"God in the Movies: Evan Almighty" part 1:
Establishing Your Value System
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 24, 2007

 

Main Passage: Hebrews 11:23-27 (NLT)

 

[VIDEO - Show Trailer for Evan Almighty]

This morning we’re beginning a new message series based on the movie that’s currently in theatres, Evan Almighty. I don’t know if any of you have had the opportunity to see it yet… Shera and I went to see it yesterday. And we really enjoyed it. So, before we get into anything else, let me give you a bit of a movie review. Because there are some really positive elements in the movie, but a few drawbacks, too.

The movie is a spin-off from the movie Bruce Almighty that was out a few years ago and did very well at the box office. That one starred Jim Carrey as a guy who didn’t like the way God was running the world, and so God appeared to him, gave him the same power He had, and challenged him to do a better job. With the one limitation that he couldn’t infringe on Free Will.

Well, in that movie, there was a news anchorman named Evan Baxter, played by Steve Carell. And he’s the main character in this new movie. By this time, Evan has left the news desk in favour of politics, and he’s been elected as a congressman. And it’s his goal to change the world. Problem is, Evan tends to be a workaholic, self-absorbed, and all about image. Right at the beginning, he tells his kids that when you’re in the public eye, image is everything. And his family suffers because of it. And so Evan takes his wife’s advice and prays that God will help him, and asks God to help him change the world. And that’s when things begin to happen.

Including God appearing to Evan, and telling him to build an Ark. So basically, Evan’s taking on the roll of a modern day Noah.

Now, I’m not going to ruin the movie for you if you haven’t seen it. So I’m not going to give it all away. But through the course of the movie, Evan learns to trust God and follow His instructions, even when Evan doesn’t understand where it’s all heading. Evan’s family has to learn to support each other and work together. And Evan learns to see beyond himself.

So there are some very positive elements to this movie. But there are a few negatives, too, that you should be aware of. For one thing, there’s a line in the movie that suggests that God lives in all created things. Which reminded me of “the force” in Star Wars, and is a belief based in eastern mysticism and North American native religions. Yes, God created all things. But He does not inhabit all things.

Also, in the movie God says that the flood of Noah’s day was not an act of wrath but an act of love. It wasn’t so much to punish people as it was an object lesson to teach people to be nicer to each other. Actually, it was both. The book of Genesis clearly tells us that the flood was punishment for the wickedness the human race had embraced. It was the justice demanded by a completely holy God. But it was also the love that God showed in the covenant He made with Noah and his family. So there’s a bit of a distortion of what the first flood was all about, and because of that it diminishes the holiness of God.

Plus, there is some crude humour the movie could have done without, and there are several uses of the word “God” in inappropriate ways. Of course, you see this constantly in movies and on TV and you hear it every day. And so it always disturbs me when I hear someone say, for example, “O my God” and they’re not talking about their God. In my opinion, that’s a violation of the third commandment, to not use the name of God in vain, inappropriate, disrespectful ways. I mean, I know it’s actually a title, but we use it as a name. And so we should use it with respect, and not toss it around flippantly.

So the movie does have some very positive lessons and good family values, and it’s a fun adventure, but there are a few warning flags, too. And it was really freaky that the sun was shining when we went in to the theatre and it was raining when we came out. But thankfully, no flood here yesterday.


So for the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about this movie. And today, this clip here is our starting point…

[VIDEO – EVAN ALMIGHTY – Scene where Evan arrives home carrying work to do, cancels plans with family]


That’s a scene from early on in the movie, and it’s just one of many examples of how Evan has his priorities all messed up. He’s on the fast track to success, and if that means that other people need to suffer—even his own family—then so be it. In fact, every morning as he would stand in front of the mirror grooming himself and trying to perfect his image, he would recite a mantra to himself…

“I am successful, powerful, handsome, and happy.”
~ Evan Baxter, in Evan Almighty

Everything was all about him. He wanted prestige, he wanted power, he wanted popularity, he wanted position, and he wanted possessions. That’s what he was all about… what “he” wanted.

And so this morning, we’re going to talk about what motivates us. We’re going to talk about our value system. We’re going to be talking about what’s really important.


And to help us understand how we can establish a proper value system for our own lives, we’re going to enlist the aid of an Old Testament hero. Evan Almighty dealt with Noah, but we’re going to look at one of the other heroes this morning. We’re going to look at Moses.

Moses was perhaps the greatest man in the Old Testament. Moses is the one who received the Ten Commandments from God. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible… Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. He led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt right up to the doorstep of the Promised Land. He’s a looming figure in the history of our faith and of the world. Why? What made him so effective? Why was God able to use Moses so powerfully? I think a big part of it is because of what he valued.


And like Moses, you have to settle the question, "What is really important?" And this is not something you decide haphazardly. You give it serious thought. You give it consideration. "What is really important to me?" Moses did this. He clarified his values. He thought it out. He internalized his priorities.

Hebrews 11:26 (NLT)
He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.

Circle the word "thought". The word that’s translated here as “thought” in the New Living Translation literally means "to weigh in the balance", "consider the options", "evaluate the worth", "consider the value". So this says Moses considered God's will of greater value than all of the treasures of Egypt.

Moses is figuring out his value system. What are your values for life? What are the values on which you base your life on right now? What are the things that you would describe by saying, "These are the things that are important to me, on which I make my decisions."

And you’ve got to do that, because if you don’t, other people will do it for you. If you don't decide how you're going to use your time, other people will decide it for you. If you don't decide how you're going to spend your money, other people will make that decision for you. If you don’t determine how you’re going to invest your life, other people will determine that for you. You have to determine your values in life. What is important?

So what are the values in life? What are the world's standards? Well, there are really three common values we see the world promoting today. Most of the people in the world are frantically searching for these three things in life.

 

The Values of this World:

 

A. Pleasure

That was certainly a value for Evan. “I am successful, I’m powerful, I’m handsome, and I’m happy.” He’s saying, "I want to feel good."

 

B. Possessions

This is the value that says, "I want to be wealthy. I want to make a lot of money. I want to have things all around me."

And if you see the movie, you’ll see Evan driving around in a Hummer, you’ll be amazed at the size of his house, and you’ll see him making decisions based on him attaining the nicest stuff money can buy.

 

C. Power

You know, "I want to be famous. I want to be well known. I want to be influential. I want to be popular. I want to have power, prestige, position." That’s what this value says. And Evan was certainly in cahoots with that value when the movie began.


And the truth is, most of the world is frantically searching for these things in life. They want pleasure, possessions, and power. That's their value system.

 

And Moses attained all of that by the time he was three months old. Talk about fast-tracking it. But when Moses was three months old, he was adopted by an Egyptian princess. And so, as he grew up, he could have anything he wanted. He had the position, he had the servants, he had the riches, he had the pleasure, he had everything he could ever want but that value system. By the world's standards, he had it made! Everything that people are looking for today, he already had. Power, pleasure, possessions. He had it all.

Yet he walked away from it all. He identified himself with slaves. Who would be silly enough to do that? Somebody with a different value system, that’s who. Moses realized that there were things that were more important than power, possessions, and pleasures. He was not satisfied with those things that would not last. He wanted something more important.

And there's a lesson here in Moses' life that we all have to focus on. When you establish a value system for your life, you have to learn to say "No". Every time you chose something in life, you're automatically turning against something else. You have to decide what is important. And when you decide what’s important, you’re also deciding what’s not important.

Because you don't have time for everything. You can't do everything. When you try to say "Yes" to everything it's called compromise. Jesus said…

Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

So you have to decide what's important. And that means you must learn to say "No" if you're going to be effective in life. You don't have the time or the energy or the money for everything.


Through the course of the movie, Evan was forced to learn to say “no.” God was trying to teach him what was really important, but all along the way, Evan was fighting Him. Evan didn’t want to lose everything he had worked so hard to gain. He didn’t want to taint his image. He didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of others. He didn’t want people to think he was crazy because he was doing what God wanted him to do.


I want you to notice the value system of Moses. Moses decided three things. And these three things guided Moses and enabled him to be used powerfully by God. In fact, if Moses had not settled on these three values, we wouldn't be here today talking about him. We may have never even heard of him. He'd just be some mummy buried next to King Tut.

But Moses decided what his values were, and those values are why we remember him and look to him today. So let’s talk about these three values. Moses decided that…

 

The Value System of Moses:

 

1. God's purpose is more valuable than popularity

Did you see Dateline this week when they interviewed Prince William and Prince Harry? It was all anybody was talking about. Well, maybe you weren’t, but a lot of people were talking about it. NBC promoted that interview around the clock, and people tuned in to watch.

Do you think William and Harry are popular? Yeah, they are. There are people that follow them wherever they go. The paparazzi are constantly after them. Where they go, who they date, what they wear… people want to know. Particularly William… second in line to the throne.

So who was Moses?

Hebrews 11:24 (NLT)
It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

Moses was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Do you think that was a status symbol? You bet it was! He may have been second in command, in line to be Pharaoh. He was the Big Man On Campus! Or, the Big Man at the Pyramids! He was well known. He had status. People would bow before him. He had popularity.

But Moses knew that popularity doesn't last. You can be the most popular person, you can get your picture on the cover of Rolling Stone this week, and a year from now they don't even know who you are. You've been replaced by the latest fad.

The thing I like about Moses is he was not impressed by himself. Moses didn’t become engulfed in pride. Moses wanted God's purpose for his life. He said, "I'd rather be a slave fulfilling God's purpose than be the king of Egypt, with all the popularity, not in God's purpose or in God's plan." He said God's purpose is more valuable than popularity.


Second, Moses decided that…

 

2. People are more valuable than pleasures

Evan went from being self-absorbed and adding to his own comfort to really having compassion for the people around him. Moses went from enjoying all the comforts of palace living to the point where he gave all that up to rescue slaves.

Hebrews 11:25 (NLT)
He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Put yourself in Moses’ sandals. How would you have acted if you were him? Moses was on easy street. He was treated royally. He had a lifestyle of luxury. If he wanted his grapes peeled, they would be peeled. If he wanted them warm, they'd be warmed. Whatever he wanted, it was provided. Any whim would immediately be satisfied by his own slaves.

But Moses chose pain over pleasure. He chose discomfort over a life of ease. Why? Because he decided people are more valuable than pleasures. He established that value in his life. He knew that pleasure, like popularity, does not last.

Let’s be honest here. There is pleasure in sin… for a season. It is enjoyable, for a time. Sin is fun. If sin were a bummer, nobody would do it. Would you sin if it were painful? No. You're smarter than that. Even the Bible acknowledges that there is pleasure in sin for a short time.

There is pleasure in sin. No doubt about it. But then you reap what you sow and the payoff is not worth the pleasure. It's just not worth it.

I watched that special the other night on TV, counting down the 100 best movies of all time. And anytime I see anything like that, I get curious, and I start reading up on some of the movies and some of the actors that were in some of those great movies. And so I started to read up on Yul Brynner. And I found this interesting… he died in 1985 of lung cancer, but before he died, he recorded a public service announcement to be broadcast after he died, in which he said…

"Now that I'm gone, I tell you: Don't smoke, whatever you do, just don't smoke."
~ Yul Brynner

Yul Brynner enjoyed smoking, but the pleasure he gained gave way to disease and eventual death. Sin is like that. You can enjoy it for a while, but the end result is not worth the short term pleasure. Sin will inevitably take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.

Moses know that pleasure derived from sin… or any other pleasure for that matter… doesn’t last. It’s not all that important. And so Moses said he'd go with the people of God because people are more important than pleasures.

So…

1. God's purpose is more valuable that popularity
2. People are more valuable than pleasures

And…

 

3. God's peace is more valuable than possessions

Evan Baxter had a lot of nice stuff. He had his share of possessions. But when the movie began, he was anything but at peace. He was running around trying to please everyone, and in the process disappointing the people closest to him.

But as the movie progressed, Evan stopped relying so much on his possessions, and he gained a better understanding of God’s plan for him, and when he started to understand that, he started to experience a sense of peace. Even with everything going haywire around him, he still had a peace because he understood his place in God’s plan. And by the end of the movie, well, you’ll have to see that for yourself.

So how about Moses? Well, we looked at this verse earlier…

Hebrews 11:26 (NLT)
He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.

You know, there are some things in life that are more important than things. And there’s a wonderful peace of mind that comes about you, a satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment when you know you're smack-dab in the centre of God’s will for you. And you can't buy that peace of mind. It is priceless.

Now let’s be honest: You can buy happiness. You can. But only for a short time. It’s not going to last. Say I go out and buy a 50” plasma TV. Am I happy? You bet I am. I have just bought me some happiness. I'm having a great time, watching all my favorite movies. I mean, we have movie marathons and go through Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, and the Lord of the Rings. And it’s great for a while.

But after about six months, I need a better TV. This one isn’t big enough anymore. It doesn’t have enough features. The high definition isn’t high definitiony enough. So I go buy a new 70” holographic projection entertainment system. Yes, I just made that up. But I go out and get that. Have I bought happiness? Yes, I have. I've very happy again. But after a while they come out with a bigger and better system. And then I've got to get that one!

You can buy happiness but it is a temporary happiness. Actually, I suppose it’s more like renting than buying. It just doesn't last.

That's why Moses said. "I don't want possessions. I’m not going to value them. They don't last." He was taking the long look. He was looking beyond the temporary happiness.

So should you go and sell everything you own and go live in poverty? No, that’s not what I’m saying. . Wealth in itself is neutral -- neither good nor bad. A lot of the great Christians and saints in the Bible were extremely wealthy people. They were millionaires -- even billionaires by today's standards. And some of them lived in poverty, too.

We’re not talking about what you own; we’re talking about what you value. We value people and we use things. That’s the way it should be. But when we get those reversed we get into trouble. When we start valuing things and using people.

 

Moses said…
1. God's purpose is more valuable that popularity
2. People are more valuable than pleasures
3. God's peace is more valuable than possessions.

You know, it's amazing that Moses gave up the very three things that most people spend their entire lives pursuing. Why? Why did he do that? Why did he reject power, pleasure, and possessions? Well, the answer is found in the last half of Hebrews 11:26…

Hebrews 11:26 (NLT)
He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.

"He was looking ahead to his great reward." He was looking ahead. He wasn’t just glancing, he was looking. That word in the Greek means a continuous action. He had a greater perspective than just the here and now. He was constantly living in light of eternity. And the next verse reinforces this…

Hebrews 11:27 (NLT)
He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.

Where you focus has a tremendous impact on how you live. Rick Warren put it this way…

“Your happiness is determined by your character. Your character is determined by your choices. Your choices are determined by your values. Your values are determined by your vision -- what you have your eyes on.”
~ Rick Warren

Where are you looking? What is the source of your motivation? What is it that determines your values? Are you looking toward that great reward? Moses had his values right because he had his vision right. Evan… well, he got there.

How about you?

 

[Adapted from FOUR KEYS TO EFFECTIVE LIVING by Rick Warren]

 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2007 SunriseOnline.ca