I watched “The Martian” on streaming TV before the New Year countdown. My wife thought it was boring and left 20 minutes into the movie. I thought it was interesting and thought-provoking. The story is a simple “Robinson Crusoe” type with one astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) left for dead on Mars when his crew encountered a sand storm and had to abort the mission to escape. However, he survived but had no means of communicating with his team nor NASA. With limited water and food supply and four years before the next mission to Mars, he had to find means to survive until his rescue, if they come for him at all. The story appealed to me. Here’s why:
1. A positive outlook on life in the face of overwhelming challenges. Let me quote from Watney’s monologue, “If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the hab (his Mars habitat station) breaches, I’ll just kind of implode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. … At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
I wish we Christians would learn from this attitude. Often when we encounter difficulties, we lament why is this happening to us as if God had short-changed our entitlement. We failed to learn from Paul or Peter, who knew He is testing and training us so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies (2 Co 4:10):
• 2 Co 4:8-9 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
• 1 Pet 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
The one big difference is that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves (2 Co 4:7). And the sooner we learn this the more the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Co 4:11).
2. A positive view of man made in God’s image despite our fallen state. Again let me quote, “Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception.”
I am not naive enough to ignore the total depravity of man – there are people who just don’t care – but God’s image, while marred because of sin, is not completely effaced in man. That’s why Gen 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” still applies. That’s why we are called to “love your enemies” (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27, 35), even those who hate and persecute us.
3. There is a cause bigger than yourself. Watney entrusted this message to his commander to convey to his parents if he couldn’t make it back to earth alive, “Tell them I am dying for something bigger myself, that I love doing.”
Some people would die for money, others glory and fame, or power, or pleasure. But none of these things really matter from the perspective of eternity:
• Phil 3:7-8 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
What are you living and dying for? That’s a good question to ponder as you begin 2016. I hope we all make our lives worthy. Altogether a good movie for the human spirit. I recommend it.