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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Famous by God's Standard


The above familiar names are just a few of many whose names have been much in the news lately after having passed away.  There have been numerous tributes to some of these famous people, reflecting upon their lives and careers, highlighting the impact their work has had on fans and successors.  Many times the reporters discuss how great these people were both as individuals and in their work.  Like many of you, I have enjoyed much of their work, most especially the work of Robin Williams and James Garner. 

Names of famous people are also bantered about a lot when there is a divorce among them, a wedding, or if (heaven forbid!) any one of them would dare to make a fashion faux pas or display an ounce of cellulite!  Frankly, I am glad my divorce wasn’t played out on national television.  And I definitely don’t think I’d like any fashion police evaluating the clothes I wear!  Don’t you feel the same about areas of your life?

Famous people such as these are made to seem larger than life, almost super human as every detail of their lives is magnified, glorified and repeated ad nauseum, because they are SO special.  Sadly, many of them give the impression that have come to believe they are super special and super human.  Many seem to feel trapped by the fame, believing they have to live up to the super perfection expected of them, as pressure is placed upon them to be something more than they really are.  It isn’t entirely their fault that the fall into that trap, because many of us feed that ego by our over the top adulation.  Now, my point is NOT to run down famous people…just like each of us, they are also people created and loved by God.  No, my point is elsewhere, so bear with me.

  Frankly, I think we do these people a great disservice to treat them that way, as evidenced by the problems so many of them have in their fame.  Granted, some of them eat up all the attention, but I’m not convinced that is such a great thing.  Sometimes it seems that their fame leads them to believe they are the wisest of the wise.  I always chuckle when I hear someone famous such as an actor, sports figure or musician pontificate absurdities outside their area of expertise, as if being on the silver screen or the cover of People or Rolling Stone makes one expert in all things political, psychological and scientific.  I have noticed in particular that insights into the world of theology are often very misguided.  But what is just as absurd and causes me to shake my head and chuckle again is when I hear people oohing and ahhing over such proclamations.  I’m sure you recall as many examples as I do, no need to name names here. 

Just for the record, if you look it up in the dictionary, under the word “famous” you will not find wise or smart listed as either the definition or a prerequisite.  The former provides no guarantees of the latter; fame is simply fame.  Fame is often a result of great skill and hard work, but in this day and age, contacts, marketing, luck, family name or family wealth and sometimes ruthlessness can play a role as well. 

I’m not sure exactly how famous someone has to be in order to be considered significant enough to be mentioned on CNN or to have the Hollywood set pay tribute if you die from natural causes.  But for those of you who, like me, are not famous, it may help to realize that God doesn’t operate by the same significance scale. 

I have known many individuals whose names would be unrecognized outside their own circle of family and friends, and yet the significance of their lives seemed immense.  Sometimes they are parents or other relatives who encouragement and support have valuable impact for good in the lives of those In some cases, they were teachers who had great influence on the minds of your children.  Others were custodian types who worked hard to provide for their families by making sure that everything was clean and in good working order for others to be able to accomplish their work and dreams.  Some were nurses or nurses’ aides who daily did unglorious tasks that eased the suffering of people in their care.  I have known others who faithfully taught God’s word to children and adults in Sunday School or study groups, and quietly prayed as someone entered the Kingdom of God by giving his or her life to Christ.  

So who really are the ones whose lives are so significant that major life events are newsworthy?

In Psalm 116:15, the scripture says that the death of His people is precious in the sight of God.  He notices each one, and places great significance on each one, whether anybody else notices or not.  I also believe he observes and weeps for each marriage that falls apart in divorce, especially if one of the partners has been bound in an abusive situation for far too long. 

My life, or your life, may not make national headlines.  Our names may not flash across a silver screen, or attract a huge crowd of followers.  But in God’s scorecard, that isn’t what counts.  His hall of fame is based on things like hearts that are attuned to him, on acts done in faith and obedience, and the practice of godly love.  This is most profoundly pointed out by Jesus himself in Luke 21 when he comments to his disciples that the greatest giver was not the individual who put lots of money into the temple treasury, but the widow who donated everything she had, even though it was only two copper pennies.  Her name was probably not inscribed on any pillar or stained glass window, nor would she have been welcomed and lauded in the courts with the famous people of the day.  But she was never forgotten in heaven, and her example was recorded forever both in scripture and on the heart of God. 

So I just want to encourage you that, no matter your situation, each pain you suffer is close to Gods heart.  And each act of your life done in faith and obedience to him has great value.  Even though none may notice, and your name may not be familiar to any but a small circle of family and friends, those are not the standards by which God determines the significance of individuals.  And at we hear of the passing of Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, James Garner and other famous individuals, may we never forget that their deaths are just as significant as the countless others who died the same day.

Jesus reminded us that many who are first will be last, and the last first, so if you are one who seeks God but feel like you are pretty low on the totem pole, realize that the red carpet you walk on may not be at Grauman’s Chinese Theater or the steps of the White House.  Instead, it may be laid out for you on streets of gold.   Even those who do walk the red carpet and fly private jets in this world are wisest when they realize that the approval of God is more important than the fickle applause of the masses.  Because the only determination of significance that really matters is the valuation made by God.   

I wonder, is that what YOUR life reflects?

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