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Indiana Jones vs. the “Ordinary” Life

Indiana Jones

“You’re a teacher?”

That line of stunned but admiring disbelief is a centerpiece of both the new Indiana Jones film and much of the great mythic stories we enjoy.  Whether it’s the fedora-wearing archaeologist who saves the world, or the mild-mannered newspaper reporter who is the son of Krypton, or the young youth who draws the sword from the stone, or the quiet hobbit who is called to defeat the evil ruler of Mount Doom, we look up to the individual who lives the extraordinary life.

But where does that leave the ten million teachers who are “just” teachers?  The mailmen and mechanics and mothers who are not spending their weekends defeating KGB agents in the Amazon jungle with a whip and a grin?  The men and women who are leading just “ordinary” lives?

It’s a subtle trap, but one that bears looking at:  the trap of seeing ourselves as leading “ordinary” lives.  For if we look at our life, the 9 to 5, paying bills, raising kids, growing older every year “ordinary” life, and compare it to the books and movies, we can convince ourselves that something’s wrong, that the life we’re living isn’t exciting enough and isn’t important enough for us.  We think that we should be living an extraordinary life instead.

If we fall into this trap of the “Indiana Jones syndrome,” what are the results?  The first will be discontentment with the life we do have, with a whole host of emotions like frustration or guilt or discouragment in tow.  We might invest our energies in trying to create an extraordinary life,  like a dream career change or a promotion that will end up in disaster.  We might even try to find some adrenaline on the side to give our sagging ego a boost.  It could be an all-consuming hobby, a spicy illicit relationship, or a soul-destroying addiction as a substitute for having missed out on that extraordinary life.

Are you wincing yet?  Are you looking in the mirror and seeing yourself?  I know I’ve longed to put the fedora on my head in the past, and seen the discontment seep into my soul. 

What’s the answer?  How do we escape from the Indiana Jones syndrome, from the dissatifaction of living an “ordinary” life?  As with everything else, the answer lies with God.  The apostle Paul gave a word picture about the “ordinary” life in 1 Corinthians 12:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

The Christians at Corinth all had the Indiana Jones syndrome; they were all wanting to lead extraordinary lives and be leaders or show off miraculous gifts.  But Paul rebukes them.  He says that just as a properly functioning body has different parts, the church as the body of Christ has different parts.  By nature and by necessity the church has people leading more outwardly glamorous or extraordinary lives and others leading very “ordinary” lives.  Every life is equally important in the Kingdom and equally valued by God, no matter how they look on the surface or are esteemed by the world.  God in His love and His wisdom chooses the best life for each and every one of us.

There really is an escape from the Indiana Jones syndrome.  We can rest in knowing there is no ordinary life that is lived for God.  There is no “ordinary” cup of cold water given to another that will go unrewarded (Matthew 10:42).  There is no “ordinary” hospitality given to a stranger that may not be to an angel (Hebrews 13:2).  There is no bath in a “ordinary” river that may not result in a miracle (2 Kings 5).

If we will live it in Christ and for Christ, we all will experience an extraordinary life.

A Sacred Honor

In the novel Brave New World, the protagonist John ”the savage” is attracted to a young woman of “civilized” 26th century London.  He confesses his attraction to her, and she immediately offers herself sexually to him.

Then something happens which she finds inexplicable:  John tells her that he is not worthy to take her as his own.  He explains that in his culture he would need to do some mighty deed to prove that he was a man and worthy to possess her beauty.  She, with a worldview framed by a culture of casual sex without any type of enduring relationships, cannot even understand what he is talking about.  The notion that women should be treated with a sacred honor is unfathomable to her.

Do we have a “Brave New World” today?  In a culture where men can divorce their wives at the drop of a hat, where they can “hook up” on weekends with no expectation of responsibility or commitment, where they can show contempt and disdain for the sacredness of a woman’s body by the millions via the internet?

Where are the men who are so awed by Eve, by the pinnacle of God’s creation, that they would not dare possess her beauty until they were proven worthy?  Who hold her in such honor that they would never profane her body outside marriage?

I remember a men’s Bible study years ago where a newlywed gushed, “I just feel incredibly honored that my wife would give her beautiful body to me.”  How many broken hearts and lives would be saved if men would recover such a sense of honor toward women, a deep, unshakeable soul conviction of profound respect and honor toward all daughters of Eve.

Adopted as Sons

As Christians, we have many blessings bestowed on us by God, such as forgiveness of sins, having Christ’s righteousness accounted to us, eternal life, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Each of these aspects of our salvation stands on its own in that God could have chosen to give us some, but not all, of these blessings.  For instance, God could have chosen to forgive us our sins, but not to give us the additional blessing of the indwelling of the Spirit. 

Each individual blessing of our salvation shows God’s love and grace and mercy and glory more sweetly.  One blessing that continually astounds me, that makes me marvel at God’s great grace, is that He chose to Adopt us, to declare that we, rebellious sinners, are now children of God.  And so Adoption is the A in our continuing acrostic theology series on how we are C.H.A.N.G.E.D. by God.

For anyone who saw or read Ben-Hur, you remember how Judah’s life was changed when he was adopted by the Roman general Quintus Arrius.  He went from being a slave, locked in chains and darkness to having unrivaled wealth, power, and influence. Judah’s physical transformation from his physical adoption prefigured his spiritual transformation from his (and ours) spiritual adoption as children of God.

God was not compelled to adopt us by some good that we did or deserved:

Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.  (Ephesians 1:5)

As the verse above states, God chose before time began that through Jesus he would adopt a people to Himself, purely because of His love and mercy, by “the good pleasure of His will..”

And how do we receive this adoption?  How do we become children of God?  Purely through receiving Christ by believing Him as Savior and Lord:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (1 John 1:12)

So what difference does this make in our lives?  How are we changed because of our new identities as children of God?  Let’s briefly look at our new privileges, new responsibilities, and new inheritance as children of God:

New Privileges:

Being an adopted son of God means we have the privileges of calling God our Father, of God calling us His children, of God blessing us as His children, and of God disciplining us as His children:

We may call God our Father:

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9)

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:17)

To be able to address the infinite creator of the Universe as our “Abba”, literally “Daddy” or “Papa”, is an incredible privilege and joy.  Yes, He is our God, our Lord, our Master, our King, and yet He also condescends to be our Papa as well.  Incredible! 

God calls us His children:

and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Cor 6:18)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  (1 John 3:1)

What more tender way could we be addressed, what more hopeful name could we be given, than to be called the children of God?  In every trial and storm, we should be able to look up and hear God lovingly call us His children.

God blesses us as His children:

What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, wil give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!  (Matthew 7:11)

All of God’s gifts to us come from the heart of a perfectly loving Father.  We never have to doubt or be concerned about whether we will receive a stone or a serpent— no, our Father only has our good in His heart.

God disciplines us as His children:

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:6-11)

The Lord loves us enough, loves us as His own children, to discipline us.  He will not leave us in our selfish immaturity, but will do whatever is necessary, even trials, even suffering and pain, to strip away our self-centeredness until we can perfectly love and enjoy and obey Him.

New Responsibilities:

Along with our new privileges, sonship entails new responsibilities.  As sons of our Father we have the honor to obey, imitate, and represent our Father.

Obey:

as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct. (1 Peter 1:14-15)

As any Father, God expects our loving obedience to His commands.

Imitate:

Therefore be followers of God as dear children.  (Ephesians 5:1)

All of us have stories of children picking up the mannerisms of their parents.  So should it be with us: as we spend time in God’s presence we should come to resemble our Father ever more closely.  Notice that this is more a heart transformation than mere outward obedience; a rebellious child will still sometimes obey to get what he wants or avoid punishment, but as “dear children” we desire to be followers of God.

Represent:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16)

…children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  (Philippians 2:15)

And what is the goal of our obedience?  That we represent our glorious and loving Father, that our good works reflect His grace and transforming power to others.

New Inheritance:

Lastly, we can rejoice that as children of God we have a new inheritance.  We have this new inheritance because God predestined it for us, because we are children of God, and because we are joint heirs with Christ.

Because God predestined it for us:

in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,  (Ephesians 1:11)

Because we are children of God:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God. (Galatians 4:5-7)

Because we are joint heirs with Christ:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer wtih Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17) 

The Nature of our Inheritance:

And what sort of inheritance has God bestowed on His children?  O, we have caught the barest glimpse so far, but the Scriptures promise that is is a kingdom, that it is eternal, and that is will be glorious:

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Matthew 25:34)

…that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)

and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  (Romans 8:17-18)

May you live as a child of God today, rejoicing in your privileges, mindful of your responsibilities, and looking forward to your inheritance.

To Be Counted Worthy

In 1982, a group of educators looked at hundreds of applications submitted to them from West Virginia science students.  They looked at various qualifications, including achievements and test scores, and out of all of the applicants they chose two students.  Two students they considered worthy enough to be called the best science students in the state.  Those two students greatly rejoiced that they had been counted worthy, for they received the honor of attending the National Youth Science Camp on behalf of the state of West Virginia that year.  Yes, I know the story, for I was one of the two.

I mention that story just to give a vivid contrast to another story of people being counted worthy:

When they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.  (Acts 5:40-42 NKJV)

These men had been counted worthy by a greater authority than a review board; they had been counted worthy by God Himself.  And these men rejoiced that God had counted them worthy.  But what honor did God bestow on them?  What were they worthy enough for? The honor of being beaten and suffering shame for the name of Jesus.

Writer and speaker Voddie Baucham has called the response of the apostles in this passage “one of the most personally challenging truths in the Bible.”  There is much in the Bible that cuts against the grain of our experience and common sense, but perhaps nothing more than God counting people worthy of suffering for the sake of Jesus.  Just a few chapters later God announces that the apostle Paul “is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16 NKJV)

I don’t know about you, but my game plan of recruiting someone to be a follower of Jesus doesn’t usually include showing him the “many things he must suffer” for the name of Jesus.

This passage raises a lot of questions in my mind, many that I don’t have simple, pat answers to.  What does God look for to count someone worthy of suffering?  What grace brought the apostles to earnestly rejoice knowing that God had chosen them to suffer for the sake of Christ?  What would be my honest response if God chose me worthy to suffer, really suffer, for His name?  I don’t know everything about this whole business of suffering and joy, but I think that humbly and honestly looking to God for the answers is a worthy endeavor.