Episode 1. Superstar Syndrome
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The world is full of superstars – sports stars, soapy stars, rock stars. Nothing wrong with that, but what happens when superstar syndrome starts messing with our own self esteem. Join Berni …
The world is full of superstars – sports stars, soapy stars, rock stars and these days, even social media influencers, with hundreds of thousands, even millions of followers. Now in many instances, there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but what happens when superstar syndrome starts messing with our own self esteem?
We live in an era of superstars – men and women who have been pumped up by the media until they are larger than life. Whether sports stars or singers turned lingerie designers, or business gurus, or personal development magi, they command unfathomable salaries for minimal output. They go from person to phenomenon, from soapy star to superstar. Their faces are instantly recognised, people flock to get a glimpse of them.
But the superstar coin has two sides to it. The side that we like to look at is the shiny side, the one that speaks of celebrating success. But the other side is, well, kind of dull, you have to rub it to read the writing, but it says something like, if they are a success, you’re not. They’ve made it, you never will. But we don’t like to look at that side too much, so we flick it up in the air with our thumb and hope that it comes up heads.
Well, in a sense there is nothing wrong with superstars, there is nothing wrong with admiring people. There are some sports stars and entertainment stars and contemporary philosophers, and commentators and you know, we look at people and we think, gee, I really like that person. I love the actors, and the writers and the directors on the television show The West Wing. I think that is clever and I love it.
There are some cricketers – I am a great cricket fan. I don’t know whether you like cricket, know what cricket is, hate cricket. There are just a few cricket players that I look at and think they are really, really good guys. And there’s the odd politician and it’s okay to admire, to respect, to enjoy their achievements.
People like that can have a good and a positive impact on our lives. They can be good role models, they can teach us things, they entertain us, they lead us and most of them come from humble roots. All of them were unknowns once. And somehow they have been good at what they do and they’ve made it.
Who are the people that you admire? The names, the faces, the achievements? That’s good, its right that we should look up to certain people as role models. But here’s how it starts to go off the rails. Fame these days equals fortune. Recognition equals the opportunity to make big, big bucks. That’s why soapy stars become singers, become lingerie brands. That’s why generals who fought in the Gulf War, travel the world speaking at conferences, where people pay thousands for a seat to listen just for two hours.
People – when they become famous, become a commercial commodity. They become a commodity that can make money. And so, the media pumps them up and they become larger than life. Larger than you and me and something inside us secretly aspires to being like that. Because we live in a world that suffers from “celebrity syndrome”, from “superstar syndrome”, something inside a lot of people says, ‘I want to be like that too’. But for 99.99% of us we can never achieve that.
It’s not just in rich and affluent cultures. It’s true in Africa, it’s true in very poor parts of Asia, it’s true in poor black communities in America. They elevate a black sporting star and they pay that person megabucks, to sell shoes and sporting clothes into the black ghettos with a message that says, ‘Well, you can get out of the ghetto too. You can be like this sporting star too’. As though a pair of runners can do that for you. You see the cycle?
So back to your and me. It may get us to buy whatever they are selling, and they are always selling something. But what’s the message it sends to you and me about what we’re worth? Well, let’s go back to that superstar coin; look at the other side for a minute. Look at all the people you admire in the media, in sport, on television, in the movies and so on.
Now put yourself up next to them. How do you stack up? How valued do you feel? How successful are you? I mean, in your own eyes, what’s the image that you carry around of yourself in your heart?
That can be a scary thing to answer. Because when we suffer from ’superstar syndrome’ we look at those superstars with more than admiration. We look at them as something we aspire to but we know deep in our hearts we can never achieve. And all of a sudden our sense of worth becomes messed up.
It may sell sporting shoes and t-shirts but it’s easy to see where low self-esteem comes from. And so when it comes to God, whoever God is to you, it’s easy for us to impose that whole superstar syndrome thing on Him. We imagine somehow that He would show up for the superstars – the big people, the people with value and importance, the people who can wave their arms and command crowds of tens of thousands. The people who are BIG, even if they’re big in Christian terms.
Now there are some big Christian artists, performers, preachers, media personalities. We think, well, God would definitely show up for them. But me? You flip over onto the other side of that coin and you look at the darker side, you give it a rub with your thumb, you really think about what you’re worth, one of the little people.
Surely God wouldn’t show up for me? Surely God wouldn’t show up for you? It’s sad but it’s true. Many people have this unspoken belief in their hearts, that that’s how God behaves. That God shows up for only the superstars.
Over these next couple of weeks on A Different Perspective, we are going to be doing a little mini-series of programs called ‘Little people used by a big God’. And this week, in particular, over the next four days, I’m going to share with you some of the people in my life. If I shared all of them it would take me months. Some of those little people who actually, for me, are superstars. Some of the little people that I have met along the way, who’s face you will never see on a television screen, whose name you will never hear anywhere, who have had such an impact in my life.
Now I could preach to you about this stuff, but I don’t want to do that. I would just like to share some real life stories about some so called little people. My prayer is that you will discover that God shows up for little people – especially for little people.
And the ultimate little person for me is a baby that was born in a stable, a baby who was the Son of God. The only baby in history that could choose where and how He would be born. And God chooses for His Son to be born into a humble carpenter’s family in a place called Nazareth, which is the pits as far as first century Jews were concerned.
God chose humble circumstances for His Son. I think God has something to say through that. I think God is telling us that He is a God for little people. Not just for little people too, but especially for little people. And my prayer is over this next week or so, if you can join us over that time, that God will do some work in your heart and in my heart too – to speak to us about His heart for little people. God is not a God that shows up for superstars alone.
I’m sure there are some superstars on this planet who believe in Jesus Christ and God shows up for them. But He doesn’t have favourites. God doesn’t show up for someone because they are a good singer. God doesn’t show up for someone because the world sees them as being important, or they can run quickly or they can play sport well or anything like that. God doesn’t show up for someone because of the salary they get paid, because of the brand they wear on their chest, because of how they play sport. That’s not now God’s economy works.
Over the next few days, I’m going to share with you some of the superstars in my life, who have made a difference that I’ll carry on into eternity.