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Stars or Stepping Stones?

stones“Though they should be even as stepping-stones…”

Last year I took a course called the Truth Project, where the instructor mentioned this historic Bradford and Winslow quote. These men explained that one of the reasons the Pilgrims came to the new world was to “lay a good foundation for advancing the gospel . . . though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.” Something about these words really touched me. The Pilgrims were willing to lay down their lives for all who came after them, including me!

Their philosophy stands in stark contrast to our culture today. Today, everyone wants to be a star. In addition to Hollywood stars, we’ve got American Idol stars, Dancing with the Stars, NFL and NBA stars, reality show stars, and even religious stars like Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. There’s nothing wrong with being a celebrity, but I’m talking about our culture’s collective obsession with being “on stage.”

Jesus’ disciples enjoyed their moments in the limelight as well. After they returned from a successful mission where they preached the good news and healed people, they were elated, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” Jesus replied, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10). He put their success in perspective.

In his day, Jesus was a celebrity in Israel, but He wasn’t seeking man’s applause. Look at this incident:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

As far as public relations, His decision made no sense. We would act differently, I’m sure. Jesus, why not meet the media, seize the opportunity, ride the wave? But Jesus is only concerned about doing the Father’s will and turns to some obscure villages. He rejected pursuing man’s approval so that He could remain true to His mission—to lay down His life as our “stepping stone” to a new world, the kingdom of heaven.

I have to confess that I cringe at the phrase, “Bloom where you’re planted.” I’m a driven achiever who believes in reaching for the stars, and I equivocate the idea of being stuck under some bush in the shade with the negative image of shrinking violets. But how much have I been influenced by my culture instead of by Christ? The pilgrims’ humble attitude convicts me, gives me pause.

Martin Luther said, “God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.” Can I trust that God does not abuse stepping stones? Will I believe that ultimately, no matter how humble the path, His way is higher?