Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in brokenness, Christ, faithfulness, forgiveness, God, pastors | Posted on 01-08-2012
Surely you know what it means to jump the shark. It came about during the fifth season of Happy Days, one of the most iconic shows ever, when Richie Cunningham and his family visited Los Angeles. Fonzie, the ultra-cool sidekick of the family was there and entered a side show to water-ski over a shark.
Ratings were apparently declining for the show, and they hoped Fonzie in his leather jacket, jumping over a shark, would help. It didn’t.
Jumping the shark has come to mean in our culture, a way to get the audience’s attention back on focus. It’s a way to make people realize that something is important again. Unfortunately, after the “shark jumping,” the people who do so typically go unnoticed and fade into oblivion afterwards.
For instance, there’s a huge internet debate on when your favorite TV show jumped the shark. Did “Friends” jump the shark when Rachel and Joey got together?
So, I started wondering, does God make His people jump the shark? Did “Lost” jump the shark after the first season? Did “Jersey Shore” jump the shark after the first episode?
But here’s the real question: Does God make His people jump the shark? Does He put them in impossible situations to see them succeed, to gain attention then only see their stars fade after that? Interesting question.
But that question would have to assume God is malevolent, with a Hollywood writer mentality, who wants to replace His people with the next set of fresh faces to carry about His missions, right? Wrong. The right statement is this: God places us in positions to do His work, His way, in His time and for His purposes.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)
Paul wasn’t waiting for success. He was waiting for God to work out what God had for His life. And He eventually did.
1 Kings 18 shows us an encounter between Elijah and the priests of Baal. It’s rather humorous in some parts. They dance around their altar, waiting for Baal to light it on fire. As these 850 priests dance around waiting for fire, Elijah who believes in the true God muses, “Maybe he’s asleep? Maybe he went to the bathroom?” (v. 27)
Finally, Elijah has his altar doused with bucket after bucket with water. Then he called out to God and this happened: And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
(1 Kings 18:36-38 ESV)
Then, afterwards, Elijah killed all the priests of Baal. A chapter later, we find Elijah on the run. God says, “Who are you running from?” He says, “Jezebel.” So, Elijah could stand boldly against the priests of a false God but couldn’t stand against one of the most feared women of all time? Did God place him in a “jump the shark moment?”
No, Elijah’s faith became weak when he took his eyes off God.
Want another one? I thought you might. How about the Apostle Peter? He stood by Christ at the crucifixion. He swore to go wherever Christ took him and to die like He did. But Christ told Peter he would deny him three times. And he did. Was Peter led into a “jump the shark moment” never to be heard of again? To see his apostolic status ruined? Nope. Peter had wavered in his faith.
In John 2o, Christ restored him. And in Acts 2, we see a powerful sermon from Peter, denouncing those who crucified Christ: Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
(Acts 2:36-40 ESV)
Peter was empowered again by the Spirit of God. He had not jumped the shark. He had renewed his faith and carried on.
Imagine Moses as He faced Pharaoh and led the Israelites across the Red Sea, only to sin in the wilderness. Or David, a man after God’s own heart who had led so well only to fall into adultery then eventually repent. Had they jumped the shark?
No, God would not have it. God watches after His leaders. He restores them. He calls them back to their positions. All of us sin and need His great grace after we fail miserably. In the eyes of the world, sure, we “jump the shark.” But in the eyes of God, He turns our failure into a message. A message about how great and incomparable He is.
I think today of pastors and church planters I talk to. Some say, “Well, I’m doing this whether it works or not. If only 200 people show up, I guess it’s going to be a failure.”
Really? Jeremiah went through his ministry with two converts at best. Maybe all of our evangelism and outreach is only to reach two or three people God measures success much differently than we do. When Christ was crucified, He only had a handful of followers. In fact, many times during His ministry, all He had were His disciples. Success is not measured by numbers, but by what God had planned for us when He gave us the idea for our venture. If we measure success by numbers, we are truly, “jumping the shark.”
He uses our brokenness to reach thousands. And that’s how it should be.
Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”