As many of you readers have probably already realized, I am kind of a strange person. Let me tell you, growing up I wasn’t completely normal either. Most children, when they are in upper elementary school/middle school have heroes, but they tend to be of either the sports figure or comic book variety. You know Mark McGuire, Troy Aikmen, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc. Me, no I was different. When I was between the ages of 10-13 my hero was an ordinary guy in a television series, an ordinary guy who happened to have one special gift (or curse as I he sometimes saw it): he received the next days edition of the Chicago Sun Times each day, or as he himself would say “I get tomorrow’s newspaper, today!” Some of you may have figured out by now that the man I am referring to is Gary Hobson, and the television series his character was featured in was “Early Edition.”
Gary is a normal guy. In the first season he works as a stockbroker but for several reasons, including the sudden gift of receiving the next day’s news he quits that job. Eventually he ends up buying a local bar and restaurant known as McGinty’s which he lives above in a one room apartment. However, despite being a normal guy, he uses this ‘gift’ to rescue people, and prevent tragedies from occurring each and every day. He touches many lives, even if it is just for a fleeting moment.
Throughout the shows much too short four season run, Gary also researches and learns as much as possible about where the paper comes from. While he never quite gets an answer, several friends of his have often speculated that it is from God. Though he never finds out where it comes from, he does learn that there was a man who received it prior to him, and that man’s name was Lucius Snow. Lucius worked as a typesetter for the Chicago Sun Times, and spent his days saving people in Chicago prior to Gary.
One particular episode that had a lasting impact on me took place during the third season, about six weeks before I turned 12 years of age. This episode was entitled “Fate” and it packed quite a lot of power, and Christian message! In this episode Gary deals for the first time with failing to save a man who was trapped on the roof of a burning building. Gary tried his best, but the man ended up falling to his death as he tried to cross a ladder that Gary has used as a makeshift bridge to climb across to a neighboring apartment building.
Gary blames himself for not saving this man’s life. His friend Marissa tries to tell him that this wasn’t his fault, that he can’t change fate. He responds by asking why he gets the paper then if he can’t change fate? Fate has always been an interesting concept to me, because in all reality it points to both the existence of God, and the existence of Satan. God created this world and everything in it (Genesis 1, Mark 13:19) but John tells us in 1 John 5: 19b that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Therefore, all the terrible things that happen in this world (like the death of the man Gary was trying to save) happen because we live in a sinful world that is under Satan’s control, they are not God’s fault. Therefore fate is in a sense is never chance, but determined by either God or Satan.
This is why John tells us earlier in that chapter “everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5: 4-5 NLT). By having faith in Jesus, we will have victory over all the pain and suffering that occurs to us in this world someday in heaven. Paul also teaches us that we are ultimately all citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and not of this world anymore, through our faith in Jesus.
Overcoming the evil within the world is not really what Gary faces in this episode. The evil he overcomes is his own feeling of inadequacy towards saving people after the tragic loss. Two days after Gary reads in the paper that he himself is going to die by falling through the floor of an abandoned store. He can find no reason in the paper why he goes inside this storefront, and he begins to wonder if in fact his fate is now to die because he ‘allowed’ someone to die. As it turns out, Gary goes to the storefront, and as it turns out, he sees two young high school aged kids sneak inside the boarded up storefront. He initially turns away, fighting the urge to go inside, but he realizes that if he doesn’t they will be hurt or die, so he goes in and tells them to leave. As he is leaving himself though, just as the paper had prophesied he falls through the stairway and is knocked unconscious!
As he is lying there beneath the rubble, he has vision, or dream where Lucius Snow appears to him and tells Gary that he understands what it feels like to lose someone he was trying to save. It is then, as Gary begins to let the tears come over the loss, that Lucius utters a phrase that I have never forgotten, he tells Gary to “count the living” and not the one’s that he hasn’t been able to help. It is then that we see a series of flashbacks from previous episodes showing people Gary had saved or helped throughout the series up until that point.
I distinctly remember at this point, at my young age, God speaking to me! He was telling me that in my life, I would need to remember this. See my heart has always been filled with desire for both evangelism for the lost, and discipleship for my fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Both of these areas can often become very painful, if I feel I am failing to share God’s love with someone who is not a Believer, or unable to guide someone who is struggling in their walk with the Lord, I often feel like I am not witnessing enough, or successfully encouraging someone enough! However, I don’t believe God wants me (and all of us who are Christians) to dwell on the people who are unresponsive to the Gospel or we are unable to give Godly council to. Instead He wants us to remember and realize that there are people we have helped, and to take heart, because we have been used by Him to plant the seeds of the Gospel in people’s hearts. Therefore we should keep witnessing and encouraging, because He does use us, just not in every situation! I truly believe God was telling me this through Lucius’ simple statement. The statement to Gary meant that he needed to realize that there will be times in his life, where people he is trying to save still die, but he needs to remember the lives of those he has saved! However, God was telling me that in my own life, there would be times where I would need to try my best, but not feel like a failure when I couldn’t help someone out. I would however, be fortunate enough to also bless people’s lives with my own life, and that is what I would need to focus on!
In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he has planned for us long ago.” Think about that, God views us as his masterpiece! Through Christ we are made new, and God has good things planned for us to do! From this verse, I gather that we aren’t supposed to dwell on our failures or past mistakes. It also is important to remember that God’s plans are not always our plans. We may not be the person God intends to use to ultimately lead a person to Christ. We also may not be the right person to help a brother in need, but someone else may be perfect for the job!
Therefore, we should always keep our eyes open for people who need a friend, or someone to talk to, and be prepared to explain our Christian hope if we are asked (1 Peter 3:15b). Ultimately, it isn’t that we have failed when someone doesn’t respond to what we say, it is simply that Holy Spirit isn’t working within that persons heart at the moment, however we don’t know when we God is going to work through us, which is why Peter tells us to always be ready!
As Gary’s dream is ending with Lucius, Lucius tells him that ultimately he can still choose whether he wants to continue helping people or not, and Gary then wakes up and yells for the rescue crews outside that he is alive, and they pull him out of the rubble! In some ways God gives us a choice to, we can either hold back and not be a light in a dark world, or we can let our light shine before people (Matthew 5:16) so they may drawn to us and want to know where our joy comes from. I have chosen to be a light in my generation, and I encourage you all to do this same. It won’t always be fun, in fact like Pastor and writer Mark Driscoll has said being a Christian often makes your life harder, but it is worth it, because one day we will be with Jesus in heaven! It should be our goal as believers to share about the Redemption we have experienced, so that many others will join us one day in Paradise!