The Martian, based on the Andy Weir novel of the same name, is a different sci-fi film from director Ridley Scott. There’s no obvious enemy with the face of an alien or cyborg, but it’s still a terrifically tense tale.
Sometime in the future, the Alpha III manned mission to Mars goes awry, leaving presumed dead astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) stranded and alone.
Upon finding out of their colleague’s survival, the crew must decide whether to carry on their planned, long return journey to Earth, or risk their own lives by turning around to rescue him. This kind of sacrifice made me think of Jesus’ words in John 15:13. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Of course, that’s what Jesus has done for us. We are precious in His sight, and to bring us back to the Father, He did what He had to do to make that happen – He surrendered his life. He didn’t argue, or fight, or run. Earlier, in John 10:18 Jesus told his disciples (who were also his close friends) that no-one takes his life from him, but he lays it down willingly. For me, for you, for us all – he gave up his life. He knew what the price was (his death) but also what the prize was (our redemption).
That really is the gospel message. God created the world, and made humans, not because He’s lonely, but because He’s loving. When those humans disobeyed God, that relationship with Him was severed but His love for us never changed. God’s not an emotional being as we are, in that He isn’t erratic or changes His mind. That’s why He’s able to love us with patience and persistence. He has never given up on humanity, His dearest and most precious creation, and He knew the only way to restore our relationship with Him was to have His Son Jesus suffer the punishment we deserved, on our behalf.
That heart for humanity has never left God. He longs to have a relationship with us all; to reveal His truth and love and power to, and through, us.
Besides the sacrifice of his friends, and the intelligence of NASA, the other aspect that led to Mark’s survival on Mars was his determination. Through determination, Watney had to learn to make food, water and shelter and to do all he could to return home. When we are desperate for something, we are willing to let go of things that hinder us from that goal. Our money and time are precious commodities, so we must learn to use them wisely.
Paul said in Philippians 3:12 that, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” He goes on to say that he forgets what lies behind and uses descriptions such as “straining toward what is ahead,” and challenges, “all of us who are mature” to take such a view.
Paul uses the runner analogy in 1 Corinthians 9 when he encourages believers to go in to strict training because the eternal prize is worth it. We are not called to run aimlessly, but to run with our eyes fixed heavenward. That is our motivation, moreso than any earthly rewards such as riches or acclaim which are only temporary.
We compete, not against others, but against those things that would hinder us from running the race He has called us to run. Following Christ is not a short sprint but a long marathon. It requires endurance, discipline and focus. It requires saying yes to things that draw us closer to our godly goal, and to say no to those things which distract us.
In the film, Watney ponders the fact that he is the loneliest man in the universe. No-one has ever been more distant from other life than he is. Of course, no matter where we go, we are never alone. It is one of the most joyful promises we have as children of God. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us to not be afraid because He will never leave us or forsake us. Some of Jesus’ last words were to remind us of this truth, as Matthew 28:18 states, “I am with you always.” Psalm 139 also wonderfully captures His everpresence with verses such as,”If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.”
No matter where we are, we are never alone.