This is a totally new chapter from the original text. I had a chapter on “Fame and Infamy.” Many of us want to be famous, but less these days. The constant harassment by cameramen and media outlets provides little opportunity for quiet reflection. In Mark 1:35, it is written that Jesus found time to seek solitude to pray. He was the “rock star” of his day.
Popularity is a kind of localized fame. The captain of the football team, the president of the student body, the head cheerleader are all people that we can remember years later. My fifteen seconds of fame, for high school, occurred when we had our senior play, Li’l Abner. I had continued singing when the pianist got lost at the coda during try-outs. They had wanted to make me the bad guy, since I had been the villain in the junior play. When they heard me continue a cappella, they said that I could be anyone, even Li’l Abner. I wanted to be Marryin’ Sam. He delivered the most punch lines throughout the play. All I wanted was to make people laugh. When the play was over, I was swarmed by adoring ‘fans’. They encouraged me to pursue acting, but my parent’s had firmly pushed me into the engineering school. Andy Warhol was right about the fifteen seconds. By the next morning, I was a member of the nerd herd, a herd of one.
My wife is very outgoing. She was the poor immigrant girl when she lived in El Paso, Texas, but her personality led her to become president of her student council one year in elementary school. Her father got his “job of a lifetime” offer just before my wife’s senior year. She was only at Stephen F. Austin high school in Port Arthur, Texas for one year, but her photo was in the school album five times. She was cute, but many of the popular girls weren’t in that many photos. Do people remember her? A few do, but most do not. She was only there one year and then off to serve in the Air Force.
The problem with popularity is that it is the most fleeting of any of these blessings. There are more people that fit the Warhol model of fifteen seconds than fit the lasting popularity model. If the starting quarterback of the football team has not thrown a touchdown lately, it is sad and pathetic when he tries to ride that popularity train in later years. Of course, some have that charisma that can pull it off. They may become politicians or other people in the public eye, riding a now-forgotten fame into other glory. Are they relying upon that popularity or God?
The problem with the blessing of popularity is not just its mercurial nature, but the focus is on you, not God. Most people can’t deflect this. It feels too good. Jesus escaped it after the feeding of the 5,000. In John 6:22, Jesus realized that they were about to start a revolution and place Him as king. He escaped to a mountain to be by himself.
Since the First Draft
This does not apply, since this was completely rewritten.
Mark 9:33-37 (NIV)
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Even if you’ve done something of historical note, all will be lost in the end. Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich never lasted that long. There have been billions of people come and go. They are all long forgotten. With recent trends in re-writing history to espouse modern political agendas, even famous people will be forgotten, depending on who remains in power and who is writing the next ‘history’ book. In the end, the only reign worth remembering will be that of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Have you done something noteworthy? Do people still remember?
Think of your favorite sports hero of your youth. Remember the records that he / she set. Are those records still standing? Jim Brown is one of the greatest running backs of all time, but he may soon be out of the top ten on the list of career rushing yards in the NFL (presently at this writing 10th with one who should pass him this year). Johnny Unitas is 19th, and soon to drop further, in career passing yards in the NFL, yet the only quarterback in the top 30 whose career started in the 1950s. Yes, the game changes and the rules change, but it is fame that is fleeting.
Have you studied your genealogy or has a member of your family done so? Did you find a famous person of the past? Did you trace your roots to a famous group of people (Jamestown colony, Plymouth Rock)? Did you find a horse thief? Does any of that change who you are?
Have you advanced in business? Have you ever had to sacrifice your beliefs in order to get a sale, get a promotion, or get something done? Have you said, or have you heard others say, “But this is business,” as an excuse to do something against their Christian upbringing? For armed conflict veterans, the phrase might be “But this is war…”
Have you ever been overlooked for something great that you’ve done? I once contributed to a chemical plant operation that helped them increase profits by $10 million dollars in the first year. They showed me the balance sheet, but did not even say “Thank you.” How did you react when your accomplishment was ignored?
As a boss, do you ever praise the people who work for you for the little things? A recent study stated that you have to praise people ten times to offset one reprimand. This was to ensure that the person’s self-esteem was not shaken. In a train-the-trainer class, the instructor used me, along with a few others, as evaluators. We had to list four good things about the presentation for each bad thing. With some really shaky first-time presenters, that was extremely difficult. Do you only praise people during their annual review? Do you only mention the big contributions? In so doing, you may forget that quiet person in the corner cubicle that contributes more, by volume, than the others, because those contributions are the little things that keep the entire organization going.
If you went to a far country to live where no one knew your accomplishments and all of your friends were left behind, would you miss your adoring fans? If you were doing this for the glory of God, could you miss your fans just a little less? Could you live a life like Eric Liddell? Liddell won a bronze medal and a gold medal in sprint races in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. He turned down offers to capitalize on his instant fame. He went to China as a missionary, dying in a Japanese concentration camp, five months before the camp was liberated. Could you make that kind of sacrifice for Jesus?