The success of the Superman franchise is testimony to the character’s enduring popularity. As versatile as he is powerful, the Man of Steel has flown from comic books to radio to movies highlighted by ever more sophisticated special effects. Among the character’s many incarnations, however, my personal favorite is the middle-aged guy with fake muscles who used to hang from painfully visible wires, good old George Reeves.
Not that any of the production’s shortcomings were apparent to me at age 9! I remember jumping off that big, yellow school bus, racing across the road, flying up onto the porch and into the living room. I’d snap on the TV and wait for the tube to warm up. If I’d gotten home in time, I’d soon hear . . .
“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”
“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”
It was always the same. Episode after episode, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, two of the only three reporters the Daily Planet could afford, rushed off in pursuit of a “scoop” only to be scooped up by the bad guys.
Did these two have the good sense to worry? Of course not! For, in the guise of Clark Kent, their mild-mannered colleague, Superman was always watching out for them. Lois and Jimmy knew they could depend on Superman.
He bursts through the brick wall. The adobe bounces and the dust flies and there he stands! Out come the villains’ guns. How I love George Reeves’ classically bored expression as the bullets bounce harmlessly off his chest!
“Oh, Superman!” gushes Lois. “You saved us again!”
With a wry grin, Reeves would reply, “That’s my job, isn’t it, Miss Lane?”
Wouldn’t it be a comfort to have somebody like Superman watching out for us? Got a flat and no jack? No problem for the Man of Steel! He can pick up the car, hold ‘er steady while we change the tire, and never even break a sweat!
But why waste such a magnificent creature on small stuff? Save him for when we’re stricken with a fatal disease. Why, he can fly into the future, retrieve the cure, and be back before one second has ticked by! (George Reeves never did that, but the comic book hero used to all the time.)
Did Mom and Dad break up? Superman can fix it. Am I saddled with some fear or compulsion, habit or addiction? You know the Man of Tomorrow must be able to help!
After all, that’s why they call him “Superman,” isn’t it?
But, let’s face it; reality is more steel than Superman will ever be made of. And fantasizing does little to salve our suffering.
Well, what about God, then? He’s real, isn’t He? Yes, I believe He is. He loves us, doesn’t He? Yes, I believe He does. Well, why doesn’t He rescue us when we’re in trouble?
You know, sometimes He does. If you listen to the “Focus on the Family” radio program, you may remember hearing the dramatic story of Duane Miller. He was a minister who loved to preach and sing. Then Duane lost his voice and plunged into a pit of despair. Did God rescue him? Did He! Not only did He restore Duane’s voice, He allowed the miracle to be audiotaped as it happened!
King David knew how God could rescue. He’d pulled David’s fat out of the fire more than once. And David loved to make up songs – Psalms, we call them – about these rescues. “The sorrows of death compassed me,” sings David in the eighteenth Psalm. “The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me” (Psalms 18:4-5). In David’s distress, he calls on the Lord. Then, by George, things start to happen!
“Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth . . . he did fly upon the wings of the wind . . . ” (Psalms 18:7-10). David’s description of God’s ride to the rescue includes lightning, hail, and coals of fire. About the only thing missing is His bursting through a brick wall!
But David knew the other side of the coin too. The 18th Psalm is a song of triumph. Flip forward a couple pages in your Bible, however, and you’ll find David singing a different tune” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?” (Psalms 22:1).
The favor he quaffs in Psalms 18 is flung back into his face. “They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him” (Psalms 18:7-8).
One thing about the Bible, it’s realistic. Pollyanna didn’t write it, and you do get the bitter with the sweet.
But the question remains: Why must we have the bitter at all? Especially if God loves us?
And we’re not talking about flat tires or even the flu. We’re wondering why we’re dealt such cruel and continuous blows. Here’s a thirty-eight-year-old mother of two bereft of a husband and a father for her children. Here’s a lady who’s being fed a steady diet of contempt by her philandering mate. Here’s a kid who has to cope with dope on the playground and no hope at home. Here’s a world where “Look! Up in the sky!” is just an invitation to look at a bird or a plane . . . .or a particularly dark cloud.
Is there anybody — anybody — to rescue us?
Believe me, beloved, if I didn’t think there was, you wouldn’t be hearing this.
Is God interested in you? The Bible says so. Just read the first few verses of Psalms 139 and be convinced. Does God love you? Again, the Bible says so. John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 3:1, Psalms 103:11. Shall I go on?
“All right, then. If He loves me so darn much, why doesn’t He rescue me?”
It all depends on what we want to be rescued from. We don’t have time to fathom all the deep questions of suffering and evil. Suffice it to say that evil and suffering are part of life. God doesn’t rescue us from life.
Instead, He rescues us from meaningless, purposeless, hopeless living.
I personally don’t have a dramatic testimony. (Wish I did. It really wows a crowd!) I was raised in a good home, brought up to know right from wrong, taken to church. I married an excellent woman and the Lord blessed us with two excellent kids. I’ve had my troubles, sure, but nothing major. So what do I have to say to those of you who really wonder whether God loves you?
Just this: I don’t think, I know – if it weren’t for Jesus Christ, my life would be a wreck
In the first place, He gives me a Meaning without which I would surely despair. I know who I am: I am one who was loved by God before time began. No, I’m not afraid to say it, I am the apple of His eye, the cream in His coffee, and the sugar in His tea.
How do I know this? Easy. “The Bible tells me so.” It tells you the same.
What’s more, He gives me a Purpose without which I, for one, would flounder miserably in life. It’s not that I know I’m to be a preacher so much as it is I know the purpose of life in general. Beloved, I know what to do whether I stand before a congregation with a Bible before me or before an wall with a bucket of paint beside me. Whether preacher, plumber, or paperback writer, I must live to please God. For that is the whole duty of man.
How do I know this? Elementary. “The Bible tells me so.” You too.
Finally, He gives me a Hope that is greater than circumstances. It’s a hope without which I think I would commit suicide. Without it, even a relatively undamaged life like mine is just a wind-up clock running down. With it, the world can do its worst. Ultimately, it won’t matter.
My late brother-in-law, a man who had to surrender this life at a mere 41 years of age, died with that hope. My sister, who must live without her husband, lives with that hope. It’s the hope of a city, a glory, a hope of seeing the very face of God in a place where they’ll never ever be separated from on another again.
It’s the hope of a whole new world, a place that’ll make this place at its best look like a shoddy, painted doll beside a man’s sweetheart. A place where we can never ever feel afraid, even if we try.
How do I know this? You know. The same way I know Jesus loves me. “The Bible tells me so.” And so it tells you.
What you have to do is believe what it tells you. That’s what makes the difference.
He didn’t come in a rocket, but in a manger. He didn’t deflect bullets nor heft autos. Instead, He sweated bullets of blood and bore the awful weight of our sin upon the cross.
Look! Up on the cross! It’s the love of God come down to us in Jesus Christ!