Encouragement Goes a Long Way

I like this new fall line-up of TV shows, well, not the entire line-up. Why are there so many shows about revenge and sex? I guess producers know what kinds of shows will make money and which ones won’t.

One show that’s caught my eye is THE X FACTOR. Sure, it’s another spin-off of reality talent shows, and it’s a little bit unsettling that Simon Cowell wants to make MORE money… but there’s something remarkably encouraging about the opening night of THE X FACTOR that reminds me of God’s voice for us. (don’t get me wrong, I am NOT giving Simon’s voice equal value to God’s voice, but the metaphor just might work here.)

Last night a 28 year old kid, Chris Rene, came out on stage donning a fedora, white t-shirt, baggy jeans and forearm tats and quite the charming smile. He reminded me of the 100’s of high school kids I’ve had the pleasure of pastoring on and off for the past 20+ years of ministry. You know that kid, the one that’s trying to act the part, trying to fit in to the right circles for attention’s sake, trying to say all the right things and be sort of “churchy” if that’s what he thinks the youth pastor wants him to do. But underneath it all, he’s using. He’s living a double-life. Clean and shiny on the outside (for others) and a little used up and ‘tired’ on the inside (where it counts).

Chris’ story on THE X FACTOR is compelling. Watch it here.

He admits to smoking a little weed at 12 years old. Then at 15 he turned to drinking, then to cocaine and meth amphetamines . He admits that it ruined his life, but get this… he says, “I have this disease called addiction, the shame and the guilt just got to me, just totally broke me, but there’s a chance, and there’s always a choice. Life is too precious to waste.” I think he’s spot on. He admitted what 90% of people don’t admit, 1. addiction is a disease and 2. we have a second chance and make choices.

He wowed the judges already and he hadn’t even begun to sing yet. I wiped a tear and kept listening for the other shoe to hit the floor. I said to myself, “This dude is just like 30 high school kids I’ve known throughout the years who’ve finally come to realize that they can’t control their addiction, but they are dying as they try to cover it up.” I wish that more people would realize our weaknesses and turn to Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of our faith and will sustain us when we are weak.

L.A. Reid asked Chris, after he said he’d been through rehab, “How long have you been sober?” He openly admitted, “70 days.” The crowd erupted with support… 70 days? that’s it, but the crowd and the judges loved it. And then he began to sing.

Chris blew the house down. He freestyle rapped some hip hop, and sang a light melody about being 2 months without a drink and he can see clearly now. He took the judges by storm. L.A. Reid was so into the music that he was making a face and swaying, which would look kind of embarrassing when he replays it. Nicole and Paula fell in love with Chris’ smooth swagger. Simon was stoic, but he smiled. He was watching the inner depth of the heart in Chris’ voice, his tone, his words, his style. He was admiring a star.

Later, after the song ended, the round of applause died down and Chris wiped tears from his eyes, the judges began to encourage. L.A. Reid said, “His boys (Kanye and JayZ) would be so proud of him saying he’s got skillz in hip hop.” Nicole said something about Chris having the X Factor. Paula just gushed, but Simon got to me… he knows how to encourage when he sees talent.

Simon, took his time and said, “One of my favorite feelings is to sit here in this judges seat and be the first to recognize a star.” When he said that Chris welled up with tears on stage. I did too. Why?

I tend to get emotionally touched when God uses the gift of encouragement, whether in a movie scene, a song, a sermon, a good book, a comment from my kids’ teacher on a report card… because the Spirit of God moves in and around encouragement.

This is what I saw on THE X FACTOR last night.

A youth group kid comes out on stage for all the world to see and for all the peers to judge. Youth group kids go through difficult rituals trying to fit in and feel like they have an individual voice. “Why should anyone listen to me?” they say, because deep inside they think that their addiction to things, their using of substances and methods of measurement in this world, all the trying and failing that makes them so tired every day… teens think that they have to measure up to “everyone’s standards”, and they quickly forget (like most adults forget as well) that our worth and value is not measured by our performance… in the long run.

God (not Simon Cowell) sits in his judges chair and we stand alone on stage. We tremble at the thought of having to sing before the Almighty, just to receive His approval. We are tattered and worn, we have a scuffed fedora, shabby white t-shirt on, baggy pants and smeared tattoos and scars of the world on our arms and the judge will ask us… “How long have you been clean and sober?” We stand terrified to tell the truth. What if he doesn’t approve? What if I don’t even get a chance to sing? We blurt out some number of days since our last attempt at trying to live a clean and holy life… silence falls.

Then, like a voice from off stage, the host of the show walks onto the stage and takes the mic and says, “excuse me.” It’s Jesus Christ himself. He puts an arm around our shoulders and says, “This one is clean and sober because I’ve made him/her that way through what I’ve done. My sacrifice on the cross has paid the debt and cancelled the punishment for sin… they are holy and righteous before you, Almighty Father, and they stand equal with me.” You sing your heart out to the Almighty Father and when you’re done, He’s got a smile on His face and a tear of joy in His eye. He leans into the mic and says, “My most favorite feeling, is when I get to sit in this chair as judge and discover a star. You my child are mine.”

I don’t watch this fall’s line-up of TV shows to look for the revenge, the murder or the sexual frustration that is so rampant in our world today… these are nothing but discouraging.

I look for the shows that encourage, build up and discover the stars in people. To all those youth group kids who are trying to live a double-life, or to all the adults who are doing the same… it’s not worth it. It only makes you tired. It’s pretty inspirational to see a guy like Chris Rene come out on national television and admit that he’s got a disease, but he’s sober and can sing like a star. Chris said that he haul’s trash for a living.

May this be a blessing to you, that the grace and peace of Jesus Christ invites you into a new life, no more hauling the trash of a double-life around. No more addiction to sin. Freedom to live the life God invites us to live… free from pain, free from guilt and shame. My prayer is that you recognize that “you are a star” and begin to see your life in Christ Jesus who walks with you and leads you to a full life of joy. Sing your heart out…

Published by Reid Olson

I was a pastor who still knows a personal connection with God and I like to share thoughts and insights to make God's Kingdom a little more tangibly, while sharing conversations on leadership insights. Now I'm a funeral director, still seeking to share about Jesus.

4 thoughts on “Encouragement Goes a Long Way

  1. what a great story. sometimes it is sad that these little nuggets are more available to us on tv between people who are all about image, and not as much within the church which is our main story. although, i am so encouraged by the gigantic strides the church is making in telling the redemptive story of Jesus Christ with both our words and our deeds.

    i just now hope i have the guts and those around me have the guts to celebrate being 70 days sober. we are in process and it is a shame when we only give god glory for healing us and forgiving us from things we did a decade ago.

    great post reid. you should become a senior pastor 🙂

  2. Very nicely said. I am pretty anti television for some of the reasons you listed and because of the amount of time I wasted when I was younger watching nothing for hours. But, you and your gift for finding God’s fingerprints in situations and people, have pulled out a gem. Thanks Pastor Reid.

  3. What an amazing story, and wonderful analogy!! I can’t wait to stand before the Judge one day, knowing that it won’t be my talent that is on the line! The blood of Jesus will get me in!!!! thanks so much Reido for sharing!!

  4. Ahh I watched and so applauded him. Just love your thoughts and how you tied this victory with our victory and freedom in Christ. Blessings to you.

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