God doesn’t care about your status, size, or success

It’s been nearly a year since I launched FlatOnMyBack.com. It was initially meant for family and friends, to give a little more insight into what’s been going on in my life. Then it picked up steam.

There was something about being open and honest that resonated with people regardless of whether or not I knew them. Soon enough there were a few thousand people coming to the site each week.

Then Chanel 9 asked to interview me and I was featured on a news segment:

Then I started getting asked to speak. I spoke to a small men’s group. Then to a group of 100 women. Then to a few hundred college students. Then an entire high school. Then I spoke to nearly 20,000 people over the course of one weekend.

crossroads speaking

A few months of churning out raw weekly blog updates opened up a platform that allowed me to connect with thousands of people not only in Cincinnati but across the country. Emails would flood in. New opportunities would arise. I felt like I was on the brink of something big. What could possibly be next?

Throughout the process though, there was an empty feeling left. While I expected each new and bigger thing to be more gratifying, it was never quite what I was looking for. I couldn’t figure out the problem.

There was a constant sense of disappointment because no matter how many blog hits or seats in the audience of a crowd I spoke to, it was just never enough. I was getting to do some really cool things while meeting some awesome people but at the end of the day it still felt like I needed to be doing more.

In the meantime, I continued to spend time mentoring high school guys. I enjoyed it and felt like I was making a difference, but the numbers and recognition were not the same so I thought success and validation would have to be found elsewhere.

In the book “Go Small,” Craig Gross makes the case that God doesn’t care about our size, status, or success. For me, it has been a message that has brought a sigh of relief. As he says in this video, it’s the little ordinary day-to-day activities that go unnoticed by the world around us that God can make extraordinary without us having to point to a number to justify success.

Jesus spoke to thousands, healed the masses, raised the dead, and accomplished more in three years of public ministry than anyone in the history of the planet. However, I would bet that there was nothing more enjoyable, nothing that made him laugh more, and nothing more fulfilling than seeing his 12 closest friends grow.

Sure, they would frustrate him. Getting in their grill for unbelief and calling Peter “Satan” showed that much. But they knew he loved them. He saw their potential. He never gave up on them.

Looking to Jesus’ example, I have slowly begun to realize the importance of the one-on-one relationships, and how irrelevant the numbers are.

These high school guys are real people with real stories. Their lives are just as important as a newscaster, pastor, or businessman. I have felt so much joy and fulfillment as I have developed relationships with these guys that I will carry on with me for the rest of my life.

2017 huddle 8-17-14

I’m realizing that numbers-based success can have me in chains and that God has true purpose for me right where I am. This allows me to move my focus from success to significance.

There’s not going to be a write-up in the newspaper. I’m not going get a huge award. No one’s looking to write me a fat check. But seriously, could I ask for anything more than a dozen teenage boys being attentive as we dive into the Bible together, share our passions and struggles, and then get to witness them beat on each other like cage fighters?

Maybe God has not designed me to get satisfaction out of status, size, or success. It seems to me that he couldn’t care less about those things. Maybe if I don’t go big…I don’t actually have to go home. Maybe bigger isn’t always better. Maybe it’s about something deeper. Maybe going small has been the secret all along.

Contact info: Ryan.S.Atkins@Gmail.com
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  1. Sue said:

    Ryan, your blog content today was a direct answer to my prayer for clarity re: some of my aspirations. Couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
    Thank you for your faithfulness to be transparent and real regarding your journey.
    Love you, bro!


  2. Ryan, Once again your wisdom amazes me. I have absolutely no doubt that you will never know how many people you are touching – far beyond what you can imagine. You are an inspiration us all. Blessings and prayers. Tom


  3. Natalie Pfister said:

    Ryan, we couldn’t be more thankful that you’re choosing to invest in this group of boys, and that Brady is one of them. God is doing not small things, but BIG things through your ministry with them and we see the fruit of that already after just a few weeks together. Thank you.


  4. The Owl said:

    I have been following you via email for a while – I have had a lot of setbacks lately and I’ve been told to “give up” when I actually have a lot of function, and I have been feeling pretty worthless and insignificant despite what my God tells me. I’m moving back home in 2 weeks because I need too much help – help I really don’t want to ask for but my parents are freely giving, and the fact that I have at least one person I can point to and say, “SEE! God used him through his situation, so there’s still hope – he’s not just taking but giving back,” –that’s what has gotten me through. I attempted suicide 9.5 years ago – before my SCI. They don’t know how I survived, so I figure God just really wanted me here.

    Three weeks ago I was suicidal again, so I checked into the hospital before it got too bad. But it was different this time, because I had you, and all the other awesome people who put their lives out there for others to see how good things CAN be, to show me that there is at least hope for the future…I just need help finding the resources to get there.

    I’m crying writing this, and I’m being overly gushy and stuff, but, well, depression and dying and then realizing what you almost gave up…I just appreciate that you’ve kept your blog going because I know I’m not the only one that has felt like, “Okay maybe I can make it just one more day,” after reading your blog or scripture references, and that’s kind of what made me bite the bullet and start writing again – maybe I can give someone hope too.
    Well, that and my therapist made me. 😉


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