"Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that." From the film, Casablanca, 1942
Have you ever wondered if you, or your problems, really matter; that you, or they, don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world? It's a sad statement, but there are many who are asking this very question. I can't speak for anyone else, but I have been there, and sadly I have had friends who, instead of giving it up to Jesus, have taken matters into their own hands thinking the world would be better off without them. It is never true.
There is another old movie that, I believe, illustrates this point extremely well - it's one of my favourites. If you have not seen it, I commend it to you; it’s called, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Here's a summary of the story:
George Bailey has spent his entire life giving of himself to the people of Bedford Falls. While he has always longed to travel but has never done so; not because he couldn't, but rather because he felt compelled to stay and work to prevent the story's "villain", rich Mr. Potter, from taking over the entire town. His last remaining conquest is the modest "Bailey Building and Loan Company" founded by George's father. On Christmas Eve, George's Uncle Billy loses the day's receipts while en route to deposit it in the bank; Mr. Potter finds the misplaced money and hides it. When the bank examiner discovers the shortage later that night, George realizes that he will be held responsible and sent to jail for embezzlement. Consequently his company will collapse, finally allowing Potter to take over the town.
Thinking of his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. But the prayers of his loved ones result in a gentle angel named Clarence coming to earth to help George. Clarence shows George what things would have been like had he never been born. In a nightmarish vision in which the Potter-controlled town has sunk into sex and sin and where those whom George loves are either dead, ruined, or miserable, he realizes that he has touched many people in a positive way and that his life has truly been a wonderful one.
But these illustrations are from Hollywood; how about something a little more concrete? Then let's look to the Bible and the Gospel of Matthew.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" Mathew 6: 25-27
Jesus tells us we are valued by God the Father. With that truth to hold us up, why should we worry about what other people think? But worry we do. Some might say that it's our lack of faith that causes these thoughts, I'd like to think it's because we're human - frail and vulnerable - trying to please both God and man.
In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that we cannot serve both God and money. In the same vein, I suggest it can only bring frustration and disappointment when we try to please both God and man. God's standards are clear and unchanging; man's are not - it's tough to hit a moving target. Which is more important?
Do we live in fear of what others think; as those who in John 12: 42-43 did, "...because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith...for the loved human praise more than praise from God"? Or do we strive to fulfil our ordained purpose?
If we read Isaiah 43, and in particular verse 7, we should have no doubt that we have been created for God's glory. From this we should see that our ordained purpose is to glorify God. We fulfil this purpose by striving to live in relationship and humble service to Him. The better we know God, the more we will love Him; the more we love Him, the better we understand our purpose - we were created for God's glory.
Do you, or your problems, really matter? To Jesus they certainly do - and that’s all that matters!
"Live for Jesus; learn to live with man."