Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Are You a Survivor or a Thriver?

There aren’t many who are ambivalent about the “reality” TV show, Survivor. People either really, really like it or really, really don’t. Those in the first category arrange their schedules to watch. Or they will tape episodes if dire circumstances prevent them from viewing. “Honey, I think Junior chopped his leg off.” “Put a band-aid on it and we’ll take him to the hospital at ten,” a Survivor lover would respond. And don’t even think about telling them what happened if they haven’t yet viewed the tape.

Those in the second category simply think it’s stupid. “Why would anyone want to watch all that malarkey when I have to deal with cut throats in real life?” these people say.

“It’s a microcosm of human nature, an interesting study in human nature,” Survivor lovers insist. On and on it goes.

Personally, I am in the second camp. Hey, I’m a pastor – I LIVE on Survivor Island! I had never even seen a full episode of Survivor until last fall when I was traveling with a good friend who shall remain nameless to protect him from assault by anti-Survivor terrorists. As Jim Callender and I were traveling, we ended up in a motel room on a Thursday night. He is in the first group. “Oh, Herb, it’s great!” he insisted. “It’s a microcosm of human nature.” Thus I was trapped with Jim, forced to view bickering, gossiping, fighting, immunity challenges, and voting to kick some of that human nature off the island. He also made me watch the TV show.

The next day, as I was teaching, I used the Survivor episode as an illustration. As soon as I asked the question, “Has anyone seen Survivor?” the heretofore unified class was immediately split. “It’s a microcosm of human nature,” exclaimed one group. “It’s stupid,” responded the other.

About the same time, during some prayer time with God, He pointed out some of the similarities between Survivor and life. Let me give them to you.
  • We’re dropped into a situation we didn’t choose. The participants are put on a boat or a plane, not knowing where they are going. We didn’t choose the situation in which we were born. We were simply dropped into it one day.
  • We have to put with people we didn’t choose, some of whom we don’t like. Survivor participants didn’t get to choose who they are dropped onto the island with. In fact, I’m convinced the producers intentionally choose people who they know will be in conflict. Nor did we choose the family we end up with. And sometimes it seems God intentionally stuck us with people He knew we would struggle with.
  • We compete in unfamiliar ways. Have you heard of some of the bizarre contests on Survivor? No way any of these folks have competed like that before. Unless they lived in a men’s dorm. That might be close. I’ve looked, trust me, and I have yet to find a manual that details the situations we live through. True, the Bible gives us principles and commandments, but so much of life is lived in unmarked territory.
  • There is always a chance we will be eliminated. Every week somebody goes. It could be anyone and sometimes it’s the nicest ones on the show. Every day thousands of people leave this life. Every day there is a chance it could be you or me.
  • It appears the ultimate point is to “survive” and win a temporary prize. Last person standing wins a million dollars or so. A lot of money, but it is only temporary. As we look around, it could be easy to believe that the point of life is to survive the ups and downs to gain money, position, or pleasure. All of that is fleeting. There is much more to life than surviving.
  • It is over quickly and we go home. I don’t know how long it takes to film a season. My impression is a couple weeks. Then the producers draw it out into months of TV episodes. Over quickly and everybody goes home, whether winners or losers. When we’re young it feels like life will last forever. Us old folks know that it is quick and then everybody goes “home” to heaven or hell.
  • There are many watching from far away, both cheering and booing. Millions of TV viewers each week, none seem to be emotionless. Around water coolers fights break out over who should win and who should be booted. All the while another groups stands at a distant mumbling, “That show is stupid.” To which one of the water cooler group responds, “No, it’s a microcosm of human nature.” As we live this life, the hosts of heaven cheer us on while the demons from hell boo us.
  • What we do reveals something to those watching. In this microcosm of human nature we see what people are at their most basic level. What the survivors say and do reveals who they really are. The difficulties peel back the facades. It’s the same with us – it’s not what we say, but what we do that reveals our true loyalties, desires and nature.
  • We must choose between “the end justifies the means” and what is right. This is the part that repels me. The vast majority on the island will do whatever necessary, including lewd and dishonest actions, to stay on the island for one more show. Folks have told me that a few participants show integrity and are sometimes rewarded. True of life as well. Daily, moment-by-moment, we choose between the two philosophies. The vast majority chooses selfishly. A relative few live with integrity and are sometimes rewarded. Other times they pay a dear price.

Even if we survive to the end, we can still come up empty. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO ONLY SURVIVE. God has created us to thrive. I challenge you to “Thrive in ’05.” Listen to Jesus’ offer…

"… Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:37b-38

God offers to place His Spirit within us so that what we long for, what we thirst for will not just fill us, but overflow, flood, overwhelm us and those around us.

Paul says that we are not survivors, but “MORE THAN CONQUERORS.” THRIVERS, NOT SURVIVORS.

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 37 in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Rom 8:31,37 (NIV)

“Okay, Herb,” I can hear you saying, “How?” Glad you asked. Simple and hard – give yourself completely to God by making Him Absolute Lord and Master through Absolute obedience. Every day. Moment-by-moment. Here’s a daily prayer to pray that will lead us that way…

"Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11

Do you want to be a survivor or a thriver in 2005? Your choice.

Boldness and Blessings, Herb

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