Sermon Illustrations - Tag: suffering
Posted by Douglas on Apr 02, 2006

Fear Factor is a television show I've only watched a couple times. The last time I watched it, they had the contestants doing a stunt that made me rather sick to my stomach. ::) So I shut it off, and haven't turned it on since.

The premise of the show is this: you get a bunch of people to do absurdly stupid/disgusting/dangerous stunts, to see who chickens out first, and who sticks it out to the end, and does the stunts better than anyone else.

The winner, of course, receives a monetary prize. I went on the Fear Factor website and read some of the interviews they did with past winners. One of the questions they often asked was "Why did you want to be on the show?" The answers varied (everything from "my friends dared me to" to "I wanted to impress a girl"), but one recurring answer was: "because of the money."

The fact is, no one would do stupid stunts like sticking their head in a box filled with angry hornets, or climb into a body bag filled with fire ants, or the other absurdities, unless there was the hope of some sort of reward.

But the contestants tell themselves: "I can suffer through five minutes of being bitten by fire ants, because when it is all over, I could come out of it with a reward that will last not for minutes, but for years. It's all a matter of getting the proper perspective on things.

The essential question of the show is this: How much fear/pain will you undergo without quitting, for the sake of a reward? Because one thing is certain: no quitter ever wins the cash prize.

I was thinking about this recently, in connection with the book of 1 Peter, where Peter writes:

1:7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:7 (ESV)

Life is like Fear Factor. We are faced, throughout life, with various testings and fires. Our own personal fire ants, so to speak. And we need to take the same perspective on those trials as the contestants of Fear Factor take toward their trials. Taking this perspective requires us to understand the eternal nature of our existence. Our trials may not last for just a few minutes; some face difficulties that will last their entire lives, but in the perspective of eternity, even an entire life span is just a drop in the bucket. And the rewards that are received on the other end of this earthly existence are "imperishable" (as Peter writes, they don't fade away).

But the real question is: who is a quitter? And who will persevere? Because the rewards never go to the quitters.

The quitters are the ones who roll over and play dead whenever life gets tough. And it might make life easy now, but really, what is that worth?

The quitters are the ones who, having been betrayed by those they trust, say, "I will never trust again." The ones who, having been hurt by those they love, say, "I will never love again." The ones who, having been trampled because they stood for truth, say, "I will never stand for truth again."

The quitters are the ones who, when placed in a difficult, painful situation, spend all their time trying to figure out how to get out of the painful situation, instead of trying to figure out what God can do with their lives while they are in that situation.

As Beth wrote recently in her blog: When faced with failure and loss and disappointment, we find it less painful to to deny reality and live with the numbness. But if you close yourself off to Him by avoiding those uncomfortable feelings, you miss all the great stuff.

That's the quitter attitude...the "roll over and play dead" attitude. We are willing to "live with the numbness" because it makes life "easier." But life isn't about "easy."

I think it's interesting that, throughout the Bible, gold is presented as the greatest of all the precious things. But Peter emphasises that even gold is perishable, in comparison with the greatness of our rewards at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

If you go on the show Fear Factor, your reward for not quitting will last you a few years -- if you spend it wisely. But for those in Christ who do not quit, we are in for a treat that will last forever.

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