Have you noticed that there is less and less what I would call "good, wholesome" TV viewing these days? Everywhere you turn there is sexual content that would have only been available in R or X-rated movies, just 20 years ago. The pervasive homosexual agenda is on every comedy, drama, and reality show. And for those who like to contemplate the outer regions of human existence, there are the shows that promote transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and interaction with space aliens. And let's not forget the growing genre of entertainment that features satanic or occult overtones --- and in prime-time, no less!
The major networks have become a cesspool of immorality, wickedness, and godless values. But there is one show that my husband and I have become addicted to, and I have to admit it has been a surprise. I'm talking about American Ninja Warrior (ANW). Now, before you quit reading, let me tell you why... when we first began watching the show, I thought it was just another gimmicky visual reality show where the weird and eccentric could showcase their freaky natures.
It is based on the highly successful Japanese sports entertainment television special in which 100 competitors attempt to complete a four-stage obstacle course, which ends with conquering the formidable Mount Midoriyama. The American version is a spin-off, where the competitors advance through the stages and one winner is crowned, you guessed it ... the American Ninja Warrior. A team of Americans then travels to compete against teams from other countries; all hoping to be the one to stand victorious, atop the famous Midoriyama.
At first it was hard to take it seriously. Competitors would appear in outlandish costumes, and it seemed more like a ratings grabber than a serious competition. But as the seasons progressed, the humanity and the dedication of the contestants has come to the forefront, and it is this reason that has me tuning in each week. The people are real; and their life stories and commitment to doing their best are genuine. They are not out-of-work models trying to "catch a break", or aged athletes trying to hang on to their glory days.
There are more stories than I can count of people who meet the standard of the downtrodden in society; people who have had to overcome tremendous odds just to get their chance to compete in what is becoming a popular and legitimate sport. There is the story of Abel, who found himself the sole caretaker of his younger brothers at the age of 16. He fought hard to keep them out of foster homes, and through his commitment to them, they are all in school and pulling together as a family. American Ninja Warrior became a symbol of overcoming the odds, and he was determined to show his brothers that they could succeed if they worked hard. In his spare time, he trained on home-made equipment, practicing the challenges that have become legendary on the show until he got his shot at making the cut.
There was the autistic boy, and the girl with Tourette's Syndrome; neither who stood a real chance of finishing the competition. But because they trained with dedication and pride, they were able to reach a goal they had set for themselves, and with heads held high, they let the glow of the audience applause wash over them. Their lives are changed forever.
This season there was Brian, a man who suddenly found himself facing the unthinkable: his wife had developed a rare terminal illness in which she began losing muscle control and motor skills. She is now in a wheelchair, and he has to carry her up and down the stairs of their home. He realized he needed to get in better shape, and one day after watching the show together, his wife said her wish was to see him compete on ANW before she died. He made the cut, and advanced past the first stage, with his wife in attendance and the crowd roaring their approval. The tears on his wife's face and her beautiful smile won the hearts of America. Sadly, he didn't make it to the second stage, but she announced to the whole world that he was still her hero. That will be an experience that will sustain him when the end finally comes.
|Jeremiah Morgan overcomes|
And this competition has become a showcase for the faith of many contestants. This week, we saw one of the most difficult courses to date. Competitor after competitor got to the 7th stage out of 10, only to fail on the obstacle, plunging into the pool of water below. Then up to the starting podium stepped Jeremiah Morgan, who in the lead-in to his run, revealed that he had not competed in college sports because, along with his brother and parents, he was a Messianic Christian. College sporting events often took place over the weekend, and his family practiced the Sabbath from Friday evening at sundown until Saturday evening at the same time. They spent that time in fervent study and contemplation of God, choosing to rest in His presence, as the Lord had commanded.
It was so refreshing to see a young man, in the prime of his life, declare his faith on national TV and not be drawn to following the world! As his brother, wife, and parents followed him along the track below, his dad could be seen and heard shouting, "Hallelujah!" as Jeremiah completed each of the stages. He was the first of only two competitors to complete the 10-stage course, and as he stood at the top of the winning tower, he raised his hands towards heaven and thanked His Creator.
The only other man to finish the grueling course was Sam Sann, a 48-year-old man who had escaped the devastation of Cambodia to begin a new life in Houston, TX, where he owns his own beauty salon by day, and trains other young ANW aspirants at his own gym by night. He is a legend among Ninja competitors, and as he dropped to his knees in prayer after landing on top of the final tower, it was a triumph for all those with aging bodies, and for those who have come to this land for a better life.
I know it probably sounds kind of silly to be so moved by this TV show, and you more than likely think that I am exaggerating the sentimentality of the competition. But I'm always amazed at how God manages to insert His presence each week... sometimes when the contestants aren't even aware of it. I see Him in the self-sacrifice that is often exhibited by competitors like Abel. I see Him in the joyful triumph of simply competing, by those who are mentally and physically handicapped. I have witnessed Him in the making and sharing of a dream between Brian and his wife, who will soon be separated by Death. And I have felt the tears sting my eyes as men like Jeremiah aren't afraid to declare their allegiance to the Lord, rather than follow the ways of man.
Week after week, I have watched the competitors cheer each other on, pulling for the success of others, even after their shot at winning has been denied them. Here, in two hours a week, on the vast wasteland that is American television, I am able to see mankind at his best... age, color of skin, personal appearance ... none of these things matter; they are all seeking to reach their potential in an atmosphere of mutual respect, inspiration, and encouragement. It's really all about overcoming obstacles ... both on the course, and in life. And maybe this isn't how you see God being exalted, but He is a Sovereign Lord, and He can use anything in this world to show a picture of His glorious Mercy, Grace and Love. You just have to be willing to see it.
Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."