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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Wonderbolt Academy”
One of our nation’s greatest domestic tragedies, the massacre at Columbine High School, changed the mindset of most Americans forever in not only how they viewed themselves and their children in terms of safety in domestic affairs, but also as to what sort of thing drives someone to do horrendous, unspeakable acts. A lot of tragic stories came out of that event, but one of the biggest ones that frequently gets recounted was the report of how, before one of the gunmen killed one of the students, he asked her if she believed in God. I don’t honestly know if he would have killed her anyway, if in his sad, tortured mind he wanted to derive some sort of pleasure or personal victory from hearing someone renounce their faith when having their feet put to the fire, or even if the comment was purely rhetorical as he had obviously given up on his own life (as evidenced by his suicide); but I’m sure at the time the individual had to consider the fact she would be spared by denying God. Instead, she said “yes” and was murdered immediately thereafter.
I read stories from the book “Jesus Freaks”, look at testimonies listed by Gospel for Asia, hear accounts about the great works and miracles overseas in distant countries where Christians are considered dirt and their lives cheap and meaningless…and then I look at Christians in this country and I think. Can I, or most of us, really call ourselves Christian in view of that? When is the last time I have ever been persecuted for my faith? When is the last time I had to choose between a job, a position in society, or even my own health and well-being and being a Christian? The closest I ever came was in college, in which I had a fake survey I went around giving in a grocery store that was an excuse to share Jesus with others. Eventually the police were called and told me to leave and never come back. Now that was something, but not much. It made me feel more fearful than anything, mostly because I had done the act not because I necessarily felt it was what God was calling me to do but just because I felt I had to act “boldly” in some way or I wouldn’t be a Christian. I definitely didn’t feel terribly encouraged to keep going. Then, of course, there were people who would set up on campus and shout “hellfire and damnation” on everyone and the need to repent. I’m not sure how effective they ended up being, although it did get the message out. Most of the time they just argued with mobs that came up it seemed. As much as people disliked them or questioned the effectivity, you have to admit it took some bravery to put themselves out there for ridicule and anger. I can sit here and say it was a worthless approach or didn’t amount to much or that they had other motives or the like, but…exactly what am I doing that’s so effective? In what way do I put myself out there? Or do I even do anything at all?
When faced with people who have so much conviction and passion, I’m left to wondering just how seriously I take my own faith. How much I actually believe. And, most of all, if in this sort of society where ease and shortcuts are everywhere, what am I willing to compromise on my faith?
I may not be facing danger to life and limb, but thoughts like that do make me think of today’s episode. As I mentioned in my earlier review, Rainbow Dash’s dream is to be a Wonderbolt. It’s what she wants beyond anything else; the chance to soar with her heroes and be known as one of the greatest fliers in Equestria. She idolizes them in everything she does, and even her daily stunts are all practice to be one of them. However, Rainbow Dash is also one of the loyalest ponies in Equestria. She’s always faithful to her friends and teammates. All victories belong not just to her but her and her team. She’s always there for others when they need her. And in this episode, she ends up with an interesting dilemma when she sees the Wonderbolts she idolizes value ponies who are ambitious and “winners” at the expense of throwing other ponies aside. In the end, Rainbow Dash has a choice to make: get her dream of being a Wonderbolt, or keep her integrity for being loyal.
It may not be as extreme as having to choose to profess God or die, but for this universe it still means a lot. Even for someone who is an atheist, giving up your greatest dream for the sake of conscience means quite a bit. Having to choose what you pride yourself on the most or what gets you what you want. Making the right choice or the profitable one. As Dumbledore put it in “Harry Potter”, choosing between what is right and what is easy.
To me, one of the lines that I feel Jesus placed into His prayer for our benefit more than anything was in Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” After a particularly riveting sermon or some genuine good devotional time, I may feel ready to take on the world. But if a situation like what happened above came along, I wonder how I would hold up even at a time like that. When I was feeling at my best, putting on my Christian “A Game”, if the opportunity for my dreams or a chance to increase my income or status, especially in a convenient manner, would easily take the spot. If I had a chance to go to a good Christian conference at the expense of sacrificing a weekend or some time for my hobby, would I go and do it? When a service runs long due to an outflowing of praise, worship, and/or prayer, would I only think about how it’s cutting into time I allotted for something else so that I excuse myself? If I’m saving up for a big purchase like a car or a boat and I get an opportunity to donate to a major mission cause, would I figure someone else would fit that bill and continue to splurge on myself? When someone passes a law restricting prayer or religious displays, I get angry, but do I invest any time or energy into protesting it or writing to any law officials? How often do I cut corners on Christianity for the sake of being more at ease and comfortable? And if that’s the case, why am I surprised when laws get passed to remove God from public displays or authorizing my tax dollars to go to abortions? If real persecution did take place, as it does in other countries, would I grit my teeth and endure it…or would I simply adapt to be more like a non-Christian so I could go about my life as normal?
Two of the more challenging passages of the Bible come to mind. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15). “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). These two along with other passages throughout the Bible and New Testament make one thing clear: choosing to follow the things of this world is the same as choosing to go against God. And while Christians in the USA may not have to deal with physical threats, we’re constantly beset by things that seek to tempt us, distract us, make us apathetic, or otherwise turn us from God and Christian living. That is the biggest challenge of this society; in a land where most of us need to rely on God so little for our physical needs, how do we keep him in mind before us or hold true to our principles? How long before that becomes “drowned out” and it becomes easier to follow our own desires?
I’m not about to say that I’m innocent of this matter myself. Far from it. Therefore, my closing message for today is as much for myself as everyone else. We should all consider taking the time, every once in a while during our daily devotionals, to think about what Jesus and the early Christians were like and what virtues and beliefs they exemplified as part of the Christian experience. We should see if we do the same (or at least profess to do the same) and then examine if we do so in name, word, or “Sunday church service” only or if something else is vying to take precedence over it. Lastly, if so, rather than sink into despair or self-loathing, we need to make a choice and plan on how to turn that around and act on it, and, much like Rainbow Dash did on turning in her pin, resolve to do it.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your Word giving us the sobering reality that spending our lives going after things of this world is ultimately chasing things that will pass away, and encouraging us to seek lasting values and to build up ‘treasure in heaven’. Confront me with what in my heart longs for things that are different than you and distracting me for eternal matters, and help me to repent of these and seek you more earnestly with all my being. Help me to recognize what is truly valuable and never to always hold true to my belief and faith. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”