By Eric Metaxas, September 18, 2015 blog at http://www.breakpoint.org
If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember an actor named Dean Jones, who starred in goofy Disney films such as “That Darn Cat” and “The Love Bug.” For a long time, Jones lived the truth of the Lord’s question— gaining the whole world, at least the world of Hollywood— and losing his soul.
But Jones, who died earlier this month at age 84, eventually gained his soul again. It’s a story worthy of a Hollywood script.
Dean Carroll Jones was born on January 25, 1931, in Decatur, Alabama. He grew up in a Christian home but rejected his family’s faith. After working as a DJ and singer and serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Jones was drawn to Tinseltown. As Jones told Christianity Today in a 2009 interview, “My first scene in a movie was with James Cagney. There I was, just out of the U.S. Navy without an acting lesson to my name. In walks Cagney and says ‘Walk to your mark and remember your lines.’ That’s all I’ve been doing for fifty years.”
Later, when Walt Disney came calling, country-boy Jones hit the big time. “It was a fast track life,” Jones said in another interview. “I was making $50,000 a week. I had the Ferrari and beautiful women and all the rest of what I thought would satisfy my life. And it was empty. Really empty.”
As CT reported, “For years [Jones] had deceived himself into believing that the Hollywood lifestyle would satisfy him, but it had only left him depressed and suicidal. He addictively sought the comforting roar of audience approval, but such pursuits had only shattered his first marriage (which ended in divorce) and alienated him from his children. He began to see life as a pointless exercise in futility, to be managed by alcohol and a parade of affairs.”
Jones wrote in his autobiography, Under Running Laughter, that he heard a voice in his spirit say that his lifestyle “will never satisfy you.” And Jones started to wonder, “Could I continue to deceive myself into believing that whatever vacuum existed within me would be filled in the future by more and bigger portions of what I’d consumed in the past?” God was at work.
But it was a nearly fatal drunken-driving incident that really got his attention. CT reports that Jones cried out to God: “I’ve done everything in this world I thought would make me happy and it doesn’t work. I have everything and I have nothing. I have no choice but to believe. God, if you don’t exist, then I’m a dead man.” Supernatural peace flooded his soul, and Jones began to reform his life.
One thing he did not do, however, was give up acting, which he saw as a key means of drawing people closer to the divine.
Jones said, “Film and television have been partially responsible for the disconnect between our nation and our God; so dynamic but righteous entertainment can help reverse this trend.”
Jones’s life and career show us that losing the world doesn’t mean we have to lose all contact with it! Acting can be a holy calling.
Now, I need to tell you that Dean Jones has a special place in our hearts here at BreakPoint. Just a few years after accepting Christ, Jones accepted an offer to play Chuck Colson (founder of Breakpoint) in the film version of Chuck’s bestseller, Born Again. Some folks were surprised that Jones agreed to play a former Watergate conspirator. But as Jones told the Washington Post, “If God can forgive me and Chuck, he can forgive anyone.”
I can almost hear Chuck saying, “Amen to that!”
Dean Jones, rest in peace.
Mark 8:36 — (Jesus said), “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 — I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 — Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Our Father in heaven, I thank thee that thou hast led me into the light. I thank thee for sending the Savior to call me from death to life. I confess that I was dead in sin before I heard his call, but when I heard him, like Lazarus, I arose. But, O my Father, the grave clothes bind me still. Old habits that I cannot throw off, old customs that are so much a part of my life that I am helpless to live the new life that Christ calls me to live. Give me strength, O Father, to break the bonds; give me courage to live a new life in thee; give me faith to believe that with thy help I cannot fail. I ask this in the Savior’s name. Amen.
–Prayer from Taiwan