Being Epic Is Killing Us


These days everything is “epic” (insert one to fifteen exclamation points). Every movie is an epic story of heartbreak, love, and survival. Every book is the most epic tale since Homer’s?Odyssey. Every sports rivalry, no matter how lame or inconsequential (“the Altoona Curve take on their epic rival”) is the epic game of the century. The Super Bowl is epic. The World Series is epic. Those wings I ate last Thursday were epic.

We Christians are epic junkies as well. The books that sell and the blog posts that spread are those that portray the Christian life as an epic journey of thrills, excitement, and crazy adventures, all for the glory of God. And don’t get me wrong, there will be times in our lives when we will do big, difficult things for God, like go on a mission trip, adopt a child, or plant a church. I am ALL for those things. Praise God if you have the opportunity to be a part of something big.

But, to paraphrase the movie?The Incredibles, if everything is epic then nothing is epic.

Does God really want all of us to be constantly living epic, exciting, thrilling, over-the-top lives? If so, where does that put those of us who simply read our Bibles, go to church, take care of our kids, and serve those around us? I would put myself in that category. Am I missing out on something? I don’t think so.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-3 Paul says:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,?for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and?dignified in every way.?This is good, and?it is pleasing in the sight of?God our Savior…

Wait, what? Peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives? Where is the epicness? Where are the crazy adventures for God? Where are the thrills? Where is the radicalness?

Maybe we’ve got this epic thing all wrong. Maybe God wants us to live epicly quiet lives. And maybe, just maybe, living a quiet, godly, dignified life truly is epic.

I think this is what Jesus meant when said: “And?whoever gives one of?these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42) Most of the Christian life is ordinary, at least in the world’s eyes. We go to work. We take care of our children. We serve those in our neighborhood. We take care of the new mom in our small group. We reach out to the sick in our church. We pray for one another. We instruct our children in the fear of the Lord. We change diapers. There is nothing epic or extraordinary about any of these things.

But the reality is, serving the Lord in any way truly is epic.

When we serve the Lord in any way, big or small, quiet or loud, at home or abroad, we are storing up rewards in heaven. We are laying up treasures in heaven. And when we get to heaven the real epic life will begin. Heaven truly is epic in every sense of the word. Everything we do, see, say, and enjoy in heaven will be epic.

If you feel discouraged because your life doesn’t seem very epic for the Lord, maybe you need to redefine your understanding of “epic”. All service to Lord is epic. Serving your children can be epic. Cleaning the bathroom can be epic. Creating a spreadsheet can be epic. Every day of the Christian life is meant to be quietly epic. Because a day is coming when life truly will be epic in every sense of the word. Let’s live for that day.

+ original photo by Curtis Fry


  • Mark Thogmartin says:

    Wow, what an epic post! Seriously, thank you for this thoughtful reflection. I hope it encourages many who don't feel their lives are very"epic."

  • Jason Kanz says:

    This reminds me of a blog I wrote a few years ago on the word "awesome!" Too overused and therefore watered down.

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    I'm glad it was encouraging!

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    Yep, we definitely over use the word "awesome".

  • floradorah says:

    I agree with what you are saying–we definitely want to see the "big" in our culture. However, I think sometimes we look at other people and compare unfairly. For example, we might look at someone who adopts as doing "epic" things for God. But what we DON'T see is that person in the trenches and that each struggle doesn't feel very epic. Filling out paperwork, disciplining, explaining over and over what expectations are, preparing dinner, not having a night out with friends, etc. It all feels grueling and decidedly un-epic, like you are saying. The "epic" comes from others looking in and saying "I could never do that" or from the person looking back at a hard time and saying, "I can't believe I made it!!" Epic is made through all the little steps. Lord of the Rings would be a pretty dumb movie/book if Frodo destroyed the ring 20 minutes in. It is epic precisely because he worked really hard and learned a lot in little steps, and he grew along with his friends. The World Series is only "epic" because a lot of players and managers and bat boys faithfully worked hard in each aspect of the game for hundreds of games. I think that we misuse "epic" when we think of it as something big and sudden and explosive. It's not. That's "catastrophic" or "auspicious." But not epic. Epic takes time….which is exactly what you're talking about. We need to be careful that we don't look at the epic climax of other people's faithful small steps and think of it as a sudden burst. We need to patiently take our own epic journey putting one foot in front of the other. Frodo kept the mountain in his sights at all times. His journey was epic because he knew what he was working for. We see people around us on epic journeys to adopt or go on a mission trip or something and we think our small steps aren't epic. But that's because we don't have our eyes fixed on the final epic goal. We are looking at the dirty diaper as a diaper, not a step in a journey to a place that is more epic than epic.

  • Greg says:

    Stephen your article puts things in perspective and floradorah's response puts an even better perspective on it. We serve a Great God. He just requires us to be faithful in ALL things whether or not the result is "epic" or not. Our eyes are to be focused on the "prize" ahead – the return of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, the world will really see and know what's really "epic". :)

  • Lynnie says:

    You would enjoy Matt B Redmond's book. One of the sweetest works you'll ever read expanding on this subject. Every single thing you do all day long, done well to the glory of God, is pushing back the fall.

  • drkeithcox says:

    Well it's kind of a straw man argument. The Bible doesn't call on us to lead "epic" lives. I can't help feeling that this is another swipe at those who call themselves "radical" Christians. But if we have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) then we must live the life of Christ in the world, collectively and individually, just as the Spirit is in us collectively (1 Cor. 3:16) and individually (1 Cor. 6:19). We are called to Christ's command to make disciples (Mt. 28:18). Now, I have argued elsewhere that this does not give each of us a license to preach on the street corners, but I will argue that a life surrendered to Christ ought to be radically and identifiably different from "the world." In the scripture you quote Paul is calling on the faithful to pray for secular authorities so that the behavior of Christians be seen as beyond reproach, similar to God's call through the prophet Jeremiah for the Israelites to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile" (Jer. 29:7 ESV). But this is itself a radical commitment, because the world is opposed to the life in Christ. Jesus suggests that if we live his life we will be hated by the world as he was hated (John 15). And we know that the Church to which Paul wrote was in fact persecuted. Paul is not calling the Church to conformity to the world, nor to timidity.Paul is calling believers to a life of Christ's peace: "my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you." (John 14:27 ESV). We are to proclaim the gospel clearly with lives that are visibly different from the world around us, whatever the cost. We are to be the light that brings salvation to all the earth (Is. 49:6). That may, as you say, be reflected in individual lives as much by quiet obedience as by stirring adventure. But it will be radical, nonetheless.

  • jmark2 says:

    Nicely done. I am a high D-I personality that wants everything to be EPIC in life. I've had to learn the hard way that living that way, or hoping for that on a daily basis (not necessarily a bad thing when tempered or hoped for) distracts us from the reality of simple duty/obedience in the areas of our daily life that are necessary and wise for the experience of success and/or excitement (family, work, health, etc). I also might add that a truly epic life or the culmination of work into a final "epic" product is not gained over-night. It has to be worked hard for, fought for, and suffered for before we can experience it (and sometimes our hard work is met with the reality of failure). Without the hard work, I don't think that we can appreciate the success or "epicness" when it does come along. Living for the "epic", also needs to be met with the reality that epic or the emotional feeling doesn't always mean we have been successful. In many cases it can be the beginning of failure or premature excitement and distract us from completing what we started.

    I also think (like you said) that we negate the VALUE or epicness of those lives that are not spent "sky-diving for Jesus" (I'm just making fun of people with my personality here…I guess you could skydive for Jesus but I am just using the analogy to be funny). Be EPIC when and where you can, but don't negate the importance and wisdom of obedience in the lesser "epic" or mundane things and don't devalue the hard work of those that don't live at Mach 3. Also, be careful not to call something epic until it is proven successful… you may find that the emotion cliff is too hard to handle when you allow yourself the premature emotional excitement (This always makes me think back on when Bush said "mission accomplished." haha!)

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