The noted American newspaper editor and publisher, Horace Greeley, once wrote, “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.”
When you think about his quote, there are a couple of key lessons that come out of the quote. First is that all the things of this world, fame, popularity and wealth, are fleeting. They, like a fog, can quickly appear and just as quickly vanish without a trace. However, there is one thing that remains. It is the second lesson. The only thing that endures and that has real value is the character of a person. A person’s character is not just judged while he or she is alive, but it remains as the largest part of his or her legacy after death.
In our digital age, most people are obsessed with the number of followers they have on social media. Social media gives everyone a chance to achieve some level of fame and popularity. There are individuals who truly get depressed when people unfriend or stop following them. These individuals will spend days wondering why people have stopped listening to them. There have been times when I have personally spoken with people who go to great lengths to find out why someone has decided not to be friends with them, stop following them or blocking their content. In fact, several individuals actually broke down and began to cry over the situation. The way they spoke about the situation made it sound like they had lost a loved one to an illness or through an accident.
When individuals become that obsessed it is easy for them to focus on things that really don’t matter. They concentrate on their image more than the things that matter most like character. They obsess over popularity, fame and wealth. They use those things to show the world how successful they are and why others should follow or be friends with them. Instead of devoting themselves to those things that are higher and nobler, they work harder and harder to garner more fame, popularity and wealth. It becomes a never-ending cycle for them. Acquire more to be more.
Our lives should not be defined by the things of this world. We should devote ourselves to serving one another and truly doing all that we can do to serve God. It is not enough to pay lip service to our faith and just pretend to be Christians. We must live our lives as followers of Christ Jesus and follow his example daily.
Paul, in chapter twelve of his epistle to the Romans, writes, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
When we concentrate on other things, it is so very easy to pretend we love others and we focus on ourselves rather than the needs of others. It is our responsibility to truly love one another with genuine affection. When we do that, we honor one another. We shouldn’t care about what others think of us or concern ourselves with how many people will follow or friend us. If you are concerned by that and only do things to increase the number of people who follow or friend you, then you are not truly loving others. You are using them as a means to a selfish end.
In chapter four of the Book of Ecclesiastes, the author writes, “It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
The passage illustrates the pointless chasing of fame, popularity and wealth. You can work hard to gain all that you desire in life and people will flock to you and admire you. However, admiration can disappear as quickly as it appears. History tells us how fickle a mob can be. One day you are at the top and the next day you are nothing more than a footnote.
Henry Miller, an American writer and artist, once wrote, “Fame is an illusive thing - here today, gone tomorrow. The fickle, shallow mob raises its heroes to the pinnacle of approval today and hurls them into oblivion tomorrow at the slightest whim; cheers today, hisses tomorrow; utter forgetfulness in a few months.”
Social media has made it easier than ever to celebrate a person as a hero one day and then cast them aside in less than a day. It doesn’t take long at all for people to quickly change their minds about you and throw you on to the ash heap of history. The mob is truly fickle and shallow.
My words to you are simple. Don’t pursue fame, popularity or wealth. Devote yourself to living a Christ-like life and follow the example of Jesus. He is indeed the architect of our faith and is our role model. Friend and follow Jesus. Don’t allow the opinions of others to guide your steps.
In chapter two of his first epistle, Peter writes, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”
As you walk daily with the Lord, devote yourself to the only thing that truly matters, doing good. Follow Jesus’ footsteps and live for him rather than living for “likes”. When you take those steps to rid your life of those distractions, you can rest assured that you will be able to stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.