by Kenny Rader
Reality television shows have been around for quite a long time now and Survivor is one of those shows. The show began as a Swedish television series in 1997, came to America in the spring of 2000, and the series has continued its momentum into 2017. Fans of the show seem to enjoy sitting on their soft, comfortable living room chairs while the show’s competitors battle, abuse, and berate one another.
In real life, we often feel like we’re competing with one another as contestants on Survivor. People at work, people at the mall, people at school, and even people at church often have a competitive mindset, even though they may not admit it. It seems that everyone wants to be on top of their own little world and if someone does not want to compete, they get kicked off the island, or at least berated and ran over. Many of us struggle to crawl out of bed in the morning and try to eek out the day at our jobs as many of our coworkers sometimes try to cut us down to get a one-up on us. We just want to get home in one piece, grab a bite to eat, watch some television, and get some rest before the routine repeats itself the next day.
My brothers and I used to play the game called, King of the Mountain. Growing up on a farm, we often had various mounds of dirt to play on as our dad dug foundations for new buildings and various projects. Whenever we boys found a pile of dirt, we just had to play the game. We dashed for the top of the pile of dirt where the biggest and strongest of us pushed, shoved, and whatever it took to keep everyone else from making it to the top. Whoever managed to stay on top of the dirt pile was the King of the Mountain. In its own way, this game was an early, simplistic, and crude forerunner of the television show, Survivor. And just for the record, I was the youngest of four boys. I was the smallest of four boys. Oh, and I was the weakest of four boys. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that I never made it to the top as King of the Mountain.
I am so thankful I don’t have to live my childhood over again because kids often cruelly experience the reality of survival early in life. Kids pick on the weakest among them. Kids take things from the most defenseless. Kids say harsh words. Whoever said, “Sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was either lying to themselves or they were always the King of the Mountain. The biggest and the roughest kids were and are the survivors.
Many people are still trying to survive as adults. Those kids who were Kings of the Mountains are sometimes still kings as adults. They may not be worthy of their kingship, but they are sometimes still kings by dominance. Many adults try to reign as kings by their insinuation that others are losers, or they reign as kings by mere strength or intimidation. They scheme, lie, gossip, and do whatever they can to manipulate others. These are the survivors who manage to kick others off the island or whatever area they are calling their kingdom.
Have you noticed that Christians often feel like the participants who get kicked off the island? More pointedly, Christians often have a difficult time trying to gain a foothold in many areas of our society. As larger and larger groups of people become bolder, the Church is getting pushed into lesser and lesser significance. Let’s face it. Unless our culture turns around (and it still might), Christians, the Church, and those who strive to live the godly life are increasingly getting squeezed out of significance.
While this is shocking to those of us who lived 40, 50, 60 and more years ago when most everyone respected the Church, today’s younger generation has a more difficult time seeing it. If the trend continues, those of you currently in your 20’s and 30’s will come to realize it as you age another decade or two as this downward spiral continues.
Here’s our reality. Jesus never said it would be easy. Actually, Jesus said it would be difficult. He said people (good Christians) would die.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. - Matthew 16:24-25
It’s one thing for us to read that passage, but it’s a completely different situation to live it. We are living the reality of a changing culture and it may not get any easier. It may actually get tougher and tougher to live out our faith. Who among us will suffer physical persecution if it comes to that? Can we live our Christian faith? Can we survive?
Bible teaches us an inspiring reality. We can do more than survive. We can thrive! The Bible teaches us how to thrive despite ungodliness around us. The Bible shows how we can thrive in a wicked generation. Will it be work? Yes it will, but can you actually thrive? Only you can answer that question. There is a huge difference between surviving and thriving in an increasingly godless culture.
The elections of 2016 are behind us. Maybe your choices of politicians won. Maybe your choices of politicians lost. Either way, we see a battle ahead and that battle will often demonstrate itself as the forces of God face the forces of evil, and often, you will wonder which is which because of our often mindlessly distorted culture. The battle wages on and it appears to be heating up more and more. How will we as Christians survive? We will take this next year, 2017, to learn how to live godly lives in a sometimes very cruel world.
Our first series of messages that begins in mid to late January will focus on this fact: we are not merely survivors. We will to learn to THRIVE.
Love you & God Bless,