Survivor is one of the few shows I watch on television; it is probably the only show we watch as a family. Whether it is outwit, outlast, or outplay, the show has a pull for every member of our family. The most recent season, which ended this past Sunday night, went beyond family entertainment and became a source of spiritual instruction and encouragement for our family.
A new feature to this season was the addition of “Redemption Island.” After being voted out by their tribe members at Tribal Council, the player would then go to Redemption Island where he might be able to win the right to reenter the game. Francesca and Matt were the first and second person, respectively, to arrive on Redemption Island. Matt won their duel which enabled him to stay. So began a 29-day saga where he won many consecutive duels. He lasted until the end of the season, albeit on Redemption Island instead of in the tribe. As the season progressed and Matt’s faith was revealed, our family started to speculate that God was up to something on Redemption Island. Our God is all about redemption, so it doesn’t seem odd that He chose to show up in this location.
Many people enjoy the strategy of playing the game and the temporary fame it might bring. However, many, if not all, contestants on all 22 seasons are really just after one thing - the $1,000,000 prize for being the sole survivor. Matt’s survival until the last episode and then failure to win the final challenge - disqualifying him for the $1,000,000 - may seem tragic to the world. But from a spiritual perspective, Matt is one of the biggest winners. He was in the right place at the right time to be used by God.
When fellow player Krista lost her chance on Redemption Island, she left Matt the luxury item she had brought for the show – her Bible. Already a believer and with hours of solitary time on his hands, Matt seemingly spent many hours in the Word each day. Partway through, the game shifted and more people stayed on Redemption Island.
Julie was one of those people. After spending a short amount of time with Matt, she left the game by saying that although it would have been nice to win the money to get her house out of foreclosure, “I’m walking away with something bigger. My life is changed by seeing Matt’s story with God and I am looking forward to going back home, finding a church, and getting involved.”
Fourteen of Matt’s 29 days were spent with another player, Mike. In a post-series interview, he said of his time on Redemption Island, “Spending 14 days on Redemption Island with Matt was really, really good; to step outside our daily life of phone calls, emails, traffic, and what-nots and to really do some soul searching and find your purpose in life. I can say that Survivor changed me and transformed me in a way that I’m really happy about.”
I believe these four players - Krista, Matt, Mike, and Julie - will reap a greater reward than $1,000,000 would bring them. Two of them were faithful to God, one by bringing His Word and another by enduring the long, hard fight. The other two either found or renewed a relationship with God while on the island. Boston Rob may be the literal winner, but when his $1,000,000 is spent, these four people will have "stored up treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:20).
For Krista, although her part was small, it was critical. Bringing the Word of God to a person or place is the most valuable thing you can bring. "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor" (1 Corinthians 3:7-8).
For Julie, although things may seem bleak in the matters of the world, a relationship with God is all that matters. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).
For Matt, although the journey may be long and hard, that isn't what matters. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
For Mike, although this experience may have been life-changing, it won't stick unless it is maintained. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).
Please note I have not interviewed these players. The preceding are only my observations, speculations, and applications.