Health and Wealth?
They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated . . . Hebrews 11:37
In our addictions, we commit terrible sins. As the drug consumes our lives, controlling our behavior, we lie, cheat, and steal, doing things we never would do otherwise. When we first begin to recover then, we often feel tremendous shame as we look soberly back at what we’ve done. Often, we promise that in our sobriety, we’re going to do great things to make up for our past.
In treatment, I remember several of the guys planning a profitable real estate empire based on sober houses. I wasn’t immune to this kind of magical thinking. When I first got out of treatment, I immediately began writing a book (not the one that I eventually published). I knew it was going to be a best-seller and that I wouldn’t need to go back to practicing medicine because I’d be too busy talking to Oprah. The guys with the sober housing empire dream and I had a couple things in common. We all believed that we’d be doing something grand for God, but we also imagined that we’d get rich in the process. Yes, we wanted to turn our lives around and follow God, but our selfishness insidiously leached into our faith. Though sober, we were still so self-centered that we made faith all about our own health and wealth.
This is easy to do. There are passages that seem to suggest that worldly success is automatic when we follow God. The verses just prior to today’s passage look back to those faithful who conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, and stopped the mouths of lions. These verses make it sound like following God guarantees heroic victories. The author goes on however, to say that some of those who followed God met with tragic, painful ends as well. They may have been radically obedient, and they may have accomplished great things, but that did not necessarily result in worldly success. Many of them died violently for their faith.
What does this mean for us? Does following God mean we’re going to be successful or not? The question itself exposes our problem. We’re so desperately self-centered that we want to know what God can do for us. If we pray at all, our prayers usually consist of asking God to do what we want. Faith though, is about abandoning our will so that we may follow God’s will. In doing so, we come to know the secret of contentment – Our joy isn’t found in our stuff or our situation. Rather, authentic joy, purpose, and meaning is found only in a loving relationship with our creator.