Originally published on April 25th, 2016
I was sitting in Grandma’s dining room this Wednesday discussing legendary singers and musicians of her time. She remarked that she wanted to see Aretha Franklin and heard she may have some concerts this year. I shared with her that there was one artist, one concert I was having a very hard time seeing. I told her how I had five failed attempts to see this musician. Whenever he was in town, something would thwart my plans to get tickets; either I was going out of town, I had a business commitment, the tickets sold out in 5 minutes, or I was too broke to pay. “It just seems like I am never going to get to see this guy”, I said to Grandma in exasperation. She laughed a little and encouraged me that maybe this year would be different.
The very next day Grandma called me to inform me I would never see that concert. Prince Rogers Nelson had died.
Upon hearing the news I immediately told my uncle who I was having lunch with and he told me about a documentary he watched that highlighted how famous people, despite their wealth, resources, access to premier healthcare, have a much shorter life expectancy than people who are not famous. The cause? Famous people tend to live beyond their capacity. A celebrity performer has to work and travel constantly to meet the demands of fame, expelling unimaginable energy in rehearsals, concerts, and appearances. They have to live as if they are “on stage” every day and every moment of their life. To keep up this level of performance, many celebrities resort to drugs (both legal and illegal) to keep up with their fame. They often ignore signs of fatigue and sickness and keep to their rigid, exhausting schedules, all in the name of fame. And often times, their love affair with fame leads them to an early death.
The deception of fame is that it convinces a person they can do anything but the pursuit of if it costs them everything.
You don’t have to be a celebrity to battle with the deception of fame. We may not be seeking the next blockbuster role or hit single. In our sphere it may be pursuing the VP title in the company, being known as the perfect mother/father, having a big growing church congregation, or even being the perfect Christian (whatever that means). I call this micro-fame, celebrity status within our own sphere.
I can’t tell you how often (even with writing this blog article) I find myself exasperated, exhausted, and overwhelmed with my pursuits and projects. The end result is usually “burnout “. I am trying to do everything by my own power and it’s killing me. But this is only a symptom of the disease. If I examine my motives during these times it becomes evident that my focus in not God’s glory but my own micro-fame. I want to show I am the best at what I do, I want to show I can get the job done, I want to show I am a person of value. It’s all about the show and the star is me.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work hard and do well. But whose fame are you seeking? What’s the motivation behind your toil? Who are you depending on for the “heavy lifting”? If I can be honest, the answer to these questions most of the time is “me”.
In Colossians 1:29, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, describes the focus and source of his pursuits and hard work:
For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
To be sure, Paul the apostle is famous but it wasn’t something he sought. Rather, Paul toiled hard to make known the “riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v.27). He wasn’t seeking fame but God’s eternal glory; that was Paul’s focus. And because his focus was on God’s glory he was able to toil in the abundance of God’s strength rather than the insufficiency of his own. By keeping his focus on God’s glory and operating in fullness of God’s strength, Paul was able to complete three mission trips, the documented accounts that not only provide the majority of the New Testament books but brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to multiple Gentile nations, changing lives forever. Paul’s toil mattered because his focus was on Who matters. And notice, God sustained him in His strength to accomplish what was beyond his capacity because it was God’s energy working powerfully in Paul. God was doing all the “heavy lifting”.
As I said before, the pursuit of fame promises you can do anything but costs you everything. The pursuit of God’s glory promises you can do anything, through Him, and costs you nothing but faith in Him to keep His promise (Philippians 4:13).
Sync a little deeper…
What pursuits are making you feel exhausted?
How has the pursuit of “micro-fame” deceived you?
How can you live a life that matters by focusing on Who matters?
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