One can find spiritual parallels with most things in life, so let me try one here, utilising pop music. There are many musical artists who have stood the test of time, while others have burst on the scene, only to burst out of the scene just as quickly. As to the former, let me mention a few.
The Rolling Stones first appeared way back in 1962, and they are still going strong. Imagine a rock and roll band that has been going for over 50 years! While there have been a few personnel changes, the stalwarts like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are still rocking, albeit as geriatric rockers.
The Beatles had a much shorter career (1960-1970), but were a gold mine for mega-hits. Between 1963 and 1969 they had 17 number one hits in the UK. Another supergroup which also went for a decade (1972-1982), Abba, turned out multiple hits in their stellar career.
And of course the King, as he is called, Elvis Presley, had nearly 20 number one hits and nearly 40 top ten hits before his death in 1977. However, artists like these can be contrasted with what are known as one hit wonders. These artists strike gold but once, then seem to disappear as quickly as they came on the scene.
Consider just a few of these one hit wonders. Here are ten of them: some of their songs made it to number one, while others went very high up the charts:
-“Winchester Cathedral” by The New Vaudeville Band, 1966
-“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, 1969
-“Venus” by Shocking Blue, 1970
-“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry, 1970
-“My Sharona” by The Knack, 1979
-“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, 1983
-“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, 1988
-“Macarena” by Los Del Rio, 1996
-“Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega, 1999
-“Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men, 2000
Even if you are not a devotee of popular music, you likely would have heard many of these tunes, given how ubiquitous they were – and still are. Now I write all this not to provide a lesson in pop music, but as mentioned, to make a spiritual point. It occurred to me last night as I was reflecting on such matters that we have similar things happening with believers.
Some seem to be one hit wonders, who shine brightly but briefly, then disappear into the ether, while others seem to go from strength to strength, keeping the spiritual hits coming. As to the first group, it would primarily be a conversion experience we are referring to here.
They seem to have a crucial moment of coming to Christ, and maybe have a very emotional experience at a gospel meeting, but that is about it. An emotional response to an altar call, followed by putting up one’s hand or going down to the front is common enough for many folks.
But the question is, is that all there is to the Christian life? A one-time commitment to Christ at some public meeting, and then life goes back to normal? Asking Jesus to come into your heart, but never seeing any genuine change or transformation?
Of course in those cases one can rightly ask if these people have actually been truly saved. Was this genuine regeneration or just a flash in the pan religious experience, bearing no fruit and showing no evidence of a life-changing encounter with Christ?
Of course God alone knows the human heart, and those who are really his. But we get a lot of biblical material on this in the Parable of the Sower. This parable of Jesus, found in each of the Synoptic Gospels, could really be called the Parable of the Soils.
For it is the soil that determines whether the seed takes root and flourishes, or simply dies by the wayside. Many people receiving the seed may not have really been converted, so the cares of this world or persecution quickly snuffs out any chance of spiritual growth.
So these are the spiritual one hit wonders. Sadly there are millions of such people. They simply assume they are on the way to heaven because they raised their hand at a meeting twenty years ago. They may have sung ten choruses of “Just as I Am” but they left just as they were.
In contrast are those who have had a solid conversion experience, and then continue on in the lifelong process of spiritual growth and discipleship. Sure, they may have lapses and take detours and occasionally go backwards, but the whole trajectory of their Christian walk is basically onwards and upwards.
Theirs is not a one hit wonder, but a life of growth, of maturity, of continuous conformity to the image and likeness of Christ. If they fall, if they stumble, if they sin, they repent, they get back up, and they keep on marching. Theirs is not a one-off spiritual experience, but a lifelong walk of obedience and sanctification.
They are not perfect, but they keep pressing on. As Bob Dylan put it in “Pressing On”:
Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind
Say, “Prove to me that He is Lord, show me a sign”
What kind of sign they need when it all come from within
When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been ?
Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my lord.
Shake the dust off of your feet, don’t look back
Nothing can hold you down, nothing that you lack
Temptation’s not an easy thing, Adam given the devil reign
Because he sinned I got no choice, it run in my vein.
Or as the Apostle Paul put it in Philippians 3:12-14:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
In the Christian life, it is not how you start that matters, but how you finish. Are you pressing on? Are you finishing strong? Or have you really just been a spiritual one hit wonder? If the latter, you may want to take some time out and get on your knees before God and let him search your heart.
Let me conclude with a few quotes from Follow Me by David Platt:
“People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians.”
“Churches are filled with supposed Christians who seem content to have casual association with Christ while giving nominal adherence to Christianity. Scores of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a follower of Jesus involves acknowledging certain facts or saying certain words. But this is not true. Disciples like Peter, Andrew, James, John…show us that the call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it’s a summons to lose our lives.”
“In a world where everything revolves around self – protect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourself – Jesus said, ‘Slay yourself’.”