It’s fitting that celebrities receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After all, for most of Tinseltown’s history, celebrities have belonged to another solar system. They’ve been distant and untouchable—not better, but otherworldly.
In 2002, however, celebrities seemingly fell to earth when Us Weekly launched “Stars—They’re Just Like Us.” Appearing in each issue of the magazine, this feature shows images of celebrities doing everyday activities. Journalist Ruth Graham explains its significance:
We saw the beautiful extraterrestrials pumping gas, schlepping FedEx packages, and tying their shoes. They ate junk food, picked up dry cleaning, and got parking tickets. The proof was right there on the same glossy paper that showed them walking the red carpet.
Suddenly, they were human and relatable. They were just like us.
Nature Like Ours
Elijah is a star in the Old Testament. He multiples food for a starving widow and her son (1 Kings 17:14), raises someone from the dead (1 Kings 17:22), trounces Baal’s prophets in a spectacular standoff (1 Kings 18), and ascends to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).
The New Testament confirms his greatness. When Jesus and Luke want to emphasize John the Baptist’s unique spirit and power, they compare him to Elijah (Matt. 11:14; Mark 9:11–13; Luke 1:17). Some people even mistake Jesus for Elijah (Luke 9:19; John 1:21). On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus appears with Elijah (Matt. 17:1–13).
Yet the Scriptures don’t present Elijah as distant, untouchable, or otherworldly; they present him as just like us—flesh, blood, and human. After his stunning triumph over Baal’s prophets, he struggles with common human emotions—despair, unbelief, weakness, anxiety, and loneliness (1 Kings 19). And James writes, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17).
Yes, Elijah is an ordinary man, but there is something unique about him—he’s able to do extraordinary things because he prays to an extraordinary God. James continues, “He prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months, it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17–18).
The difference was not in the man but in his God.
Cloud of Witnesses
The writer of Hebrews says we’re “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and more. These men and women built an ark to save a family, led a people to receive the promised land, parted a sea to save a remnant, gave birth to a son after childbearing years, and hid spies sent by God. He continues:
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. (Heb. 11:32–35)
Today we have a greater cloud of witnesses—John, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Paul, Lydia, and more. They raise girls from the dead (Acts 9:40), drive out evil spirits from the possessed (Luke 10:17), walk on water (Mark 14:28–31), heal the lame to walk again (Acts 3:6–8), and more.
Yet these saints—from both the Old and the New Testaments—are profoundly ordinary. Peter is a simple fisherman. David is a man of small stature. Mary and Joseph are teenagers. Gideon’s family isn’t impressive or important (Jdgs. 6:5). Nehemiah is a cupbearer, tasting wine to ensure it’s not poisoned (Neh. 1:12). The saints of the Bible struggle with racism (Acts 10:28), sexual immorality (2 Sam. 11), cowardice (Exod. 4:10–17), fear of man (Esth. 4:10–11), pride (Acts 9:1; Gal. 1:14), and more.
Object of Faith Beats Strength of Faith
The Bible is honest about the limitations and flaws of its celebrities. There’s nothing special about them. They’re ordinary—just like us. Yet they do extraordinary things because they look to an extraordinary God.
The foundation of our faith is not family, achievement, attractiveness, or cleverness. We don’t need special gifts and talents, book publishing deals, an executive suite, or a spouse and kids. Even the size of our faith and the height of our holiness aren’t the basis of our hope.
The value of our faith is based on the object of our faith. Tim Keller illustrates:
If there are two people on a plane—one passenger is afraid of flying and thinks the plane will go down at every bump, and the other is a frequent flier who sleeps through turbulence—neither their little faith nor their big faith matters, but only the competence of the crew and the integrity of the aircraft.
Thus we need a God who is real and big and extraordinary. He alone is the foundation of our trust. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews says, we look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). In him, we find what the saints of old found: strength, hope, and extraordinary life.
Stars in the Sky
When the Lord makes his covenant with Abraham, who is childless and whose wife is beyond childbearing years, he takes him outside and makes an incredible promise: “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be” (Gen. 15:5).
We are the fulfillment of that extraordinary promise. We are those stars. In God, we’re otherworldly, sojourning in this world and staking our citizenship in heaven.
Yet we’re not elevated to the heights because of anything we’ve done, but because of everything he’s done. On the cross, the largest star went black, as the Father turned his back on the Son. He received the darkness so we might receive the light. We’re otherworldly because he gave himself in our world.
May we stare afresh at the stooping, self-giving mercy of God. And may we boast in our ordinary weakness, since it’s his extraordinary strength that saves.