Jim Carrey famously said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
Today in our culture, I think people believe that if only they could be rich and famous, they know they would be happy. But tragically, this year two well-known celebrities took their own lives: designer Kate Spade and television personality Anthony Bourdain.
Kate Spade was a fashion icon, yet she killed herself in her beautiful New York home. This was followed just days later by the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. He was awarded multiple Emmys and had a very successful television series. But earlier in his life Bourdain got heavily into drugs. In his book “Kitchen Confidential,” he spoke of his “long and often stupid and self-destructive search for the next thing, whether it was drugs or sex or some other new sensation.” Well, he searched. He traveled the world. He experienced so many things, yet he had an emptiness inside.
Jesus told the story of a rich man who had so much stuff he had to build bigger barns to store all of it. But one day God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20 NIV). And then the man died. When we leave this world, we’ll leave everything. And then comes eternity.
Recently, I did a film and a book on the life of iconic actor Steve McQueen, who was called the King of Cool. McQueen was so successful that he literally had an airplane hangar full of cars, motorcycles and planes. It was the ultimate man cave.
But McQueen found himself empty and searching, so he disconnected from Hollywood and moved to the smaller community of Santa Paula, California. There he came into contact with a man who had strong faith in Jesus Christ, and McQueen found what he was looking for.
The Bible tells us about another kind of king: Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was a very wicked man who laid siege to Jerusalem and carried its people away to Babylon. He was so cruel that he forced the king of Judah to watch as his own sons were put to death, and then he gouged out the king’s eyes. Nebuchadnezzar had a very hard heart, but one night he had a dream that terrified him.
In his dream Nebuchadnezzar saw a mighty tree filled with all kinds of birds, and every creature was eating the tree’s fruit. Then an angel came down from heaven and chopped down the tree, and all that remained was a stump. This troubled the king, and he wanted to know what the dream meant. So he called in his astrologers, astronomers and fortunetellers to explain the dream, but no one could – no one, that is, except the prophet Daniel, who was one of King Nebuchadnezzar’s advisers.
Daniel said, in effect, “Let me pray about that,” and God showed Daniel the king’s dream. God also gave Daniel the interpretation of the dream, so Daniel not only told the king what his dream was, but also what it meant. King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged this came from God, yet ironically, nothing changed in him. In fact, he got even worse.
Like Nebuchadnezzar, there a lot of people who know about God, but they don’t know God. This is why one of the easiest places to get a hardened heart is in a church. If you hear the message of the Gospel and who Jesus is, yet you don’t respond to it, your heart can become harder. The same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay.
Nebuchadnezzar knew that God was there, but he never put his faith in him – or at least not at this point. Daniel went to him and effectively said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, I’ve got some bad news. That tree in your dream? That’s you and the kingdom of Babylon. And the tree getting chopped down? That’s you getting chopped down. You’re going to lose your sanity. You’re going to end up in a field, eating grass like a cow.”
Then Daniel told him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper” (Daniel 4:27 NLT). In other words, this didn’t have to happen.
Nebuchadnezzar had a full year to get his act together, a full year to repent. But he blew it off. One day as he was standing on his balcony checking out his awesome kingdom, he boasted, “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor” (Daniel 4:30 NLT).
But the Bible tells us that “while these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom'” (verse 31 NLT). Sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind, went out into the field, and ate grass like a cow, just as Daniel said he would. But God was gracious to Nebuchadnezzar. He returned to his senses and then believed in the Lord.
Life’s most dangerous word is tomorrow. Tomorrow is the road that leads to a town called Never. Tomorrow is the barred and bolted door that shuts people out of heaven. Tomorrow is the devil’s word.
God is giving us a warning. He’s telling us that our time is short. I don’t know when the end of the world will be, but the end of your world or my world could come sooner than we expect. Jesus Christ can change the narrative of your story, no matter what you’ve done. The Bible says, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).
You don’t have to be crippled by your past. God can change your life. You just have to be willing to turn from your sin and ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior and your Lord. God will forgive you, no matter what you’ve done. But don’t be a fool like Nebuchadnezzar and put it off. Don’t live another day without Jesus Christ.