The recent deaths of celebrities Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, within a few hours of each other, have triggered a wave of very public grief. Anyone’s death reminds us of our own mortality, but the death of a god – and for many people, that’s exactly what screen and music stars have become – rocks our world.
When a star dies young, people are often disturbed and angry, as if they had been cheated. But we can only be cheated if we have a right to something. Since life is entirely a gift in any case, it doesn’t belong to us in the first place. What we can do is make the most of the life we have been given – and the only way I’ve found to make the most of my life is to live it for the pleasure of the One who gave it and who will ultimately take it back. As Jesus put it, if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
So at the risk of sounding callous, I have to say that I have a hard time relating to the world’s exaggerated outpouring of grief for these two stars. Of course their death matters, as anyone’s does, but I find it sad that people get so emotionally wrapped up in the ups and downs of the stars of the entertainment world. They’re just people like anyone else — beautiful, talented, but often tragically ill-equipped to handle the pressures that come with fame — and in their time they, too, will fall off their pedestals and eventually meet their end. And when that day comes, the things that brought them fame — their talent, their looks — will mean very little. What will matter is whether they invested their lives in things that endure or things that crumble.
As many of you know, I recently had a more personal reminder of my own mortality. While cycling home a week ago during a heavy rainstorm, I had a fairly serious accident and had to go to hospital. Although I suffered a dislocated shoulder, a sprained wrist and some nasty bruises and scrapes (road rash), I’m very grateful for God’s protection as I could easily have been killed. Within a few hours I was back home from hospital, having been given a painful opportunity to reflect on what happened and what might have happened.
I believe I was protected by God’s angels but on reflection I have also concluded that the accident could have been avoided had I recognized and heeded a warning from Holy Spirit. I’m quite sure that I was targetted by the spiritual forces of darkness who were seeking to exploit a vulnerable area to put me out of commission. I’ve been involved in some activities that have started to be a threat to the dark side, and the Enemy doesn’t like that. If you think this is weird or melodramatic, you don’t understand the reality of spiritual warfare and the two kingdoms. All of us are involved in a war whether we know it or not. The warfare is every bit as real as what’s happening in Afghanistan, it’s just on a different level, not (usually) visible to the naked eye.
So am I going to stay out of trouble from now on? I hope not! Yes, I do plan to be a bit more careful about riding my bike in bad weather conditions. But my basic approach to life won’t change. The only people who are really secure in the global spiritual battle are the ones who have God’s Kingdom as their home and Jesus as their leader. I’m going to die anyway, and I don’t know when. I don’t want to be stupid and take unecessary chances – but I do want to make my life count for the only thing that is ultimately worth living for – Jesus and His coming Kingdom of peace and righteousness.