Consuming Fire

The American Film Institute
recently released their top 100 movies of all time.  Topping the list was the classic movie Citizen Kane.  The movie takes the viewer on a journey
through the life of fictional character Charles Foster Kane.  Kane accrues an incredible amount of wealth
and power and ultimately destroys himself.
As the movie moves along and Charles Foster’s desire for wealth, power
and pleasure grows there is a recurring shot of a wall with a fireplace in the
center of it in the home of Kane.  As his
wealth grows and becomes more destructive, the fireplace gets bigger and bigger
until near the end of the movie the fireplace is nearly as big as the
wall.  This fireplace is always burning
and consuming and by the end of the movie the fireplace has become and inferno
in which all of Kane’s earthly possessions are being burned up leaving nothing
but a lot of smoke.

Charles Foster Kane was a fictional
character that was rumored to have been loosely based on the life of a real
individual.  Whether or not that is the
case his story is one that is very familiar.
It is a story that has played itself out in some form or another
countless times throughout history.

The lure of
enjoying life is one that is great for all of us, and why not?  Life was made to be enjoyed.  We hear it over and over again pumped into
our brains through various forms of media and entertainment.  The entire marketing industry would be
bankrupted if they were to take an approach that didn’t capitalize on this idea
of enjoying life.  Parents encourage
their children to work hard in school and excel in some sport or hobby in hopes
that they will one day do well for themselves and maybe have all the things they
didn’t have.  And it is basically assumed
that any politician who wants any kind of legitimate shot at getting voted into
office will have a campaign filled with plans for making life better and better
during their term.

From every angle we are inundated
with the gospel of enjoying ourselves.
And we have bought what’s being sold hook, line and sinker.  The American Dream is entirely based on this
gospel and who doesn’t want to live the American Dream?  So we want to enjoy life, that’s a good thing
isn’t it?  Living life to the fullest is
a positive value, we don’t want people walking around with frowns on their
faces and miserable, that’s why our parents and teachers warned us that if we
frowned too much our faces would freeze that way.  People who enjoy life don’t frown and we
should all be enjoying life.  There is
enough pleasure and things to go around.

The truth is there is some measure
of enjoyment in the pursuit of pleasure.
We enjoy a good meal and a good movie or an exotic vacation.  There is also some measure of enjoyment in
the accumulation of things.  We enjoy the
smell and feel of a new car or the crystal picture of a new HDTV.  These things are great and they do bring a
smell to our faces and some enjoyment to life, but that enjoyment is always
short lived.  There is always something
else to experience or something better to buy.
And so our wants become needs and our short list of needs becomes a long
list of needs and eventually the fireplace is so big that it takes up the
entire wall.  Eventually the fireplace
consumes our lives and the things we thought would bring enjoyment ultimately
bring despair.

There is only one true source of
enjoyment in life that will not leave us despairing.  The world is not the only consuming
fire.  Nearly two thousand years ago a
wise man wrote that God is a consuming fire.
By pursuing Him and seeking to enjoy Him we find what it is we are
looking for.  Sure you can enjoy life and
experience short bursts of enjoyment here and there that end up resulting in
despair or you can pursue enjoying God and experience enjoyment that lasts far
beyond this lifetime.

The truth is we are all going to be
consumed by something.  Which fire would
you rather be consumed by?

Ironclad Convictions

During the 1924 Olympics held in Paris one young man was recognized as much for what he didn’t do as for what he did.

            They called him the ‘Flying Scot’ and he was Britain’s Golden Boy.  If anyone could win the country a gold medal he could.  But Eric Liddell went from Golden Boy to turncoat because of his refusal to compete in the 100 meter, since the finals for the event were to take place on Sunday.

            Despite the opposition Liddell stuck with his decision and switched events.  Instead of competing in the 100 meter he would enter the 400 meter.  Many thought this an absurd decision and held very low expectations for success.  The two races required vastly different strategies and technique.

            But the strategy paid off for Liddell.  Not only did he win the 400 meter, be he also tied the Olympic record for the event with a blistering time of 47.6 seconds.

            It is hard for many of us to understand why a man who was nearer a sure thing in one race would give all that up and risk embarrassment just because of what day of the week an event’s final was scheduled to take place.  Why would a man willingly face the ridicule of being called a traitor by his own countrymen all over something as petty as a day?  Why would a man devote his life to a race and then shortly before the dream became a reality throw it all away only to begin a new rigorous training program in an event so foreign to him?  Like the British officials who coined the ‘Flying Scot’ a traitor, other adjectives like ‘crazy’ and ‘not all there’ come to our minds.

            But when you look at what was behind Liddell’s decision it makes things clearer.  Eric was a devout believer in Jesus Christ.  Everything he did in life he did for Jesus Christ, including running.  When it came to making choices the driving force was his relationship with God through Jesus Christ and not his advancing of a talent, or gaining the applause of others.  His god was God and not his giftedness.

            Still for some of us this is utter insanity and flies in the face of what we consider common sense.  Why would anyone do something like this and give up so much?  Couldn’t he have honored God and raced in the event he had trained so hard for?  What kind of God would require such a thing as giving up your dream?  What we must realize is we’ve only heard half of the story, and though at this point it seems Liddell gave up so much, in reality he gained far more than he ever lost.

            Liddell may have voluntarily removed himself from the 100 meter competition but his entrance into the 400 meter competition resulted in a gold medal and a share of the Olympic record that stood for several years.  His exploits inspired the Academy Award-winning film, “Chariots of Fire”, and all this began because a man chose to stand on his convictions and live by them.

            As a young boy I used to play a game with my friends called “What If” in which we would take the situation we were in and try to imagine all the possible outcomes.  This was one of my favorite games because it stretched my imagination to all kinds of fascinating places.  I realized through that game that there is no limit to the possibilities in the realm of “What If”.

            I’m sure Eric Liddell played a round or two of the “What If” game as he was making his decision to not run the 100 meter.  Only he knows what he thought the various outcomes would be, but I would daresay he never imagined it would end up like it did.

            The ‘Flying Scot’ chose the reality of putting God before his running and the sacrifice ended up being far less than the reward.

            How about we play one round of  “What If” right now and you fill in the blank.  What if I (insert your name) __________ put God before __________ (choose something of value to you)?  Would you be willing to sacrifice all that is important to you for Him?