, “He lived! Other men seemed to be only half-alive—but Jesus was all life, fire, wing, force!” Christ was filled to overflowing with the animating power of the Holy Spirit—the power by which He had created the universe!
You have limitations—physical, mental, psychological. We all do. We all tend to think small. But here is the exciting thing: God offers you the power to break out of that!
John describes the tree of life—and “a pure river of water of life” (Revelation 22:1). This spiritual life is something God offers to those who repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38). Christ said you can drink those living waters today so that within you will be “a well of water springing up into everlasting life”! (John 4:14). Christ came to Earth so you can possess this vital, energetic life—abundantly! (John 10:10).
Once you have this life, stir it up every day. As you do so, it will change you. It is a dynamic force, creating discernible spiritual growth. If you are stagnant, unmotivated, mired in mediocrity, just scraping by, trapped by long-held sins, you are not stirring up the Spirit! Using that Spirit will translate into action: overcoming, growth, energy, heartfelt expressions of outgoing love toward your family, other people, God’s Work and the wider world.
Small thinking is a trap. God wants you to think big, to do, to produce, to act! He wants you to act on the same ambitions He has!
You are never too young or old to think this way. Society entraps young men—and men in general—in small, silly, selfish pursuits. And at the same time, it exalts youth in a way that makes older men feel marginalized and worthless. Don’t succumb to those influences. Don’t think like the world. Whatever your age, challenge yourself to think more like God!
If you are older, don’t act like you have nothing to contribute and just need to wait out your remaining days. Think again about that 83-year-old man who conducted himself in such a way that inspired others to ask him regularly, “What is the secret of your long life, youthful vitality, energy and drive?” Look for ways to make better use of whatever time you have left. Seize opportunities to challenge yourself, to grow, to develop as a leader and as a man. Strive to exemplify more youthful vitality, energy and drive! Ignite your thinking with godly ambition.
The right kind of ambition begins in prayer. Christ taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This type of request, uttered from the heart, leads to action. This is a big-minded prayer, springing from an understanding of how much this world needs God. It leads to a life devoted to being an instrument that will hasten the coming of that Kingdom and working to do God’s will on Earth today in every way possible!
In this dark world, God’s Work is the only light. And God commissions His Church to “prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings”! (Revelation 10:11). We cannot think small. We must think big! God’s Work helps us do that. It builds within God’s people an outgoing, aspirational, magnanimous mindset that God will be able to use throughout eternity—and that He will be able to use right now.
Are you building this mindset? Can you do it better? Can you express this thinking more in your prayer life? Can you build it more in your family, your marriage, your child rearing? In your dealings with other people? In your job performance? Are you thinking big like God wants you to?
Mr. Armstrong said the most important key to his youthful energy was his constant contact with God. He received God’s help and protection countless times. And even more, he claimed God’s promise in Isaiah 40:28-31: “[T]he everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary … He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary … But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Partake daily of the tree of life. Drink of the “pure river of water of life” daily! God wants you to have life more abundantly. He doesn’t want you to think small. He doesn’t want you half-alive. He wants you to be full of the Spirit, so that, like Christ, you can become all life, fire, wing, force. He wants you to apply that energy toward action of purpose and consequence.
Ask God to open doors for you to act. When He opens those doors, charge through with confidence. Stay focused on the job at hand, and don’t let anything sidetrack you. Have a mind to work, and rally others to do the same!