Summary: This is the first message in my SURVIVOR series, focusing upon God’s Word as the true guidebook for life (09-15-2002).
Today we begin our new SURVIVOR series. Our theme will be “Surviving the Challenges of Life.” This is not, of course, an original idea. It is based upon the wildly popular reality TV show called “Survivor.” The fifth installment of that show begins this Thursday night.
Now, I realize that not all of you are familiar with “Survivor,” so let me give you a rough idea of how it works. Sixteen people, divided into two tribes, are placed in a remote, deserted location … most often an island. They are allowed to take one luxury item of their choice. Many people take things like a pillow, hairbrush, or stuffed animal. They have to survive off of the land and take part in very difficult physical and mental challenges. At the end of each episode, one person is voted off of the island. At the end of the season, one person remains as the ultimate survivor, and wins a prize of one million dollars.
I want everyone to know that my message series is in no way an endorsement of the show. It does contain things that are not appropriate for young children to see. So, I’m not encouraging you to go out and watch the show.
But, I do like it myself. I see in it a microcosm of our overall American culture. I see in it a perfect example of what greed and lust can lead a person to do. And it is a huge part of our culture today … so we need to be relevant … we need to take something that ordinary people relate to, even if it is a stupid TV show, and use it as a vehicle to teach spiritual truth. So that’s what we’re doing for this next ten weeks. I plan to have fun with this one. I plan to use video clips from the show, on occasion, as teaching opportunities.
So, as we begin thinking about this theme of SURVIVOR, let me tell you about a man who was shipwrecked on a desert island.
Sadly, he was the only man from his ship who survived. So he had to struggle and scratch out for himself a life on that lonely, deserted island.
Some years later, a ship passing nearby the island saw a thin trail of smoke in the distance, so it altered course and headed for the smoke, and it headed right for his island. As the ship approached, the captain looked through his binoculars and saw three huts, one with smoke coming out of it, and a long-haired, dirty man.
The ship anchored off shore and the captain led a small launch to the beach. He stepped off onto the shore to meet a very happy and newly rescued man.
The captain shook the man’s hand, looked around, and asked, “Where are the others?”
The man gazed back at the Captain with a puzzled look and said, “There are no others.”
The captain pointed at the three huts and asked him, “Well, why, then, are there three huts on this beach?”
The man glanced over at his three huts and said, “Oh, that … Well, the one in the middle is the hut that I live in and the one on the right is where I go to church.”
The captain asked, “Well, what’s the other hut for?”
Then the man said, “Well, that’s where I used to go to church, but there were some problems and I felt like I needed to leave.”
Well, that fellow was having some problems at church wasn’t he? Even as he was trying to physically survive on that island, he still did not understand the key to spiritual survival. Now, obviously that’s a fictional story … but it does illustrate a truth that is very much a reality in the lives of so many church folk.
So often church people look for spiritual leadership, guidance, and direction in places other than where God intended. Some look for all of their guidance in a person such as a pastor or leader. Others look for the answers to spiritual issues in majority votes. Still others seek spiritual guidance and direction in self-help books, on web sites, or even on television.
But all of those sources of guidance fall woefully short of God’s guidebook. You see, friends, God has given us a Guidebook to surviving the challenges of our lives and faith. That guidebook is His Holy Word – the Bible. It is God’s love letter to us, literally a gift from the hand of God. And it is the only Survivor’s Guidebook that we need to navigate the course of life.
That is part of the message that Paul was reinforcing to his young pastor-friend named Timothy. Both of his letters to Timothy are known as Pastoral Epistles. That means that they are letters full of encouragement, reassurance, and instruction for that young pastor. And today, as we study a short passage from 2 Timothy, the second letter that Paul sent him, we are going to see some insightful, reassuring instruction regarding the Scriptures – God’s holy word.