The Lesson From a Group Of Monkeys

I am always astonished at what people believe. Not just in matters of the faith but in all aspects of life. Of course, with COVID-19 there are so many differing opinions and viewpoints. The most obvious currently: the mask or no mask debate and divide. We have people who believe that asymptomatic people cannot spread the virus when scientific and medical experts tell us the opposite. We have conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus…

People put their thoughts and opinions on social media and repeat them often enough that some people begin to believe they are true. And, of course, then they retweet or repost and thus spread them further ‘as truth.’ So we end up with large numbers of people believing something that is not true. 

The other day in a series of interviews with doctors and nurses they were sharing that people who they are ministering to in hospital and the ICU – people who are dying from COVID-19 – think the COVID-19 virus is not real and simply a hoax. They believe what they have been told and what they have heard over-and-over again … not checking the facts, just believing. Even when dying they still do not believe they were really dying of COVID-19. 

It reminds me of the scientific study done a number of years ago. I have reproduced it below….

Scientists once conduced a very interesting experiment

In the middle of a room, they hung a bushel of fresh bananas halfway up a pole

Then they let four monkeys loose in the room.

Immediately the hungry monkeys dashed towards the bright yellow bananas

As they climbed the scientists blasted the monkeys with icy-cold water

The monkeys backed off, regrouped, then made a second attempt. As they started to climb the pole, once again they received the discouraging dousing

After several unsuccessful attempts, the monkeys became convinced that failure was inevitable and finally stopped trying.

The next day, the researchers removed one of the four monkeys and replaced him with a new monkey.

What did the rookie do?

He went straight for the bananas

But before he even reached the pole, the three veterans pulled him away

Undeterred, the new money tried again. 

Again his compassionate roommates intervened

At last he gave up and adopted their fatalistic attitude

Each day, the scientists replaced one of the original monkeys with a new one

By the fifth day, four monkeys occupied the room, not one of whom had ever been sprayed with cold water

From that day forward, whenever a new monkey was traded in, the others would prevent him from going for the bananas … without even knowing why 

Four had failed, and then they conditioned the novices to not even try

This happens with more than a group of monkeys. 

This happens to us as believers more often than we care to admit

People hear what we are wanting to do and tell you all the reasons we should not. You hear it often enough and you decide that you likely were not hearing God or misinterpreted what you heard.

You were in a friendship that didn’t work – others tell you that friendships are always unpredictable and usually painful so you decide not to risk another attempt at friendshipwith someone else

You were married and the marriage failed. Others tell you to just stay single as it is not worth the pain to remarry

Your first child was a pain in the neck an totally upset your life – so you don’t ever have a second one

Once burnt – twice shy

Several people I know were told by their parents and teachers as they were growing up that they would never amount to anything. Born losers. And, having heard it often enough – they  live up to the negative expectation and never use their abilities, skills, and talents to build a life that they could be proud of; a life that would benefit others and be a blessing.

It seems that we can be programmed to believe anything if we hear it often enough. And, it seems that the source of the ‘belief’ matters little. What matters is that it is repeated over and over again until it “becomes truth” to the hearer although not based in any facts. 

Remember: just because you read or hear or see something on social media does not make it true

Remember: what others say about you is not near as important as what God has declared about you

Remember: what God declares about you is always, and I repeat, always true

Remember: it is perfectly alright to check out every thing you hear or read to see if it is based in fact and is not just someone’s opinion. This is true even with teachings and sermons you may have heard. Don’t believe it because someone said it; believe it after you check it out with the written Word of God – the Bible. 

Don’t let others “make a monkey out of you.”

Living With Hope and Certainty!

A lot of people today have the understanding that it really does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere in what it is you say you believe. Of course this plays well until we come to the place in life when we are genuinely facing our own possible death. Then what we believe immediately comes into sharper focus and becomes seriously important.

What you believe should shape the lifestyle you live. But what you believe – sincere or not – will seriously shape your “life after death.” So, it is important to review your foundational beliefs and understandings. And, may I be so bold as to suggest, check them again what the Christian faith and the Bible sets forth as truth. Even if you are not a Christian you might still take a look at what the Bible teaches about death and life after death. Just to give yourself a context and something to bounce your own beliefs off of at such an important time. 

I just read Alex Trebek’s autobiography “The Answer Is… Reflections on my life.” He is the host of the long-running game show “Jeopardy.” The back of the dust jacket reads: “I believe in the will to live. I believe in the power of positivity. I believe in optimism. I believe in hope.” Caught my interest and so I took the time to read what is an amazing story and a well written book. 

In the last few pages of the book, the author writes of his current battle with terminal cancer. He writes…

“But when death happens, it happens. Why should I be afraid of it? Now, if it involves physical suffering, I might be afraid of that. But, according to my doctor, that’s what hospice is for.

They want to make it as easy as it can possibly be for you to transition into whatever future you happen to believe in. Am I a believer? Well, I believe we are all part of the Great Soul — what some call God. We are God, and God is us. We are one with our maker. How do I know this? It’s not that I know it. It’s that I feel it … I feel it in my gut.

But do I pray to a specific God? Do I anticipate a particular version of the afterlife? No, I do not. For all I know I’ll wind up coming back in another life as a knitter during the French Revolution sitting there like Madame Defarge watching the executions. However, lately I’ve been thinking more and more about that old line they used in the military: “No one’s an atheist in a foxhole.” If ever there was an opportunity to believe in God — a god — this might be a good one. Trebek, now that you’re on the verge. What have you got to lose?”

“The Answer Is…” page 284

Like the author I believe in the will to live. I believe in the power of positivity. I believe in optimism. I believe in hope. But my hope is anchored in my Christian faith. It is based on the words of Jesus who is God in human flesh. It is based on His death and the resulting forgiveness of my sins. And on His resurrection proving He is who He says He is and giving us the hope – really the deep knowledge – that there is life after death. A life in Heaven with Him where we will experience the fullness of His life and actually be all He created us to be. I certainly don’t believe in the “Great Soul” and that “we are God and God is us.” 

Paul an apostle in the Church wrote (1 Corinthians 15) that because Christ has been raised from the dead we can live with hope now in this life. But “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (15:19). Why? Because our hope is also anchored in the historical fact that Christ was raised from the dead and is alive. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…” (15:20a). So, we not only live with hope now but we live with the hope and knowledge of life after death. 

We don’t have to guess what this might be like. The Bible and our Saviour Jesus is very clear what life after death is like – both for the true believer and for the non-believer. It is not based on living according to what you “sincerely believe.” It is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and having a personal relationship with Him now in this life – day-by-day. Our hope is founded upon the sure and certain fact that Jesus is God and that He died for our sins and was raised again from the dead and is alive today. That we can have a personal relationship with Him as our Lord and Saviour and thus live life with hope and die knowing (not a gut feeling) that He will welcome us into Heaven where there is a place reserved and ready for us as His children. 

People At Your Funeral

I know that it’s hard to imagine, but one day people are going to talk about you. When you die and people gather to “remember you” people are going to talk about you. And what I’ve learned from all the funerals I have officiated at is this: at the end of your life, those who loved you most won’t talk about many of the things that consume your thinking today. So many of the things we strive for, chase after, and emphasize in our culture never get mentioned in those settings. I’ve never been at a funeral where the family passed around the deceased loved ones resume, reminiscing about each of his accomplishments. I’ve never once seen family pass around bank statements or stock portfolios. And as much as our culture applauds sports, I’ve never seen trophies or medals displayed next to someone’s casket.

It’s not what they did that matters but who they were.

Their motives, their attitudes, their feelings – the kind of person they were – these are the things for which they are remembered. Funny stories about how they always did certain things in their own special way. Memories of how they offered encouragement, support, friendship, compassion, and love to family, friends, coworkers, communities. Testimonies about how their strength, courage, stamina, and faith inspired everyone around them. These are what define a person’s story in the end. 

Stephen Covey, in his leadership classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, asks readers to think through how they want to be remembered when they die. While it may sound creepy or morbid or depressing, it’s actually a quite liberating and life-affirming exercise. When we think about the kind of person we want others to remember us for being, it’s much easier to work backwards from our deaths to make the choices now that can help us grow into that person. When we know our destination, it’s much clearer when and where we should start, stop, stay, and go. 

Ultimately, we know that our stories don’t have to end when we leave this life. When we experience the grace of God through Christ, we can live forever serving and enjoying God in heaven. And while I don’t know for sure, that’s when I think the stories that our lives tell will be taken to a whole new level.

Because our stories are not just our stories

Our stories are part of an ever bigger story.

Every life is connected to so many others.

My story is connected to your story. All of our lives intersect with countless other lives in ways that we don’t recognize or can’t even imagine. But God knows the big story, the grand design that He’s been authoring since the beginning of time. He knows how all the chapters fit together, how each of our stories unite in an epic like no other. 

Imagine a person in heaven explaining how your life impacted them. How your story changed their story. I’ve heard someone speculate that in heaven we’ll have a huge banquet, a crazy-joyful dinner party unlike any other. During the meal, one after another, each person will share their story, and we’ll finally get to see how they all fit together.

So how do you want your part in that ultimate story to read? I know you don’t want to live with regrets. None of us does. But most will. You may not like where your story is heading, but it isn’t finished yet. It’s not too late to change it. We’ve all made decisions we regret. We’ve all made mistakes and found ourselves wondering how we were going to keep going. But the good news – the essence of the new life, of being born again, is that Jesus is walking with you and is there for you. He want to help you write your life story. He is willing to give you a fresh start. Rebirth. Resurrection. Grace. 

God wants your story to be more than “happily ever after.” He wants you to be fulfilled “eternally ever after.” If you allow Him, your story will become written in a language more meaningful, with themes more beautiful, than you could ever imagine. 

The choice is yours!