By Alyssa Plock
This is a guest post from Alyssa, my dear friend and roommate from college. A talented screenwriter and actor, Alyssa has worked as an assistant to Sally Lloyd Jones, author of the beloved The Jesus Storybook Bible. Alyssa currently works as a radio producer in upstate New York. You can read her blog or follow her on Twitter.
In the Message paraphrase of the Bible, Noah’s story begins: “Noah was a good man, a man of integrity in his community. Noah walked with God.” In the blockbuster Noah, the title character played by Russell Crowe neither walks with God nor hears from him. Without God speaking, the whole game changes. Especially in the second half of the movie, Noah trusts not God, but his enemy.
People who have seen the movie may say, “What do you mean? He prays a lot!” Yes, he prays. Then he acts in his own strength which does nothing to alter the wrong path he has already chosen.
The pivotal scene in the movie is where Noah leaves the ark before the flood comes to go find wives for his two younger sons. He enters the nearby camp of men and sees the fullness of evil in the world: girls are sold; bodies are lined in pits; starving people rip live animals to shreds with their bare hands. Noah watches a man grab a piece of flesh and savagely devour it. The man looks at Noah and hisses before going back to his meal. In horror, Noah realizes the man is him.
He comes back to the ark convinced that he and his family are too evil to survive and their only purpose of entering the ark will be to save the animals. The rest of the movie centers around Noah’s descent into madness as he tightens his grip on those he loves.
A dash of discernment would have alerted Noah that what he saw was from Satan not God. But Noah does not recognize it as such. Every decision Noah makes after seeing this satanic deception is based on fear, and the more afraid he gets, the more control he seeks. The more control he seeks, the more he abuses his family. Fear is what drives Noah to abandon a young woman to her death, isolate himself from his family and stop six inches shy of murder. Although the Noah movie is not a historically accurate portrayal of the biblical story, it does present a vivid warning to Christian leaders not to abandon faith in their decision-making.
Noah illustrates the procession of a leader’s fear-based decline:
1. God gives you direction for your life.
Noah sees the world covered in a flood and later sees an ark.
2. You begin to walk in that vision and start to get excited about it.
Noah builds the ark and puts the animals on board.
3. Satan pitches an alternative vision.
The Noah look-alike in the camp is sending the message: “You and your family are too evil to survive.”
4. You listen to Satan’s false advertising, which is as ancient as “Did God really say…?” in Eden.
Noah believes the message and starts shutting out everything else outside of that vision.
5. Fear quickly slips into control.
Noah decides his two younger sons will have no wives and his oldest son’s wife (an enjoyable Emma Watson) can only come on board because he thinks she’s barren. When he finds out she is pregnant, he vows to kill the newborn child if it is a girl–a girl could keep the line of men going.
6. Faith-filled people begin to annoy you to the point of hatred.
As Noah’s madness deepens, he can no longer tolerate his sound-minded wife (Jennifer Connelly) and daughter-in-law. He cannot stand to be around his family. And his family cannot stand to be around him.
7. Your prayers seem to go unheard.
Noah asks God if he should kill his grandchild when it is born. Later, his daughter-in-law says the rain stopping is a sign that the Creator is smiling on the child, what I believe to be the correct interpretation. Noah is too deaf and blind to the answer, though, because the control has become such a stronghold.
8. Your ministry crashes as you and those under your leadership get hurt.
Noah does eventually show mercy to his daughter-in-law, but after 9 months of torture, she breaks down in the deepest, soul-crushed shrieks, you wonder if she will ever recover. As soon as the boat hits dry land, Noah, still cut off from his family, finds a cave in which to waste away. Eventually, he begins to find his faith again and repair some damage with his family, but some relationships are lost forever.
Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Christian leaders, we must be careful not to drive away the power of God by choosing fear rather than faith. Acting in fear makes us lose the power we had when we were walking in accordance with God’s truth. And letting fear fill your mind is putting that yoke of slavery over those you lead. The Spirit of Christ is a spirit of freedom–He will not stick around if you are driving your ministry forward in your own cowardice.
Is “fear” the loudest voice you hear when making decisions? Cast off that yoke of fear before it does irreparable damage to you and those whom you lead.
QUESTION: Have you ever allowed fear and control infect your ministry or leadership? Let me know in the comments below.