If you want the right answer to a question, you ask someone who is an authority on the subject. I know that I have various friends who are really knowledgeable about some topics and I would most definitely turn to them if I was unsure what the answer was. This is what contestants are able to do when playing ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’. The help of a friend might allow them to win a big cash prize so it’s well worth seeking out.
When it comes to the life of faith, Jesus is THE authority on it. He taught with authority, he acted with authority and he can help us in the perplexities of life if we just phone him by praying.
At the 2pm SLT service on Tuesday the readings were Psalm 27:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11, Luke 4:31-37. The reflection follows:
I’m not a person who watches television much but I have on occasion seen the programme ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ For those who are not familiar with the rules, a contestant is asked to answer multiple choice questions that become increasingly difficult. In Britain the first question earns the contestant £500, the next £1000, then £2000, £5000, £10,000 and so on, roughly doubling until the 12th correct answer which earns £1 million. A contestant can stop answering at any time and take the money that has been won. If he or she answers a question incorrectly they are out of the game and lose most of the money they have won, except the £1,000 and £50,000 prizes are guaranteed.
With the chance of losing money already gained it’s obvious that the contestants want to be as sure as possible of their answers. They have three ‘lives’ which give them help if they need it. The first is to ‘Ask the audience’. The audience can vote on which answer they would choose and the percentages are displayed. The contestant is free to accept their advice or not, but it has been proved that the answer from the audience is accurate for much of the time. The second option a contestant can have is to ‘Go 50-50’. Two of the four possible answers will be removed, leaving the contestant to choose one or the other. The third option is to ‘Phone a friend’. Several friends are lined up to be by the phone. Depending on the question, the contestant will choose which one to ask. It makes sense to phone the one who is as knowledgeable as possible on the particular topic; even better if that person is an authority on the matter. Of course sometimes the friend is just as stuck as the contestant if the subject is something they don’t know well. In that case the contestant is pretty much on their own and may not feel like risking an answer at all. As you can imagine, this all makes for good, nail biting stuff.
I suppose it would be rather nice to have Jesus as one of the friends on the end of a phone line waiting to help us choose the right answer in a ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ game. He would certainly get every question right. The people he met recognised that Jesus knew what he was talking about when he taught them. Their religious teachers didn’t speak on their own authority but quoted other teachers when they taught. Jesus on the other hand spoke with his own authority without quoting the teaching of others. He is, after all, THE authority on spiritual matters and how to live in the right way. If he says something it is worth taking notice of and if there were 12 questions in a ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ game which concentrated on the Christian faith, you can be sure that listening to Jesus would win you the £1 million.
Not only did Jesus teach with authority, his actions carried authority. It’s interesting to note that the demons recognised it before people quite often. Being spiritual beings, they would be able to detect the Holy Spirit in Jesus. They knew that he could command them and there was nothing they could do. The best they seem to have managed is a shout before being driven out, stripped of their power to control human lives. As the letter of James tells us, the demons believe very much in a powerful God. In the New Living Translation James 2:19 says: ‘Are there still some among you who hold that “only believing” is enough? Believing in one God? Well, remember that the demons believe this too – so strongly that they tremble in terror!’
What James is saying is that it’s not enough to believe. I know that for many people, getting to the point of actually believing in God is a huge achievement. They may have questioned and worried and changed their minds many times until that leap of faith is made. I do not want to belittle that journey in any way. It is a momentous one and one that can be very difficult. Once having come to faith though, it’s important to actually do the right things.
I don’t know about you, but even though I have had a strong faith for most of my life, I don’t always listen to Jesus. I know he’s the authority on matters of faith, I know he speaks good sense, but there is still part of me that thinks I can ignore Jesus’ answers to the 12 or more increasingly difficult questions of life, and make my own choices. If Jesus says Answer A, I am likely to decide on Answer C. I might even decide to ask the audience (i.e. my friends) rather than listening to Jesus. Ignoring the expert is certainly no way to win in the game of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ or in the game of life.
At the moment I am faced with some quite difficult decisions to make as a result of not being recommended to train as a priest. I suppose my way forward has Answers A, B, C and D. Some of my friends are suggesting things I should do, their favoured answers. No one has offered to halve the number of possibilities, though some routes look more likely than others. What I need to do is phone a friend, Jesus, and get his authoritative answer to the question. I’m doing my best to do that by prayer, and I am waiting to see what he will say. I don’t know how he will answer – it certainly won’t be by phone – but he will find a way. He may even get one of you to bring me the answer.
If you are struggling to know what to do, I hope you find time to phone your friend Jesus too. If you find it hard to pray alone, do remember that we have people here who will pray with you and for you. You can always post a prayer request in the box and you can light a candle as an expression of prayer.
Jesus’ authority allowed him to teach brilliantly; to drive out demons; to still the storm; to answer his opponents; to raise the dead. His is an authority on life and can help each of us too to find the answers to our Whys, Whats, Hows, Wheres, Whens and Whos in life.
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor