Sunday, January 12

Have you ever thought that there must be more to life?  Maybe you’ve been searching for solutions through work, fitness or recreational activities, but never seem to find fulfilment or lasting satisfaction.  If so, you are certainly not alone.  Or maybe you know someone else who is looking for answers. The good news is that while we may not learn all of the mysteries of the universe during this lifetime, many of the secrets to happiness and fulfilment have been revealed and are waiting to be discovered by those who seek them.

The bible is a collection of ancient texts which reveal the prophecy of God, fulfilled in his son, Jesus, who lived as a man so that these secrets might be revealed to all who would hear them.  Often, Jesus used parables, or stories, to help listeners understand, but not everyone took his words to heart.

One witness recorded the words spoken by Jesus explaining this:  “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”  (Matthew 13:15) We can travel through life on an unfulfilling journey unless we open our hearts to this truth that has already been revealed.

Let me introduce you to a modern day “parable” in hopes of providing both a cautionary tale and encouragement to you.  “Once I Was A Champion” is a short film, which chronicles the life of Evan Tanner.  He is probably best known for holding the Middleweight Ultimate Fighting Champion title in 2005.  The second-most widely known thing about Evan Tanner is that he died of thirst in the California desert in September 2008.  The short description of the film on Amazon describes Evan this way: “Writer, philosopher, alcoholic, and MMA fighter, Evan Tanner died mysteriously in the desert of Clapp Springs, California.  He was searching for treasure, but not of the material kind”.

While you may or may not be a fan of mixed martial arts fighting, what is more important about Evan’s story is what happened outside the ring.  Evan was a fighter because it paid the bills, but everyone who knew him described him as a kind-hearted, loving, humble man.  He disliked hurting people and believed that we are all inter-related and wanted to find a way to better serve his fellow man.  After winning his title he started a foundation in an attempt to assist “at risk” young men and help them to create better lives for themselves.  Evan created a slogan, “Believe in the Power of One”.  He encouraged his friends and fans to believe in the power of one person’s ability to make the world a better place.  He was burdened by the state of humanity, and this burden was both the driving force that gave him strength and made him weak.

Evan’s weakness manifested in alcoholism, depression and isolation.  Despite his unbelievable external strength, which brought him success in professional fighting, he often pulled away from friends and support and tried to find solace in his isolation.  On one particular day in September of 2008, Evan drove his motorcycle on a journey into the desert. His friends knew he was going and cautioned him against it due to the dangerous conditions.  During his trip, he encountered some unexpected obstacles when his motorcycle broke down.  He kept sporadic communications going with his phone, alerting friends to his fragile state and assuring them that he would be fine, although all of his provisions were far away, back at camp.  Evan had many such periods of deep isolation and had always somehow emerged from them and battled back.  But this time, he didn’t make it through the night and died out in the desert. Evan was a self-proclaimed seeker of truth, but he literally died thirsting for it.

What we know for sure is that Evan Tanner loved his fellow man.  He wanted the best for everyone.  Even at the height of his victories in the Ultimate Fighting ring, he crouched beside his fallen adversaries, helped them up and wanted to be sure they were going to be ok.  But he was good at keeping his friends at arm’s length rather than accepting help or guidance for himself, and in the end, succeeded in preventing them from coming to his aide.

Are you thirsty for truth, or do you know someone who may be?  Psalm 63:1 describes that kind of thirst:  “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”  We are literally hopeless without Him.

God created us for relationships.  He calls himself our Father and offers us the opportunity to become his children, sharing in the birthright to a grand inheritance.  Just like Evan Tanner inherently knew, God tells us we are all part of one body.  1Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  Is it time for you to play your part and respond to the call, and to share the message of hope and truth in your relationships?

We can’t know where Evan Tanner stood with the God of the universe, but we can know for sure where we stand and share this message of truth with those we love.  God never promised us we would not have trouble, but He has revealed the secret to overcoming the problems of this world:

John 16:33   In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

1John 5:5  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jeremiah 29: 10-12:  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God has revealed the secrets of hope and fulfilment through Jesus.  I hope you take this modern day “parable” to heart and are encouraged to drink in His truth and share it with a thirsty world.

photo Tom

Tom Loftus is a believer, husband, father, runner, writer and insurance professional working in Dunwoody, GA.  He lives in Alpharetta, GA with his amazing wife, Elaine and two awesome children, Kevin and Taylor.  Read more at tomloftus.blogspot.com or follow @tomwloftus on Twitter.