One of the most popular series in television history ends
The urgency of personal excellence
The privilege of partnership with God
Game of Thrones ended Sunday night after eight seasons. It was broadcast in 207 countries and territories and was one of the most popular series on television.
Because of its pornographic sexual content and extreme violence, I did not watch the show. But I believe culture-changing Christians can learn something important from it.
Two months of testing for a wig
Game of Thrones filmed in ten countries. The series used 12,986 extras and two thousand crew members in Northern Ireland alone. It included three thousand pyrotechnic effects, fifty miles of fabric for costumes, and more than twenty-four thousand pounds of silicone for prosthetics. Wigs for one of the lead characters required two months of testing and seven prototypes.
Over its first seven seasons, the series received 174 award nominations and won sixty-three times.
The series is just one example of the fact that our culture’s moral compass is broken. A generation ago, a movie as violent and pornographic as Game of Thrones would have been X-rated.
But while Christians should reject the show’s immoral worldview, we should ask ourselves: If such a television series can be produced with professional excellence, how much more does our Father deserve excellence from us?
The other side of the equation
Yesterday, we focused on the urgency of reliance on God. Jesus taught us that if we would be truly blessed and used by our Lord, we must be “poor in spirit,” utterly dependent on our Father (Matthew 5:3). The Lord of the universe can do so much more with us than we can do for him.
Today, let’s consider the other side of the equation.
No one in Christian history was more Spirit-led and Spirit-dependent than the Apostle Paul. He said of himself, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). He followed God’s leading into regions he did not intend to visit (cf. Acts 16:6–10). He testified, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
At the same time, no one in Christian history was more passionately committed to personal excellence than the Apostle Paul.
A passion for personal excellence
He encouraged excellence in our thoughts: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
He encouraged excellence in our words: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
He encouraged excellence in our actions: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7); “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).
He set the example in personal sacrifice (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23–27) and his commitment to scholarship: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13).
In short, Paul was completely dependent on God and yet completely committed to personal excellence. How does this balance work?
As I work, God works.
For many years, I struggled to answer this question.
I heard the phrase “Let go and let God” and took it to mean that I was to be dependent on God for everything I thought, said, and did. And yet I knew that God holds us accountable for our use of the spiritual gifts and resources he entrusts to us (cf. Romans 12:6–8; Matthew 25:14–30).
Then I read Fisher Humphreys’s excellent systematic theology, Thinking About God. Here is the paragraph that helped me: “I agree that we are dependent upon God. However, I do not think that we must cease striving in order to be dependent upon God. . . . It is possible to depend and to strive at the same time. In fact, that is the ideal, as one of the old gospel songs said:
Trust and obey, For there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus But to trust and obey.”
In other words, as I work, God works.
The divine-human partnership
I am passionately convinced that we should begin every day by surrendering that day to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We should seek God’s leadership before making our decisions. We should ask for his strength as we face our temptations and challenges. We should depend on him to do what we cannot do: to convict people of sin, save souls, and change lives.
But there is a divine-human partnership to living as the people of God. Noah built the ark, then God sent the flood. Moses confronted Pharaoh, then God sent the plagues. Joshua led the people into the flooded Jordan river, then God stopped the flood.
David confronted Goliath; Daniel prayed in the lions’ den; Peter preached at Pentecost; Paul praised God in the Philippian jail; John worshiped on Patmos. As they worked, God worked.
250,000 miles on horseback
The God who loves us and saved us deserves our very best.
John Wesley believed that “God does nothing but in answer to prayer,” but he also rode over 250,000 miles on horseback and preached over forty thousand sermons. Martin Luther prayed for three hours a day, but he also translated the entire Bible into German and wrote books that sparked the Reformation.
William Carey began each day with God in prayer, Scripture, and worship. He also translated the Bible into forty-four languages and dialects and helped launch the modern missions movement.
Carey’s most famous sermon is God’s call to us today: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
Will you do both today?
NOTE: Is the end near? Or does America still have time?
From sexuality to abortion and suicide, from postmodernity to relative truth to our doubts about God—every major issue America faces today is no surprise to God.
In fact, what if God is using these issues to help us turn back to him? And what if he wants to use you to launch America’s next Great Awakening? That’s one reason my son Ryan and I wrote our newest book, How Does God See America?