Monday, June 27, 2016


In their prayer requests, my students speak, usually in vague terms, of the daily struggle with temptation. I have tried to tell them the things that tempt us just don't disappear as we grow older. The fight is about short term pleasure versus long term righteousness. Would we give up a fortune for a bowl of soup, as Esau did? Before you quickly answer in the negative, read on from March 5, 2006.

The phenomenon of Survivor goes on. For years, Survivor has been a CBS ratings bonanza. Set on a far away, uninhabited island, sixteen contestants vie for a prize of one million dollars. The first winners became celebrities as well as millionaires. The excitement isn't what it was in early years when Thursdays, 7:00 pm CST became the time to park in front of your television. I've never watched consistently but find it fascinating that participants easily lie and cheat, passing it off as playing the game. Host Jeff Probst is good at stirring controversy and hard feelings at tribal councils where tribe members secretly vote to evict one of their band. This year's episode is called Survivor: Exile Island. The twist is that at intervals, one unlucky soul will spend three days in isolation away from the group. (I'm not sure of the semantics of exiled when the camera crew is recording every move you make but I don't want to be picky.) Competitors in the end become the jury and select the winner. Calling it reality television is a stretch when it is scripted but it's entertaining at times.

Like I said, I am not a regular viewer but there is one memorable moment for me. In the spring of 2005, I caught an episode of Survivor: Palau. The field had been whittled from sixteen to nine. Each week, there is a contest called an Immunity Challenge. Whoever wins this competition cannot be voted off that night. This particular event was a battle of endurance. The nine still in the game were required to stand on perches in the lagoon. They were told the last one on their platform would have immunity at tribal council. After one hour, no one had budged so Probst began tempting them. Anyone who got down could have donuts. You have to remember these men and women had been on the island for three weeks with practically nothing to eat, some facing extreme weight loss. With the enticement of the donuts, two of the nine jumped into the water. After another hour, chocolate chip cookies and cold milk were dangled in front of the seven. Four more gave in to the temptation of food. Additional time elapsed and Probst unveiled his secret weapon, hot pizza. Even over a tv screen, it looked delicious! Two more succumbed to the desire for the carbs. The one left on his perch was a fireman from Brooklyn, Tom Westman. Guess who eventually won the $1,000,000? You are way ahead of me. Tom, the one who resisted the overwhelming urge to buckle under for the chance to satisfy his hunger, cashed the check. I will never forget Jeff Probst's admonishment to the eight who lost their will. "One of you may have just traded one million dollars for a donut!" Talk about empty calories! Think any of those eight in retrospect believe they could have exhibited a little more fortitude? I wonder how long the pleasure lasted from that slice of pepperoni, that morsel of cookie, or that mouthful of donut. I bet the taste is long gone.

It's easy for me to sit and write about people who swap a life of wealth for a swallow of food. But how is that different from times we make horrible choices? We forfeit a lifelong relationship for outbursts of anger. We give up reconciliation for the momentary enjoyment of clinging to a grudge. Far worse, how many walk away from eternity with the Lord in exchange for the lust of the flesh which leaves us empty and defeated? Jeff Probst is smart but he's no Satan. The devil doesn't try to break me down with things that have no allure. In Survivor terms, our enemy doesn't tempt me with liver or squash. He knows when to pull out the steak or Blue Bell Ice Cream bait. In my battle with the evil one, he wins far more than I care to reveal. But, we have one on our side who can overcome even the most devious creature of the universe. Jesus asks in Matthew 16, "what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" The answer is that there is no price or pleasure which compares to the value of our eternal destination. Our Savior knows we struggle and fail. He knows we will jump off the perch for pizza. But, he doesn't discard us just because we fall down. We aren't voted off the island or out of the tribe because of our weakness. Satan makes us want to despise and ridicule ourselves for lack of self-control. But Satan, smart as he is, knows one other thing. He knows we can have spiritual immunity with the one who casts the final vote. His name is Jesus.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Only those who have gone hungry know the power of food."
Carolina Maria de Jesus (from Child Of The Dark.)

God bless,
Luke 18:1

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1 comment:

Jon said...

i really dont watch Survivor