One of Knaphill’s many ‘claims to fame’ is that it was the birthplace of the Spice Girls during the mid-90s. Today the Spice Girls have sold over 80 million records making them the best-selling female group of all time and one of the best-selling pop groups in history. They are all multi-millionaires in their own right, but ‘back in the day’ things were very different. Responding to an advertisement for young, female singers and dancers to form a ‘girl band’ (to compete with the various popular ‘boy bands’ of the day) the girls worked on various dance routines at the Trinity Studios in Knaphill (now known as the Woking Youth Arts Centre owned by Peer Productions, a large theatre company that provides dramatic education for students of all ages). Because they were comparatively poor in those early days, the girls (during a break in rehearsals) would take the short walk up to Knaphill Village and buy lunch in ‘The King’s House’, a café run by some of the Churches in Knaphill, which was set up to serve the local community by providing good quality food and drinks at reasonable prices, together with social contact in a welcoming and non-threatening environment. Sadly, ‘The King’s House’ no longer exists as a café run by the Churches in Knaphill today (although the café still exists, now called ‘Stef’s’, it remains very popular with the locals).
The Spice Girls debut single was a song called ‘Wannabe’ in 1996, which hit number one in 37 countries. Today, most of us (even if we are not pop music lovers) are familiar its catchy oft-repeated refrain: ‘So tell me what you want, what you really, really want. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want!’ There is a humorous anecdote told about one of the various documentaries filmed about the Spice Girls some years later. In this particular documentary the film company wanted to ‘reproduce’ a scene showing the Spice Girls ‘lunching’ in ‘The King’s House’ aka those early days. One of the ‘extras’ used during filming, was a member of the local Methodist Church who ‘helped out’ in ‘The King’s House’ (in a voluntary capacity) in those days, was a retired Professor of Anthropology (or something really clever like that). For the particular ‘film scene’ he was asked to serve the Spice Girls as they sat at their ‘usual table’. Being somewhat ‘other worldly’ he didn’t really have a clue who the Spice Girls actually were, nor the significance of the ‘line’ he was given for his ‘big part’ in the scene? As the girls sat at their table he approached them to take their food order with the words: ‘So tell me what you want, what you really, really want?’
So, here’s a question for you! What is it that you want, what you really, really want … from life? I guess that amongst the various responses to this question would be things like: wealth, health, happiness, a happy marriage, a good job, a nice house, a nice car, etc. Other people (more outward looking people) might plump for things like: an end to world poverty, the cessation of war, world peace, a cure for horrendous diseases such as cancer, and so on. Yet others (more realistically) might suggest things that might put them ‘in the frame’ so to speak, in terms of trying to ‘make a difference’. Things such as: ‘I want to be … a really good school teacher … a clever, compassionate doctor … a patient, caring nurse … a genuine politician who makes a real difference …’ The list of ‘vocational’ careers, where people can be (and be seen to be) authentic is endless. Personally, I like the idea of what someone once termed ‘a life lived for others, life’ rather than a ‘what’s in for me’ type of life. I was struck some years back (and remain struck) by a phrase that the Apostle Peter uses to describe that which he is most grateful to God for saving him from when he became a Christian. It is not so much that God has saved Peter from the power of sin, or Satan, or even death (although all this is true) but, most important of all, God saved him from ‘an empty or wasted way of life’ (1 Peter 1:18). Peter was a fisherman … and probably a very good fisherman at that (possibly running a small business enterprise on the Galilee along with his brother Andrew and his friends James and John) but God had something much better for him. There is a very true saying that ‘The enemy of the better is the good!’. The fishing business was ‘good’ for Peter but it was not a satisfying occupation. God had something ‘better’ for him. Everything changed for Peter (and his brother) when one day Jesus came alongside them and said: ‘“Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed’ (Matthew 4:19). Getting alongside other needy people and helping them find God for themselves, and God’s plan and purpose for their lives, was far more satisfying than anything Peter had ever done before with his life!
Another Apostle, the Apostle Paul … who was also seemingly very ‘successful’ in his early life (when he was known as Saul of Tarsus) but in reality was extremely dissatisfied until he met Jesus and got completely ‘turned around’ … put his new found purpose in life this way: ‘I want to know Christ … I want to know his resurrection power … I want to know what it is to somehow share his sufferings … I want to becoming like him’ (Philippians 4:10). Paul found his raison d’être through coming to know Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. Paul realised that it was not through becoming a ‘successful businessman’ (he was a skilled tradesman and the proprietor of a successful leather business) or achieving ‘prominence’ within his own community (he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Ruling Council), that a genuine sense of purpose and satisfaction in life came. It was only through coming to know God in Christ that he discovered what the real plan and purpose – God’s plan and purpose – for his life was! As Paul tells the Ephesian Christians, on another occasion: ‘We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works … but not just any kind of good works … those good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2:10). As the old hymn reminds us: ‘There’s a work for Jesus ready at your hand, ‘tis a work the Master just for you has planned!’ Happy …really happy … is the man or woman who genuinely finds their God-given purpose or vocation in life!
So, what is it that you want, what you really, really want … from life? Sometime ago I was speaking at wedding and after the ceremony was over, and the bride and groom were having their photographs taken, I was approached by one of the wedding guests. He was a man in his late 30s I would guess, and he had a question for me. ‘Did I understand you right?’ he asked. ‘Did you suggest in your address that we only find our real purpose in life through committing our lives to Jesus Christ and following him through life as our Saviour and Lord?’ Now I confess that I was somewhat hesitant in responding to this man’s question. I hoped I hadn’t ‘put him off’ the Christian life by being too blunt? He wasn’t going to ‘let me off the hook’ however. ‘Did you or did you not say that we only find our real purpose in life through committing our lives to Jesus Christ and following him through life as our Saviour and Lord?’ he asked again. I decided to ‘bite the bullet’. ‘Yes!’ I said, ‘I did suggest that we only find our real purpose in life through committing our lives to Jesus Christ and following him through life as our Saviour and Lord?’ ‘Good!’ the man replied … ‘That’s exactly what I have been looking for!’ He went on to tell me his story. As a youngster he had heard the Christian Gospel but had rejected it because he had his heart set on other things. He was intent on going to university, getting a good degree, getting a good job, becoming a ‘partner’ in his chosen profession, earning a lot of money, meeting a nice girl, getting married, having a family, buying a lovely house, having a nice car … etc., etc. ‘I thought that all that would bring me happiness and a real sense of achievement in life!’ he told me. ‘I have all those things now’ he continued, ‘but I still don’t have that happiness and sense of real achievement that I hoped for. I know that there is something still missing in my life … but today you have shown me what it is, I intend to rectify my earlier mistake!’
So, in conclusion … here’s that question for you again! What is it that you want, what you really, really want … from life?