Mark Batterson - The Overview Effect
On Tuesday of this week, we marked the anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in human history. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. It was a monumental moment in our exploration of outer space. And I might add, inner space. Let me show you two photographs, the first one is the first full disk photo of planet earth taken by a person, astronaut Bill Anders. It's a thing of beauty, isn't it? The second photo, taken on Christmas Eve, 1968. It's an image of the earth rising above the lunar horizon. Stop and think about this, it was less than 60 years ago that we finally got our first glimpse of the planet that we live on.
In his book, "Think Again," Adam Grant writes about something called The Overview Effect. When astronauts leave the Earth's atmosphere and get a glimpse of planet Earth, it's almost like an out of body experience. A team of psychologists has studied the effects of outer space on inner space, assessing more than 100 astronauts and cosmonauts through interviews and autobiographies. Here's the bottom line, upon returning from space, astronauts are less focused on individual achievements and personal happiness and more concerned about the collective good. "You develop an instant global consciousness," said Apollo 14, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, "An intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world and a compulsion to do something about it". Astronaut Jeff Ashby describes it this way, "Circling the planet in 90 minutes, you see the connection between someone on one side of the planet to someone on the other. There are no borders".
When you see Earth from outer space, it changes inner space, it catalyzes this paradigm shift called The Overview Effect. All of a sudden you see the big picture, you realize that we share common ground and a common identity with every person on the planet. And it puts things into perspective. Let me have a little bit of fun with this, right now, even if you're online, I don't know, you might be driving, you might be at the gym, so I wanna be careful here. But in person, it feels like you're sitting still. The reality is you're on a planet that is spinning around its axis at a 1000 miles per hour. We will make one full rotation in the next 24 hours. Of course, we're also speeding through space at a speed of 66,000 miles per hour. And so even on a day where you feel like you didn't get much done, come on, you did travel 1.6 million miles through space, come on, give yourself one of these, give yourself one of these.
Question, when was the last time you knelt down and thanked God for keeping us in orbit? Lord, I wasn't sure if we were going to make a full rotation today, but you did it again. We don't pray that way, why? Because God is so good at what God does. And we just take it for granted. See, we already trust him for the big things like keeping us in orbit. Now we need to trust him for the little things, which I think is everything else. Welcome to National Community Church. We're in a series called Joy. We're walking through the book of Philippians, verse by verse. I want to pick up where we left off last week, Philippians three, verse 20 and 21. "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control, will transform," are you ready for this? "Your lowly bodies so that they will become like his glorious body".
Can someone say six pack? I mean, the day is coming when you're not going to have to worry about body mass index. Come on, your VO2 Max is going to be off the charts. No root canals, no bad hair days, we will have that glorified bodies. Hallelujah. Theologians identify four characteristics of these glorified bodies, I love Theologians. This is so fancy, are you ready? Four characteristics, I love this, subtlety, luminosity, agility, and incorruptibility. Simply put, our glorified bodies will be incapable of suffering, immune to sickness, capable of extra dimensional movement. I don't know why I'm doing this. And perfect in form. I'm pretty excited about a glorified body, especially new knees. Six surgeries, come on. But I have to say, I'm equally excited about glorified senses. You are gonna taste things that are gonna make your tongue tingle. You're going to see colors that Crayola can't even name. We're going to hear angels hitting octaves that will give us goosebumps.
So much to look forward to. And it has an Overview Effect, doesn't it? Paul is giving us a bird's eye view. Paul is helping us see the big picture. He's shifting our focus from the temporal to the eternal, shifting our focus from this earthly perspective to a heavenly perspective. "Our imagination so magnifies the presence," said Blaise Pascal, "Because we are continually thinking about it. And so reduces eternity, because we don't think about it. That we turn eternity into nothing and nothing into eternity". When I get discouraged, nine times out of 10, it's because I zoom in on a situation, on a person, that is causing frustration. And the solution to that frustration, nine times out of 10, is to zoom out. I've got to widen my aperture. I've got to look at that person, look at that situation from an eternal perspective. And that is much easier said than done, no doubt, but Philippians four makes this possible, and we'll get there in a minute.
A few years ago, Laura and I were flying cross country from Palm Springs, California, where we were at a meeting and back to Washington DC. And that means connecting flights, which causes complications, especially in the winter months. And so we had a weather delay at our first stop, which caused this chain reaction. When that flight got delayed, we got detoured to New York instead of DC. And then that flight got canceled because our flight crew hit their time quota. You know who else hit their time quota? You're looking at them. Long story short, we had to rent car in New York, drive all through the night to get back to DC the next morning, That my friends, will test your sanctification. Am I in the right room? But that's when you need to zoom out and see the big picture and put things into perspective.
Now, I don't know what inspired this thought, but it's been a mantra of mine ever since. And maybe I'll put it on a t-shirt someday. But at some point in this travel debacle, I turned to Laura, shrugged my shoulders I said, "Well, beats a covered wagon". Let me show you a photo. And I don't know when this photo was taken, but I think it predates the new terminal at DCA. I think this was taken at gate 35X, do you remember that gate? And I think the families, you can kind of read it, the body language, they're a little frustrated because they have to take that wagon to the other concourse, their water bottles got confiscated and the Chick-fil-A is outside the security gate, that's pretty much, I'm being a little facetious, but this is a reality check, okay? We get all bent out of shape over a 15 minute delay on a flight that will get us across the country in five hours when it took a covered wagon five months. We get kinda upset, I mean, we might even lose our salvation over the legs space and the luggage space while traveling 500 miles an hour at 30,000 feet. Come on, zoom out, put it in perspective. It beats a covered wagon.
Now what I just did is called a downward counterfactual. And I'll define it, we'll talk about it a little bit later. Here's the bottom line, here's the big idea. When you get frustrated, you've got to step back, you've got to take stock, and you've got to see that big picture. "The sufferings of this present time," Romans 8:18, "Are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us". I believe that. "Our light and momentary troubles," 2 Corinthians 4:17, "Are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all," "The kingdoms of this world", Revelation 11:15, "Are becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever". Don't lose faith in the end of the story. We don't believe in happily ever after, we believe in something so much bigger and better and longer and stronger, we believe in happily forever after the day is coming. When every nation, tribe, people and language, come on, will surround that, we will join the angels and the elders in the living creek. We will sing in perfect harmony and imperfect pitch, worshiping our creator and our redeemer. What a moment that's going to be.
All right, let me jump to verses six and seven. Sorry, let me jump to verse one, I'm getting ahead of myself. Verse one. "Therefore my brother and sisters, you whom I love and long for". So much affection in this letter. Then Paul says, "My joy and my crown stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends". Now, in the last chapter, do you remember this? The apostle Paul pretty much publishes his LinkedIn profile. And it is awfully impressive. I mean, on paper, he's got it going on. But he calls all of those accolades, all of those achievements, all of those accomplishments, garbage. Do you remember this? He finds his identity, his security, his authority in Christ and Christ alone. And then it's almost like Paul pushes the envelope a little bit further, don't miss this. Paul's joy, Paul's crown, is not his accomplishments. Paul's joy, Paul's crown, is his relationships. Spiritually speaking, your real resume is your relationships.
You've heard me say this 100 times, legacy is not what you accomplish. Legacy is what others accomplish because of you. Discipleship is growing fruit on someone else's tree. This week, I took the train up to New York City. You've heard me quote, R.T Kendall 101 times. "Sometimes the greatest opposition in what God wants to do next comes from those who are on the cutting edge of what God did last". Drop the mic. Page 133, a book called "The Anointing". R.T, 86 years young. Pastor in Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years, wrote more than 50 books. And so when you have an opportunity to have lunch with someone who has left their fingerprints on your soul, you hop on a train up to New York City. And so R.T is eating his wedge salad at Gallagher Steak House in Times Square. And he tells this story. When his mother was six months pregnant, his parents attended a church service in Indianapolis, Indiana, and his father was so impacted by the preacher that night, that he reached out his hand, put it on his wife's stomach, and prayed that his son would be a preacher, and prayed that his son would preach like the man who was preaching that night.
Fast forward 20 years, R.T is in college and he attends a mandatory chapel every day. And so over four years, I mean 100s, if not 1000s of preachers. And he says, I only remember one message and one preacher. And he was so impacted by this one message, this one preacher, that he went back to his dorm, literally got on his knees and said, "Oh God, would you help me preach like that preacher"? And then he did something that he had never done before, he called his Dad. And he told them about the message. And his dad said, "Son, what was the preacher's name"? R.T said, his name was C.B Cox. His dad said, "Son, that's the preacher who was preaching when your mom was six months pregnant. And I prayed that you would preach like that preacher".
Here's the rest of the story, C.B Cox died the year before R.T Kendall started pastoring Westminster Chapel in London. C.B Cox didn't read any R.T's books, didn't hear any of R.T's sermons, but I would suggest in the grand scheme of things, C.B Cox gets partial credit for R.T Kendall. As he preached those sermons, C.B Cox was growing fruit and growing faith on someone else's tree. If I'm reading this right, and I think I am, our legacy, or in Paul's words, our joy and our crown is what others accomplish because of our success, it's succession. Question, who is your joy and who is your crown? At the end of the day, it's not our achievements that matter most, our real resume is our relationships. Let me drop down to verse six. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God". Oh, I'm praying right now. "And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, may it guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus".
I wanna share three best practices, three things that we can do to win the battle of the mind, because that's where the battle is won or lost. One, put it to prayer, two, fix your focus, three, flip the script. A couple of questions. How do you love people you don't like? How do you survive the inevitable setbacks that happen in life? How do you heal after your heart is broken? And how do you stay positive in negative situations? None of those questions are easy to answer, but I would suggest that you got to put it to prayer and by it I mean, everything. We don't watch the news, we pray the news. You don't do your job, you pray for the people you work with. Don't don't just take a meeting, if you pray for your appointments before they happen, in my experience, they often turn into divine appointments.
A couple of diagnostic questions. Are you complaining about people behind their back or are you praying for the people who get under your skin? Many years ago, we were trying to turn a crack house into Ebeneezer's Coffee House. And I'm thinking to myself maybe I was a little bit naive. I mean, anybody on it on planet earth, who isn't going to love this? I mean, come on, we're turning a crack house into a coffee house. We had some neighbors who started taking pot shots, made false accusations about our motives, said things that weren't true. I was getting a little riled up. Can I just make an observation? Distance demonizes. I think one of the reasons why racial tension and political polarization has escalated, is in part, because of the social distancing over the last year and a half. Because you say things sometimes in that context, that you would never say to someone's face because you'd probably get popped. And I wanted to pop some people, knock a little sense into them, but I took a different tactic.
I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life. This was long before I wrote "The Circle Maker," long before I really pressed into this idea of prayer. Here's what I did, I started praying for those people by name. I started blessing them, praying God's grace, and God's goodness. And it was hard, but I'll never forget when we show up at the zoning hearing and you gotta love this, I mean, we had a hundred and change for the church, who showed up and filled that zoning hearing. But then there were the neighbors, who, not quite as many, but who voiced their opinions. And what I remember is this, I was able to look them in the eyes with love, why? Because, stick with me, where your treasure is, there your whole heart will be also. In other words, feelings follow actions. When you give, when you invest into something, it shifts the way that you feel about it, why? Because you have a vested interest. When I start praying for people, it just changes the way that I feel about them. I mean, this is a game changer, this is a game changer.
Here's the bottom line, you have to identify the triggers in your life, the things that tempt you, the things that tick you off. And then you've got to turn those triggers into prayer prompts. So when you experience anxiety, I always feel like that's God knocking on my door saying, hey, this is something that you need to pray about. Well, Pastor Mark, like I've tried that, and then the anxiety comes back. Well, I think that means we're supposed to keep praying about it. Well, what if I feel more anxiety? Then I pray a little bit more. Now. I want to be careful here. you know me well to know that that I'm a both/and thinker. And so if we're talking clinical anxiety, you need to get help, you need to see someone to walk you through that, but you also need to pray, you need to do both of those things.
And so the point is this, you have to pray through to the breakthrough, and by breakthrough, I don't mean the miracle happened. I mean, praying until you come to a point that the peace of God is guarding your heart and your mind. Okay, we broke through. Lord, I was so scared about this, but I trust you, I trust you, and you come to this place where you literally feel the peace of God guarding you. Gosh, here's some good news. You know, you don't have to buy a $250,000 ticket from Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos to experience The Overview Effect. Prayer is the way we reach escape velocity. Prayer is the way we write history before it happens. And when we do, the peace of God guards our hearts and our minds, and we're going to sing about it in just a few minutes. Number one, put into prayer. Number two, fix your focus. Finally, brothers and sisters, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things".
A few years ago, researchers did a study with college students posed two questions. One, how happy are you? And two, how many dates have you had in the last month? Now the researchers found a weak correlation between the level of happiness and the number of dates. Ah, but you know researchers, they're tricky. And so they flipped the questions. One, how many dates have you had in the last month? And two, how happy are you? All of a sudden, a strong correlation between the number of dates that students had been on and their level of happiness. What happened? Well, those researchers got them to focus on their dating life or lack thereof. And that focus totally shifted their feelings. It's called the focusing illusion. And it is as old as Philippians 4:8. Here's the bottom line, you don't see the world as it is, you see the world as you are. And your focus determines your reality. Here's what I've learned about human nature.
If you are full of insecurity, you will find something to insult. But if you're full of confidence, ah, you'll find something to compliment. If you're full of fear, you'll find something to be afraid of. If you're full of faith, you will find the silver lining. If you are filled with, if you are full of unhealed hurts, you will find something to hate. But if you are full of the spirit, you will find love and joy and peace and patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. If I had to describe my leadership style, I would probably point to something called appreciative inquiry. It doesn't ignore weaknesses or what's wrong. You've got to fix those, but it does play to your strengths, how? Appreciative inquiry is identifying what's working, and then let's do more of that. It's celebrating what you want to see more of, which is why we start every, almost every staff meeting, by sharing wins.
I think the apostle Paul is advocating appreciative inquiry. If anything is true or noble or right, or pure or lovely or admirable, focus on those things. Joy is not a function of a objective circumstances. Joy is a function of subjective focus. Joy is not getting what you want, joys appreciating what you have. You choose your focus and your focus then determines your reality. A few more questions, what percentage of your thoughts, words and actions are a regurgitation of the news you're watching and the social media you're following? And what percentage is a revelation that you're getting from God's word? Are you taking your cues from trending hashtags or are you getting your prompts from the Holy Spirit? Are you believing the lies of the enemy or are you being transformed by the truth of scripture? As a man thinketh in his head heart so is he, said King Solomon. That's where the battle is won or lost, is mind over matter. I have some good news, you can fix your focus. It's really not that hard. Pop-up that picture, we have a birthday in our family.
Aww. I feel like going into my dog voice right now, but I can't get that back, so I'm going to resist that temptation. I mean, look at that, look at that. After a hard day, a long day, whatever is good, or right, or pure, or admirable. Now I'm having a little bit of fun, but part of where I'm going with this is, you know what, it really is, you've got to find things to focus on. And so one of the best ways to fix your focus is to start a gratitude journal, why? Because it sanctifies your reticular activating system. It's this part of the brain at the base of the brain stem that determines what we notice and what goes unnoticed. If you are looking for somebody to complain about, you will always find it. And if you are looking for something to be grateful for, You will always find it. And what a gratitude journal does is it creates a category where I know, well, got to find three things today to be grateful for. And so now it is fixing my focus, Philippians 4:8. All right, number three. Verse nine, flip the script. "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me, put it into practice". And here it is again. "And the God of peace will be with you".
Let me close with this. the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in Tokyo kicks off this weekend. One of my favorite studies involves Olympic athletes. A psychologist named Vicki Medvec found that bronze medalists are quantifiably happier than silver medalists, which makes absolutely no sense, why? Because the silver medal beat the bronze medalist, but silver medalists, are you ready for this? Tend to focus on how close they came to winning a gold medal, and they aren't satisfied with silver, but those who won the bronze medal, tend to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all. I'm on the lowest end, but I'm happy to be here, right? Those are called counterfactuals. And I don't have time to deep dive this, but an upward counterfactual is those silver medalists comparing themselves with the gold medalists and you're never satisfied. And then those bronze medalists, it's a downward counterfactual. And it's comparing yourself with how things could have gone a lot worse. And it totally flips the script.
And I want to be careful here, because I realize that happiness equals reality minus expectations, right? Yes, we all know this formula. And I would suggest that God actually wants to sanctify your expectations so that you live your life with this holy anticipation. So I want to be really, really careful. But I think one way you flip the script, let me just bring this way down to earth, 'cause it sounds like really, like a psychological jujitsu, And in a sense it is, and I believe as followers of Christ, that's what the Sermon on the Mount, it's operating in the opposite spirit, right? We turn the other cheek, we go the extra mile, we love our enemies, we bless those who curse us, we pray for those who persecute us. Like all of that is flipping the script. But let's not over complicate this. You have a super power. Come on, let me see it. Come on, let me see that smile. Come on, turn to the person next to you. If you're online at the gym, be careful here, but turn and smile to someone, do a little experiment, come on, smile at the person next to you.
Now here's the amazing thing about that. It has a physiological effect on your biochemistry. It lowers blood pressure, it boosts immunity, it releases neuropeptides that relieves stress, and relieve pain. Oh, and smiling has a physiological effect on others. It puts them at ease, and it makes you more attractive. Listen, I think sometimes, like this week, what if we just smiled at everybody? What if we just turned that frown upside down and flipped the script, but by using this super power that God has given to us. All right, I need to land this plane. If you want to change your life, you start by changing your story. And more specifically, the story that you're telling yourself. You've got to flip your own script and it's not just prayer that enables us to experience this Overview Effect.
I also believe that it's scripture, scripture gives us a God's eye view. Scripture begins to put our problems into perspective. Scripture allows us to see our story in light of the meta-narrative that God is writing through human history. Simply put, scripture is our script-cure. So what happens is, you give complete editorial control of your life to the author and perfecter of your faith. And then he begins to write his story through you. Oh, he writes such good stories and then his stories become your testimony. And so, I'm just going to end on a really simple note, can I remind you of who you are? You are more than a conquerer. You may not feel like it all the time, but that's who you are in Christ. You are the image of God. You are the apple of God's eye, and you are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, prepared for you in advance. In Jesus' name, amen.