March 29, 2023
Striving to become a spiritual superstar offers a temptation to followers of Jesus that can prove hurtful to the believers and damaging to the Kingdom of God. David and Karen Mains discuss how to avoid falling into the trap of seeking superstar status.
Followers of Christ do well to recognize that there are unique individuals who have made incredible contributions to the cause of Christ and the good of the world, but they are rare. And so, as you begin to get involved in the religious world, maybe you’re a relatively new convert. I just want to be a superstar in that world.
David: Karen, I’m looking for a word. Here’s what the dictionary says. A very prominent performer, as in sports or in the entertainment industry, considered to have exceptional skill and talent. So, what’s the word?
Karen: Give me a little time to think about that.
Intro: Welcome to the “Before We Go” podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife, noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: Want me to read that definition again?
David: A very prominent performer, as in sports or the entertainment industry, considered to have exceptional skill and talent.
Karen: Well, the word that comes to mind is superstar. Is that what you’re going for?
David: That’s exactly what the word is from the dictionary. Defined that way, okay? Let’s give some examples. The sports world is not your cup of tea, but let’s try it because that’s where a lot of people are on their mind when they think of a superstar. Okay. Who would be a name in our lifetime in the world of football? Who would be a superstar?
Karen: Oh, what was the guy’s name? Who just, he retired recently.
David: Okay. You got it. Can you pull it back?
Karen: No, give me his name.
David: Tom Brady.
Karen: Oh yeah. Tom Brady.
David: Okay. Yeah. So, he’s definitely a superstar. Yeah, he would be.
Karen: Even I know who Tom Brady is.
David: Yeah. He’s on a level that is just unique. Okay. Let’s talk about basketball.
Karen: Okay. Well, the only one I can think of is, um…
David: Come on. Chicago Bull.
Karen: Now what is his name?
Karen: Michael Jordan.
David: There we go. Okay. Michael Jordan is a superstar.
Karen: Yeah. And I generally would know his name, but we’re taping this a little early in the morning, so my mind hasn’t quite kicked in here.
David: Okay. So, Michael Jordan. Let’s go. Who’s the one that is always compared to Jordan? That’s…
Karen: LeBron James.
David: Good for you. Okay. Can you think of another superstar?
Karen: In basketball?
Karen: Stephen Curry because I know he’s a Christian and I just think he’s admirable in his stand.
David: And he’s phenomenal as a basketball player, but he’s not on the level of a Michael Jordan or LeBron James at this point. So in terms of his career he would be a superstar, there’s no question. Okay let’s go baseball. Who’s somebody that you would say is a superstar?
Karen: This is the name. I think that was before my lifetime, would be Babe Ruth.
David: He’s huge. He is probably the biggest name in baseball.
Karen: Why was that?
David: He was just an incredible, incredible baseball player. Babe Ruth died in 1948.
Karen: Okay, so I was born in 1943.
David: It’s our lifetime. By the time you were born he had retired. There’s another just huge name in the world of baseball.
Karen: Well, the one that comes to mind is Jackie Robinson.
David: That’s wonderful. Absolutely right.
Karen: But he was the first black I believe; I mean there was a black players league. I don’t quite remember the history, but he was brought into the major leagues and that was a big deal.
David: That was a huge deal and then Jackie Robinson was over with his career. Jackie Robinson’s dead now. If somebody’s great, they take their number and retire it. Jackie Robinson’s number 42 was retired for all of baseball. Nobody in baseball will ever wear 42 again because it is sacrosanct if you please.
Karen: I’ve read some of his bio and it’s an extraordinary story. Yeah, very much so.
David: Let’s talk about our lifetime. Something that’s closer to where your thoughts are for the most part. Who would be a superstar in the religious world during our lifetime?
Karen: Oh, you’d have to say Billy Graham. Although I don’t think that was ever his motivation. We know Billy just a little bit but he’s a wonderfully humble man. It’s just, I think they recognize, the Billy Graham Organization, that God had put his hand on Billy. And it’s an organization I highly admire. That would be Billy Graham.
David: Yeah, there’s no question Billy Graham, a superstar. That’s using a worldly term to define who he was. Any other people who come to mind in the religious world during our lifetime? You would say people would pretty much agree this was a superstar religiously speaking.
Karen: I’m trying to think of some women. Well Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa would be one. I actually visited her home for the destitute dying in Calcutta. They were taking dying off the streets. People were just dying on the streets. They were left to die. So, they would take them off the streets and nurse them till they’re ok. And I just remember Mother Teresa wasn’t there when I visited. But the nurses who worked with it, there was something holy about them in their eyes and in their faces. It was an extraordinary thing.
David: Okay, we’ve said Billy Graham, we’ve said Mother Teresa of India. I’m thinking of another one that to me is very obvious, but it might not be new.
Karen: Another superstar. What are you thinking?
David: I’d say Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I think society would say that was a religious superstar and deserving of that. But superstars are rare by the very nature of what the definitions are. We have to say that it’s a very small number. Now, if you get sports fans, they can say on the name 15-20 players who belong to the baseball hall of fame. But it’s not necessarily on this highly elevated level of recognized superstar. Okay, in the religious world, people can be tempted to think, I want to be the next great superstar.
Karen: Oh yeah, that’s an insidious temptation. Or the other temptation is that my life hasn’t amounted to anything because no one knows who I am or what I’ve done.
David: I think for the young people, they’re thinking, “How many of you have said ‘I’ll be the next great quarterback’ or ‘I’ll be the next great basketball star’”? It’s not going to help.
Karen: Most of them don’t even get into the NBA, National Basketball League, or the Association.
David: I didn’t even make it on the high school basketball team. I thought, man, I’m really good. I wasn’t any good. But that’s that ambition and the total naivete to what it takes to be a superstar.
Karen: Or how dangerous it is to the human ego to rise to those levels.
David: That’s very true. Let’s talk about some of the superstars in scripture. Let’s go Old Testament. Was Samson a superstar?
Karen: Yeah, he has a very conflicted personality, however. Well, I think many superstars are. So yeah, I think so.
David: Queen Esther?
Karen: Yes. I think that’s true. She put her life in the line standing up for the Jewish people who were about ready to be slaughtered.
David: King David?
Karen: Oh, very definitely. In a multitude of ways. His heart for God and a man after God’s own heart. All those scriptures come to mind when you think of him. I mean, he made the mistakes. He was flawed. But he was basically a man who loved God.
David: Superstar Moses, probably a superstar. Daniel. Let’s go New Testament superstars. I’d say obviously people would say the Apostle Paul. The Lord God said, “You’re going to do this whether you like it or not. I’m going to show you how much you have to suffer.”
Karen: John the Baptist, I think is interesting because, well, he was a cousin of Christ. I always wonder how much of Jesus’ supernatural qualities displayed themselves in his childhood.
David: You don’t know him. You’re not told. Let’s hold on John the Baptist for a little while. I want to come back to him. If you don’t mind, Peter- superstar, Mother Mary.
Karen: Oh, Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think that’s a good thing because that’s an extraordinary role for her. So much of scripture written by men is about men leaders. And so, they have this woman who is this exemplar of faith, of belief, who then becomes Christ’s mother and raises him, knowing that this child is unusual. I think we don’t always, in Protestantism, revere her, give her as much as what happens in Catholicism. But she’s definitely a marker.
David: Followers of Christ do well to recognize that there are unique individuals who have made incredible contributions to the cause of Christ and the good of the world, but they are rare. And so, as you begin to get involved in the religious world, maybe you’re a relatively new convert. I just want to be a superstar in that world.
Karen: But you and I are at that stage in our lives when we’ve had all the activism in our days when we were serving God during those years. And now we’re saying, “Okay, we’re in good health. We love one another. We’ve achieved a marriage that’s a real team in ministry. What is it the Lord wants us to do with these later years of our lives”? You’re 86, I’m 80. What’s the best way He wants us to serve the kingdom? I have one lady who said to me, “You know, there was a time when everyone in evangelicalism knew who you were.” And then she said, “but now no one knows. Twenty years later now, no one knows who you are.” And frankly, my inner response to that was, “Oh, thank God”, because being in those positions is fraught with temptation. And we’re now able to sort of design ministries where our names are not attached to it. It’s kind of behind the scenes. It’s quiet. Serving this younger generation of leaders in a very small way and that I think is what God has called us to do.
David: Although there’s a temptation with this time of life is to say “You know we really are not appreciated for who we are, what we have done. Just a little applause every so often.
Karen: Or the reverse temptation is “What have I done? The ways I’ve served God, no one knows about them, no one cares.” I mean that’s another temptation of this age.
David: Yeah. Treat with caution the insidious temptation to be a spiritual superstar. Okay I’m going to say it again and I use that word insidious. Insidious means more dangerous than seems apparent that doesn’t look like it would be a problem but that’s a real sinkhole. Be careful of that. Treat with caution the insidious temptation to be a spiritual superstar. It’ll suck you in and you come to the NASA. I don’t think that really there is acclaim and people have no idea the sacrifices I made in my life and I’ll die and nobody even knows.
Karen: No one cares.
David: And no one will care. That’s an age problem. We want to avoid that. So anyway, I would go back, Karen, to that individual you name from the scripture and say he has something to tell us today. That was John the Baptist. Was John the baptizer a superstar?
Karen: Oh yeah. Yeah, oh my goodness. Yes. I mean they had hundreds of people coming to him for baptism and asked what was that baptism for? It was for repentance.
David: Yeah. I want to be forgiven. No posters, no ads on the radio, or on television.
Karen: Word of mouth.
David: Nothing in the bag. People are coming and hollering at him, “Tell us what we could do” and he said “why don’t you know what you do? Come here and get baptized, repent.
David: And then all of a sudden, the one he’s the forerunner to and he understands this is his role.
Karen: Yeah, he does.
David: The one has to be there in the way of the Lord. Then they come in, the friends of John the Baptist come, and say you know “That guy you baptized you said that he was the one coming. He’s drawn bigger crowds than you’re getting now.” And what is John’s response to that?
Karen: It’s a perfect example of the way we need to be in a similar circumstance. He must increase and I must decrease. Isn’t that wonderful? Yeah, it’s absolutely, yeah.
David: And he believes that. And he lives it out and they take his life. But he must increase, I must decrease. There’s really only one superstar. It’s a little offensive to call Jesus a superstar, but at the same time, the world has never known anyone like this. Jesus is a superstar.
Karen: And that was picked up in Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s a musical. And I remember it came out when we were pastoring in the inner city. And so, we went to see it kind of skeptically, but we went because we had non-Christian folks who raved about it. We were deeply touched. What is beautiful about it is that it takes a well-worn narrative and puts it into another medium. It became fresh and about the same time, God’s spell, another musical about the life of Jesus came out. And so there were people who were touched deeply by this other presentation of who Christ was. So, it’s easy for us to look scant at these sorts of things, but it is again kind of, he must increase and we must decrease in a certain kind of way.
David: Well, it was a recognition by non-believers.
Karen: For the most part. I don’t know how many believers were part of that creation, but best as we know not really.
David: People who were given the credit for having created Jesus Christ’s Superstar. They were not followers of Jesus per se. But it had an impact and it captured an awareness. I would say that there’s never been a superstar like Jesus. And yet he didn’t take that name to himself as somebody else attributing that to him. But even on that day, he was amazingly loving and humble.
Karen: He gave himself for the people. It’s extraordinary. Really, when you follow his life.
David: Total difference from what people would say the most successful man of our time. That’s not who he was. Treat with caution the insidious temptation to be a spiritual superstar. Have you ever had that?
Karen: I think that any of us who are in any field. But let’s talk about ministry because that’s our field. It’s easy to compare yourself to the ones who are growing. Churches are well known. There’s always that temptation, but that is not the reason we do the work God has called us to do. So, you have to sort that out in your own life. At the time when you take it before the Lord and say, “Am I exercising the humility I should be exercising”? And the truth is, he’s very good at humbling us when we need humbling. And instead of complaining about that say “Thank you” to him for putting me in this situation where someone says, “no one knows you in evangelicalism anymore.” And yet being able to say, “Oh, that’s a good thing. You know, that’s okay. We’ve had our moment in the sun or under the lights, and that’s gone. That’s part of that life. But now we still have to serve God and what’s the best way we can do that.”
David: You know, I have a new calling, and it’s a gracious, gentle calling.
Karen: So how would you define that?
David: For myself, I would say that I’m finding great meaning, but also great joy in being able to have time to talk with the Lord, to pray for the people I love, to pray for a moving of the Holy Spirit. And I’m out of the world of activism. I’m out of that. How do we publicize this?
Karen: And I think that there is extraordinary power in prayer. We’re talking hours of prayer here. I keep a prayer journal and I go to it every day, but this is really your ministry now.
David: Yes, I would say I have a calling to a ministry of prayer.
Karen: And we were some of our adult grandchildren, and it suddenly hit me that all of our adult grandchildren, and there are nine of them, are really walking with the Lord. This is very unusual for that age set, Dave. And all I can do is, I’m not giving you the attribution, but I’m saying that it was those hours of prayer, praying for each grandchild by name almost every day that has protected them from the evil one, giving them the desire to follow God and their in churches. We visited this grandson and his wife in California in the church. They’re going to is vibrant. It’s growing. And it was beautiful to be among those people and to know that this is the place where our kids are centering their spiritual lives. So we’re seeing that with those grandchildren. I think prayer has been the thing that has really held them before the Lord.
David: I think that in all my ministry, I’ve had people who have prayed for me.
Karen: Oh, that’s true.
David: And now I have a lot of these names. People I can pray for. It’s a reversal. Very satisfying. Are you happy in terms of your place in life at this time?
Karen: Yeah, I’m very content. I want to finish well. We know we have an undetermined amount of days left here on this earth. I have some writing projects that I need to pull in now and finish up and leave them however for posterity, whatever that is. So, I’m content with that. I don’t need anything more than this. I’m glad I’m not traveling all over the country speaking. That’s for younger people. Obviously, it’s a physical exertion and I’m not known in evangelicalism. That’s okay with me, too. I’m happy to be a servant of God and I think that David, you and I, you know, we’ve been married for almost 61 years now. That in itself is just an extraordinary gift without one of us becoming feeble. So many of our friends are dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia or some other thing in their lives. But the Lord has spared us. So, He’s spared us for a reason and we want to make sure that we fulfill that reason with this last part of our life. And yours is definitely partly that ministry of concentrated effective fervent prayer. I’m convinced of it.
David: Yeah, that’s been good. Yeah. Okay. No desire to see your name on the side of buses or anything.
Karen: Please, Lord, no.
David: Maybe on a school bus even.
Karen: No. Okay.
David: The Lord is good.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address: email@example.com. That’s all lower-case letters: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2023 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
Get your Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy here https://kingdomtales.com/
November 08, 2023
November 01, 2023
October 25, 2023