Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Living Life to the Fullest

Living Life to the Fullest

In a discussion based on his book Life With a Capital L, Matt Heard encourages listeners to live life to the fullest, as Jesus intended, by engaging with God's beauty, with others and even with our brokenness.


John Fuller: In Psalm 16, David wrote to the Lord and said, “You make known to me the path of life. In Your presence there is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It’s pretty clear that David knew that true life comes from knowing God and from serving Him. Is that what motivates you and me when we wake up every morning? This is “Focus on the Family” with Focus president, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and we’re going to explore that kind of living with purpose as we hear from our guest today.


Jim Daly: John, there is no doubt in my mind that we all struggle at some level to truly understand what it means to really live. I like that aspect of David in the story there, but you know, he committed some big ones, yet we still point to him as the king and we admire David in his strength of might and how much he loved the Lord. And even God Himself said, he had a heart for the things of God. He lived a pretty full life and we want to talk about that attitude today that we certainly see in David.

And a good friend of mine, Matt Heard, a former pastor here in Colorado Springs at Woodmen Valley Chapel, has written a terrific book and the title of it is Life with a Capital L. And Matt’s a speaker, an author and a wonderful human being. I can attest to that. He has been there and stood in the gap for me as a friend and lifted me up. And Matt, it is an honor and a privilege to welcome you to “Focus on the Family.”

Matt Heard: Thanks, Jim. It’s great to be here.

Jim: We’re laughing because we’re so familiar with each other and we know each other and that probably will make this even more fun, right?

Matt: Maybe. (Laughter)

Jim: Maybe. Okay, so what do you mean by Life with a Capital L?

Matt: Yeah, I think some of it, I unpack from a subtitle standpoint, to embrace the humanity that I have, that you have that’s been given to us by God. So, there’s heart-beating life, so I refer to that as life with a little l; that’s just lungs breathing, heart beating, going through each day, but the life with a capital L is when I actually engage with that life that God has entrusted to me.

You know, T.S. Eliot talked about, where’s the life that we’ve lost in living? And he capitalized “life” there.

Jim: Let me ask you this question, because it does seem so many people who become Christians, especially as adults, 20-, 30-somethings for example, you know, they were havin’ fun. They saw life as fun and one of the things that can hold a person back is, they think, ah, you know, once I become a Christian, it doesn’t look like it’ll be that much fun. Why do people think that?

Matt: Well, I think because a lot of the messaging of the church and the religious community over time is, hey, it’s focusing on what you’re going to leave behind. Come to Christ; leave your humanity behind. And shocker! People say, no, thank you.

Jim: Where are we missing it in the church? What should it look like? What’s a life fully lived?

Matt: I think it’s one that’s embracing the actual Gospel, that Christ came to give. Which is Good News and should inspire me regarding who I am. But instead, we see this summons to, hey, leave your humanity behind. Come follow Christ. Become more spiritual. And I think we’ve crammed Christianity into a packaging of super-spirituality, instead of full humanity.

Jim: In that regard, I think you’re right and I think we sanitize it. You know, that if you’re a Christian, you live some kind of perfect life. Your family’s perfect. I remember there was a reporter that came to my home early on when I took over the role at Focus on the Family. And I always try to tell my kids every day I love them and I’m proud of them. And so, she had heard this and this was a Denver Post reporter, secular reporter. And so, she came to our house to do this little interview. And at the end she asked my two boys—at that time they were probably 5 and 7—and she said, “What does your dad tell you every day?” And they kinda looked at each other and they had this little gleam in their eye and they went, “Make my bed.” And the other one said, “Eat vegetables.” (Laughter) And they just rattled off like a dozen things.

Matt: Sure.

Jim: And at the end, you know, she said, “No, does he tell you somethin’?” And they said, “Yeah, my dad tells us he loves us every day.” At the end of the interview it was so interesting. She said to me, “I didn’t expect your sons to have senses of humor, because I expected Stepford children.”

Matt: Hm, hm.

Jim: Is that kinda of what you’re saying?

Matt: Oh, yeah.

Jim: That we kinda lock ourselves into a box. We have to act a certain way, say certain things. We have a vocabulary that, if you don’t have the code, you’re not in the club.

Matt: Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s almost like we’re constricted in the way that we’re doing our lives and what we can do and we can’t do.

Jim: You talk about a painting in your book that really is a great opening story, the first chapter, a trip to Russia. Talk about the impact that painting had on you and what did it communicate to you?

Matt: Yeah, we were there visiting an orphanage that we’ve helped sponsor for years. I was with a couple of buddies of mine and we’re going through the state Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. And I got behind them. I paid attention to something or who knows why I was behind. So, I’m rushing through the gallery to catch up with ’em. And I fly through this room and just happened to glance over and for some reason, this painting caught my eye and I stopped.

And longer story short, it’s a painting from 1888, a guy named Nikolai Yaroshenko. And it’s the image of a prison rail car. It was late 19th century, so it was during a lot of the Revolution. People were being shipped off to Siberia with some regularity.

And there are five individuals staring out the prison bars of this prison rail car. It stopped at a station somewhere on the way to someplace not very exciting. And it’s a peasant, a soldier, a worker, a mother and a child.

Jim: All in the rail car.

Matt: All in the rail car and—

Jim: Looking out.

Matt: –they’re all pressed up against this window through the bars. And they’re paying attention to what the child is doing. And this little baby is feeding birds on the railway platform. And I got a little closer to see, what’s the title of the painting? And the title is “There is Life Everywhere.”

And so, I looked into it and Tolstoy had written a short story three years earlier that had inspired Yaroshenko to do this painting. Yaroshenko said, the reason I did this painting, I was inspired by the short story by Tolstoy called “What Men Live By.”

And Tolstoy starts at the very beginning of that short story, that essay, “What Men Live By,” with 1 John 3:14, talking about moving from death to life. We know we’ve moved from death to life when we love our brothers.

But he’s referring to this juxtaposition between life and death. Life is not just if my heart’s beating. Death is not just when my heart stopped. There’s something else going on. And it’s throughout John’s Gospel and his epistles.

And so, “There is Life Everywhere,” I start wondering, am I really experiencing that life everywhere?

Jim: Hm. That really, Matt, is a good thing for all of us to consider. But in terms of the believer today, and it’s a beautiful message, the poetry is there. People are trapped behind bars in this rail car. The little child is feeding the birds. Life is there. How does that apply to us today? What are we, as believers today, where are we missing it? Where are we not living life with a capital L?

Matt: Oh, I think some of it is, we’re trying to massage our circumstances.

Jim: What does that look like?

Matt: Do it on our own. Hey, if I can get the right amount in my bank account, I can get the right title on my desk or my office or on my name tag at work, if I can get the right family makeup, if I can get the right vacation at the right time, if I can get everything right and we’re frantically trying to get our circumstances just so and maybe then. And it’s that proverbial carrot being held in front of us and we’re goin’ for it.

Yet, here Yaroshenko is painting, describing five individuals that are in anything but pleasant circumstances. But there’s life for them, if they’ll pay attention to it.

Jim: Let’s make it practical down to the family level, those kinds of things, where marriage is happening, you know. There’s a good deal of divorce in Christian marriages today. Where is the life with a capital L not happening in Christian marriages today, in terms of, okay, we have an expectation. We get married. We think it’s gonna be bliss. It’s fun. I love you; you love me. We love God. It’s gonna be great. And then pretty soon, it’s not so great and humanity enters into that and we’re struggling with each other and we’re growing cold toward each other and it’s not fun. All the things we did when we were dating and now it’s, you know, the kids have come and it’s payin’ the bill and workin’ hard and I’ve kinda lost the feeling. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Matt: I think it depends on our reaction to it. Becauseif I listen, what is the problem here? And I listen deeply, uh, you know, one of the things I talk about in the book, but it’s something that for years I’ve grappled with, that the superficial engagement with my longings is gonna lead me to a superficial engagement with the Gospel.

When I enter into a marriage, I’m bringing longings to it. I’m bringing longings into that marriage. And ultimately, the deepest longings are God-sized. You know, Pascal’s God-shaped vacuum in every human heart. And I think so often, and I know it’s happened with Arlene and me, and that couples enter a marriage expecting that their spouse is gonna fulfill a God-sized longing for them.

Jim: Hm.

Matt: And that spouse is absolutely incapable of addressing that. And I think many times that’s where the divergence begins to happen in a couple’s harmony, is, “Hey, you’re not doin’ X, Y, and Z for me.” When you know what? There’s no way that spouse can do X, Y, and Z at the deepest level. Only God can.

But we’re thinking, if we do the same in our careers. We’re expecting from our careers what only God can provide for us. We’re expecting from the Denver Broncos (Laughter) what only God can provide. I was a Cubs fan, still am and you know, I had to learn a long time ago, it’s just not gonna happen that way.

Jim: You sharea funny story about a Chevy car that you drove. Talk about that and what God taught you through that. It was a funny aspect of the book.

Matt: Well, the context is how reluctant we are to humble ourselves in the presence of God and say, “I need the life that I cannot provide for myself.” And so, we try to say we can figure it out, but–

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Matt: –the moment that I come, I mean, the doorway to life with a capital L is grace. And the reason a lot of religious people have never experienced life is because they’ve never tasted grace, because grace is for people that actually need it. And the story’s was in college. I for one summer sold books door to door. Now is that a scary thought?

Jim: That’s tough—

Matt: It is to me.

Jim: –job. But you’re about the third person I’ve met that did that and I—

Matt: Oh, my …

Jim: –admire each one of you.

Matt: Yeah, but I also had a …

Jim: Did you give out steak knives by the way?

Matt: I did not. (Laughter) I did not. They kept all sharp metal instruments away from me.

Jim: So, what happened?

Matt: Well, I had the car. It was a 10-year, decade old Chevy Impala. It wasn’t a very cool car, but I considered myself very cool. So, over the course of the summer, as I’m drivin’ the car around, it starts getting beat up. And then one late—

Jim: (Laughing) Were people throwing books–

Matt:–one afternoon

Jim: –at you?

Matt:– No, I’m just goin’ over. I’m goin’ down these dirt roads. This was in Arkansas.

Jim: Oh, even better. That’s good.

Matt:-Oh, yeah.

Jim: We love Arkansas.

Matt: And so we were pulled up. My roommate and I pulled up to a laundromat that was also a gas station. That tells you something right there about where we were. I left the car running and we took this stuff in, all the clothes. And I hear this horn blowing. And all of a sudden, it dawns on me; that’s right out here. I go out and look and my Impala has jumped out of park into reverse. The wheels were turned in such a way that it slid back around, parallel with another car that was pumping gas.

There was a woman in the passenger seat and that’s where my car was coming up right next to her. She couldn’t get out. Her husband was nowhere to be found. So, she’s laying on the horn, which stopped, my car is the door, my open door that I had left open when I went inside, it caught on their front bumper.

So, it bent the other direction. And I apologized. It didn’t do any damage to their car incredibly, but it bent mine.I pulled over on the side of the gas station and got a sledge hammer from the mechanic. (Laughter) You know, that’s an appropriate way to deal with this. And I started beatin’ the livin’ daylights out of this door.

Jim: Knockin’ that door back in.

Matt: Yeah and this guy pulls up to me. He[‘s] a good ole Arkansas boy, was in his pickup. Rolls down his window and he says, “Do you need some help?” And I said, “No, I’ve got this.”

Jim: Oh, you were proud enough to say no.

Matt:– So I got it shut, but only partially. It still had a couple of inches to the point that people had asked me at stoplights, “Hey, “yell out the window, “Hey, buddy, your car door’s open.”

Jim: Did you finish it with duct tape?

Matt:– Not yet, not yet. But like three or four days later I’m pulling up to a light. A kick ball comes out in front of the car. [I] slam on the brakes. Do you remember those ashtrays that used to fit, they had sandbags and they—

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Matt:– –folded on the–

Jim: Over the transmission hump.

Matt:– –center. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And—

Jim: Yeah.

Matt: –and so, I slammed on brakes and the trash can rolled down, wedged itself behind the gas pedal and I ran into the back of, I kept pushing the brake and it wouldn’t give.

Jim: Wouldn’t stop it.

Matt:-And so, I ran into the back of this truck. Had a steel girder I think, as a back bumper. I mean, it didn’t do anything to his car, but it just smashed my radiator. Steam’s pouring out, crumples my hood. I’m standing there in this intersection and a different guy, but also a pickup truck, also a good ole Arkansas boy and very polite gentleman, pulls up, rolls down his window and says, “Need some help, son.” I said, “No, I’ve got it.”

And then three days later, I’m ridin’ down the highway and bailing wire is holding my hood–

Jim: And your door.

Matt:—and my door. This gust of wind comes along on the highway and the hood peels back over my windshield. (Laughter) And I feel my way over to the side of the road. I’m sitting there. I’m staring at the bird droppings on the top of the hood right through my windshield that’s about a foot from my face now.

And another guy pulls up next to me, rolls down his window from his pickup truck and says, “Hey, son, you need some help?” And I said, “Yes, sir, I think I do.”

Jim: (Laughing)

Matt:-And after a while, it just took over and over and over for me to finally say, I do need help. But how long’s it take us in our journey to say, “I need help being human”?

Jim: Now why do you think you were saying no? What was [that], just pride?

Matt:-Oh, yeah, pride, that I could figure it out on my own. It’s, there’s a difference between humbling and humiliating. God doesn’t ask for us to be humiliated, but we translate it as humiliation. We don’t want to humiliate ourselves by asking for help. He says, “Humble yourselves before Me.” Acknowledge what’s true about you, what’s true about me.

Jim: With that car, you know, it sounds like the Lord really used that (Laughing) in your life, to humble you. Will He use inanimate objects like that?

Matt:-Yeah. He does; He does. But how often do we not want to admit we need help?

Jim: Well, that’s the problem, I think and especially in the West, in the church in the United States and Western Civilization. We’re very independent minded. We want to do it on our own terms. God really has to go through some layers there to get our attention, doesn’t He?

Matt:-Absolutely. The only way I can be made alive is through grace, me acknowledging that God can do for me what I cannot do for myself. I mean, Ephesians 2 says, He’s made us alive, but it’s this great celebration of grace in that passage. And if I want to taste life, experience life, I’ve got to receive grace, but to receive grace, I’ve got to humble myself.

Jim: And Matt, you’re saying that’s the beginning of the journey, but the blunt question is, how do we engage the heart to experience that deeper life that you’re talking about in your book and that God intended for us?

Matt: I think it starts with understanding the importance of the heart and actually the centrality of the heart in me being able to experience the life. I mean, Proverbs says, “Above all things, guard your heart; it’s the wellspring of life.” And the Gospel is addressed to the heart.

But the problem is, so often is we focus on the mind, thinking correctly, which is so important and being doctrinally accurate. Yes, that’s important. We focus on the hands of doing the right stuff. But do we focus on issues of the heart? Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. We can relate real easily with the way. Okay, this is the way to go. This is what I’m gonna do. He’s the truth. This is the right way to think. But what do we do when we come to the fact that He’s the life?

Jim: What does that mean?

Matt: That He is the one that restores what we have been longing for our entire journeys, when He says, “I’ve come that you might have life and have it to the full.” When John says at the end of His Gospel, bottom line, I wrote this so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing, you would have life in His name.

Jim: Matt, in a practical way, you have a story where you went to the deathbed of somebody in your role as a pastor. What did that man say to you and it serves as a great example for us, but what did he say to you?

Matt: Well, I had spoken at a businessman’s luncheon several months before. And this gentleman that I went to see had been at that luncheon, but I didn’t know him. He was a friend of a friend. But I knew he was dealing with some very serious health issues. Knew he was very successful. He had built several companies and so, I wasn’t real sure why he wanted to talk to me, but I had talked some in my talk at the businessman’s luncheon about my dad finishing life strong in the last third of dad’s life. He finally began to engage with what I’m referring to as life with a capital L in ways he hadn’t before.

So, I’m there with this guy and we do a little bit of small talk. And finally I can tell, he is about to get to the reason he asked me to come. And he leans forward in his hospital bed and he strains to lean forward. He reaches out to take my hand in kind of this brother handshake thing.

And he says, “I don’t know what I’ve done with my life. Here I’ve got all of these companies built and all of this success, but I don’t know what it’s all been for.” He had missed the life. Talk about T.S. Eliot’s statement, where’s the life that we have lost in living?

So, we’ve got this compass in us that says, we are here for a bigger reason than just breathing and just making money and just going through the motions. It’s like we’ve got this electrical plug.

You know (Chuckling), a while back I was at somebody’s house up in the mountains. It was an older houses, older wiring. And I was going to plug in my computer and it’s got three prongs and I’m lookin’ around for an outlet that would fit it. And I couldn’t find it and I thought, man, isn’t this the way that we are so much of our lives? We’ve got this outlet, this eternity that’s imbedded in our heart, this longing that we have for full humanity, but we can never find the outlet to plug it into.

And this guy on his deathbed, metaphorically he’s holdin’ my hand, but with the other hand, he’s got the plug—

Jim: He’s lookin’ for it, yeah.

Matt: –to his heart. And he says, “I have never found where to plug this outlet into of my heart’s yearnings.” And we unpacked that some, talked about grace. We talked about life, but we talked about being able to experience even in that moment, this gesture of the grace of God in this journey and beckoning him to say, it’s time. It’s time to acknowledge that I love you and that I created you and that your only home is gonna be Me.

Jim: Matt, there are people listening right now, and they’re walkin’ around with that plug in their hand. Um, this is it. When I plug it in, first of all, what do I need to plug into? And then what is going to happen when I do?

Matt: Yeah. The first answer is almost a roll of the eyes answer to somebody who’s been hanging around church for a long time, ’cause it sounds so familiar. What am I plugging into? I’m plugging into the Gospel. But I’m not referring to the superficial, Sunday-only, unrelated to the rest of life, formulaic prayer that you pray to say, I’m gonna get to heaven.

I’m referring to the Gospel that Christ comes with to restore us to what we were originally intended for. And when I plug that heart cord—

Jim: That longing.

Matt: –yeah, into the outlet of the Gospel, what begins to happen is, I might look the same on the outside, but all of a sudden, I become liberated in the way that I can live out. I leave those prisons, not only of sin. You know, you hear people say, well, leave the prison of sin. No, but I’m [leaving] those prisons of self-absorption and judgmentalism and perfectionism and guilt and hypocrisy.

And I begin to realize I’m not an orphan. I’m a loved man. I’m a loved woman. I am a loved boy. I’m a loved girl, by the King of all creation. I’m no longer lookin’ for my home. He’s got me, as my Father.

And then I start unpacking, engaging on heart level. I engage with this larger story of the glory of God. And all of a sudden, I approach broken things, broken experiences differently. I love people differently. I’m not just loving them to get them to love me back. I’m not just responding to what’s lovable in them. I’m loving them with the love that only God can give me and it’s an unconditional love. And I become a pipe of that love instead of just a bucket.

And it’s something that each day is laced with life and it’s something that all my journey I’m learning more and more how to unpack. It’s the daily power of the Gospel, not just making me more spiritual, but making me more human. In fact, the healthier my spirituality is, the healthier my humanity should be. And so, all of a sudden, I’m living out my Mondays and my Wednesdays and my Thursdays in a way that God originally intended.

Jim: And what it sounds like you’re saying and I think you’d agree with that, is this is an invitation God extends to us to life, to live life to the full.

Matt: Yeah, yeah, big time.

Jim: Matt, we’re at the end of our time. There are people that are thinkin’ about what you have said today. Can you pray for them? And pray that the Lord will use this to impact them in the right way.

Matt: Father, thank You. Thank You for every person that’s listening right now in the midst of what otherwise is a very normal day, maybe dealing with the leftover stress from yesterday or the approaching stress of tomorrow. And all the while, yearning to do more than just survive.

And I ask that You would give us the humility to come to You, not with just a desire for You to make us religious, but a desire for You to restore our humanity, to address those longings deep within us for a significance that only You can provide for a fulfillment that only You can provide for us.

Thank You that You loved us first and that the result of Your love is life. And I thank You, Lord Jesus, that Your life is our light to bring us to life. And would You give us the audacity to actually believe the Gospel is true? Give us the hunger that can only, only be satisfied in You. Give us the courage to admit it and give us the courage to come to You, in the name of Jesus, amen.

Jim: Amen. Matt Heard, author of the book, Life with a Capital L, deep, deep thoughts today. Thanks for being with us today.

Matt: Thanks, Jim.


John: We’re so thankful for Matt’s insights as he shared on this “Focus” broadcast. And He’s really challenged us to think about how you and I are living our life. And his new book is available from us. As you read it, there is so much as you can tell, to contemplate and it’s really a kind of book you can read as a devotional just a little bit at a time and kind of meditate on some of those thoughts and draw closer to God.

Ask about Life With a Capital L when you get in touch. In fact, as you make a generous contribution to Focus on the Family today of any amount we’ll send this book to you as our way of saying thank you for your support of this family ministry as we reach around the world and foster spiritual growth, deeper connections amongst couples and equip parents to raise godly children. Please, donate today and know that we’ll send that book out just as soon as we can. Donate and get the book and a CD or download of this program at, or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time. We’ll hear from Pastor Tommy Nelson. He’ll have a message for singles about romance and choosing a spouse as we once again help you thrive in Christ.

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