Having watched The New Adventures of Superman when I was younger than I have a lot of nostalgia tied up with the character. Some people find him boring but, you know, he flies and can punch through concrete and lasers come out his eyes, I still think that's pretty cool. And it came as no surprise to me when a link appeared on my Facebook feed to an article on the parallels between Superman and the Gospel. The last movie, Superman Returns, went the whole hog and played up the parallels big time by portraying Superman as a Messianic type figure including one scene where he floated above the city, arms spread out in crucifixion pose listening to the cries or “prayers” of the people,
Even in the latest film, then there was a lot of talk about “believing” in Superman with Russell Crowe even saying that he would be like a god to the people of earth. But despite drawing heavily on religious, specifically Christian, imagery and thought then both films, indeed, any positive comparison between Superman and Jesus misses the point of who Jesus is. Of course, the big difference is that Superman is fiction and Jesus is both historical reality (when he walked this earth) and eternal reality (glorified in Heaven). But laying that aside there is still much to discuss.
An hour from now I may lose my life wrestling with an escaped bear. I know, it sounds unlikely (I’d win for starters), but bear with me in my point. As human beings we experience the now and can remember (to some degree) the past but we are always blind to the future. After all, the future is very resistant to prediction. The twists and turns of our lives make complex patterns that we can never fully follow, predict or anticipate. For Christians, as we deal with the ups and downs of life, we face an added layer of struggle which is the battle between sight and faith.
We all know this fight well. Something bad happens and sight, that is our immediate experience of the event, says: “I can see no good in this.” while faith quotes Romans 8 v 28 and says: “ALL THINGS FOR GOOD!” Faith being unnatural to us, we will by default place greater store on sight. It is an interesting condition: being limited finite creatures unable to see how the future will pan out, we place greater trust in our own limitations than we do in God. Oh the folly of unbelief!
For what we are prone to forgetting is that faith is always the wisest option, it presents to us the most accurate picture of what is going on, it presents to us certainty while sight presents to us mere predictions of uncertainty.
In the book of Hebrews faith is described in the following way: ““Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is a sure and certain thing! While sight is not so sure and most definitely not certain.
To give some context for this question I’m going to graduate in nine months and I have no idea where I’ll be afterwards. And I find it hard to hope in a ‘good’ future and though I might ask myself: well, what’s the worst that could happen? the problem is that my active imagination is very good at telling me a dozen different scenarios each as ‘worst’ as the next one. For example, when it comes to graduating and getting a job then one potential outcome is unemployment, applying everywhere and getting nowhere and ending up in some job in retail. And it’s no use telling me that it might not happen because I know that it might.
And you can’t tell me either: God is in control of everything, he loves you, it will not happen because again that’s a lie. Sure, the first two statements are true but trying telling a Christian who has suffered the death of a loved one that the worst will not happen.
It’s like the command: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will go with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1v9) This is one of my all-time favourite bible verses yet, as I found out the hard way, it doesn’t promise success.
Ok, ok, the title is a bit of hyperbole. Psalm 46 is the battle anthem for one small and struggling reformed baptist church in Edinburgh that goes by the name Bellevue Baptist Church. Whether any other reformed baptist church either knows the tune or version of Psalm 46 that we sing or, indeed, cares is quite another matter. I doubt Piper knows it. He does, however, know Psalm 46.
Anyway, I thought I’d go through the Psalm 46 in the Bible and explain why it means so much to my church. For the full effect come, visit us and hear us belt it out in lusty tones. All ten of us.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Psalm 46 v 1 - 3
Oh no! Not another religious, mystic, mumbo jumbo statement! Not another seeming contradiction, not another senseless combination of words, you might as well say: ‘when I am fat, then I am thin’ or ‘when I am black’, then I am white’ or juxtapose any two opposites and pass it off as ‘wisdom’.
At the very least the above highlights the dangers of quoting a passage of the Bible out of context. So let’s just get some…
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he writes:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12 v 7 – 10
It’s exam time and for many of you that means a large amount of stress and anxiety and fear. For me, it means writing this as a guilt free form of procrastination so I don’t have to revise. I can’t say exam stress is a particular affliction of mine.
But let’s get this straight: I am worried, stressed, fearful and anxious about a whole lot of other stuff. I’m afraid I’ll be single my whole life, I’m worried that I don’t know what to do with my life, I’m anxious about the expense of moving out next year, I’m troubled about my church, I worry what people think about me, I stress out about the uncertainty of the future, I’m terrified of drowning, I like being in control, I fear not being in control, I fear not knowing, I fear not being able to do anything to influence the direction of my life, I fear poverty, I fear illness, I fear loneliness, I fear being ignored…And that’s just the big stuff. On a micro level I fear that the text I just sent will be misinterpreted, I fear no one will like my ‘amusing’ status update (pathetic, I know), I fear that I’ll be thrust into a social situation I’m not comfortable with…
I fear because in this sinful, fallen and painful world there is so much to fear. Bu
And it wasn’t until today that I fully realised this because it wasn’t until today that I watched this:
It’s a sermon by Mark Driscoll on Luke 12 where Jesus says: “Do not fear, little flock.” and proceeds to tell us why we shouldn’t fear. I strongly urge you to watch it. In fact, I literally beg that you watch it because we are all afraid of something and we all need help.
Usually I’d try and summarise what Mark was saying but I’m not going to this time. If you struggle with fear, correction, you do struggle with fear, stress and anxiety so you need to invest a single hour of your time and watch the sermon.
What are you still reading this for? Watch it!
"Fear not little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Luke 12 v 32