You don’t find monkeys base jumping, or gorillas scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, or chimps parachuting from planes at 20,000 feet.
Only human beings have a desire to transcend their natural limitations, to take risks in order to make a mark and be remembered.
What’s more, only human beings long to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through making some breakthrough for science, or defining a new point of excellence in our profession, or giving our time and money for charity, or even raising great kids, we long to leave a legacy.
We are wired for significance through achievement.
The Judeo/Christian faith teaches that humankind is made in the image of a wise, benevolent, just and, above all, loving Father. We were made to inhabit a special place of favour under God, overseeing his natural creation and developing its awesome potential.
In this, we are like God himself. Throughout the Bible, God revealed himself as someone who thinks in epic, heroic terms.
The God of the Bible aligns himself with the underdog; he exalts the lowly and brings success to the little guy, in defiance of the odds; think David and Goliath.
God takes risks.
The birth of Jesus labelled the incarnation was the greatest risk of all. According to the Bible, God the Son took on human form to rescue us from ourselves, to redeem our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of heaven. As St. John put it, ‘he came unto his own, but his own received him not.’
This was a massive risk. Human beings are creatures of free will, with the capacity to accept or refuse any gift, no matter how lovingly it is given. The sinful, fallen tendencies in our nature makes us more likely to walk away from God than to accept him, even when He comes to teach us profound things about love and to perform amazing acts of mercy.
From a human standpoint – and we must remember that Jesus who was fully God was also fully man and so as a human – the cross was a heroic act. The four gospels amplify the fact that Jesus had every chance to avoid it.
On many occasions, he foretold how he would die – and why. His disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying. ‘What’s all this talk about dying?’ they thought, ‘He’s so full of life!’
In the last week of his life, Jesus’ every word and action seems to have been designed to bring on a confrontation with the authorities and eventually hasten his demise. All along, he was pursuing the cross.
‘No man takes my life from me,’ he said. ‘I lay it down willingly.’ He was no victim of circumstance: taking this path was his choice.
Jesus may have thought: ‘What if nobody ever remembers this moment? What if my death is forgotten, my life and all that I’ve done simply buried in history? What if people don’t accept this salvation which, for me, comes at such a high price?’
Today, the life and death of Christ form a standard against which other human achievements are measured.
They show us that achievement often comes on the other side of adversity; that heroism is usually born in the fires of trial; that the world is changed not by celebrity-seekers but by people who take self-denying risks to improve the lot of others.
In a culture that is so smitten with the self-importance of celebrity, so taken with the idea of fame for fame’s sake, it’s healthy for us to remember that celebrity itself does little to change the world for good.
If any modern day celebrity were to remind us that self-sacrifice and service, combined with a voice of hope, are the way to real and lasting influence, then perhaps their recognition could be the used as an achievement. Until then celebrity is empty. We need to celebrate the heroism of selfless accomplishments not selfish accolades.
Photo credit: Guardian UK
An invading army cannot co-exist with a stronghold. It’s the same in life. Either we take down the strongholds that threaten us, or the strongholds will take us down.
One of the great strongholds we face today is celebrity.
For as long as human beings have appreciated talent and ability, we’ve had celebrities. In the past, celebrities were people we celebrated because of some great achievement or some admirable quality. Today, a celebrity is often little more than someone who is well known for being well known. Many people are famous just because they are famous, because someone has found the right image for them.
But we should think again about where our culture of celebrity is leading us. Celebrity is built on novelty. When celebs see their star losing its shine, they often turn to shock value to rescue them from obscurity. When something loses its shock value, something more shocking has to take its place – shocks must get more shocking over time.
Celebrity also distorts reality.
Satan has used this ploy to deceive people from the beginning. With Eve, he made the tree seem bigger and God’s command seem smaller. Deception takes root whenever we lose our sense of proportion.
Celebrity is about image. In the end, image is just a poor substitute for what human beings really want — influence! The most impacting man in history, Jesus, wasn’t even interested in fame. Yet no matter how hard you try, you just can’t ignore him or escape his influence.
What does the Bible say about celebrity? Of course, it doesn’t use the word itself. But it does give some pointers as to how we should respond.
The Bible says that only God deserves to be worshipped. In the Old Testament, God forbade his people from building idols of stone or metal. Why? Because he knew that when you build idols you freeze your revelation of God. You say, in effect, ‘This is all that God can be for me.’ You limit God and what he can do in your life — and you reduce yourself and your potential, for you were made in his image.
The Bible also teaches that the road to influence often passes through a town called Obscurity.
John 12: 24 says, ‘Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it remains alone; but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.’ (NIV) God has put a seed in you. The seed contains the DNA programming for your future. It contains all the godly plans and God-given abilities that will lead you to your true destiny. The seed is not just what is, but what will be. The seed is the future.
There will come a time in your life when God will seem to bury that seed, hiding it from view. It will look like the end of the road for you. You will say, as will others, ‘Where are those gifts that blessed so many? Where is that ministry that showed such promise?’
At this, the most vulnerable and lonely point in your life, your whole future will depend on how you respond. Will you shake your fist at God and determine never again to give him your whole heart? Will you try to find the fulfillment of his promises in lesser things? Or, will you realize, as all great heroes of faith have done, that this is simply a part of God’s preparation?
It is painful when your present blessing is removed; it is even more painful when God seems to bury what you thought was your future. Sometimes, though, God subtracts from your present in order to multiply your future.
Many Christians have only ‘near death’ experiences.
They won’t allow God to complete the work of preparation in their lives. They struggle to be great, when God is first on the side of the small. They admire the mighty, when God first smiles on the weak. They long to be self-sufficient, when God reaches first for needy.
Let God finish his work of preparation, of training, of stretching, so that you’re ready for everything he has lined up for you! Don’t hide behind image, or crave celebrity, when God is building you for long-term, generation-changing influence.