How often have you heard people speak of a person who is highly successful in the eyes of the world? Perhaps he has several luxurious homes, expensive cars, a beautiful wife (sometimes his second, third or fourth). What are the comments? . . . . That he is smart? That he has a wonderful way of speaking? He really has a commanding presence? Someone may tell you that he has “charisma”, whatever that means to them.
Others speak of his political connections. And somebody may even say with a tinge of envy, “He has more money than God.” That’s usually the only time God is mentioned in the conversation.
This affliction of misdirection is also abundant in Christian circles. We often hear the phrase, “God has really blessed Joe,” referring to his house, his car, his status or influence in our materialistic society, or to Joe’s prestigious lucrative job.
Well, . . . . . . maybe . . . . . . . . .
In an episode of the television series “Northern Exposure”, an old woman who was the eldest member of the local Indian tribe related this story from the days of her youth.
The chief of her tribe had a prized horse renowned for its speed and endurance. Everyone complimented the chief on his good fortune in owning such an animal. His reply, . . .”Well, maybe” . . . . . .
Then one day the horse ran away. The members of his tribe came to the chief and commiserated with him over his apparent stroke of bad luck. His reply, . . . .”Well, maybe” . . . . . .
About two weeks later, the chief’s errant horse returned leading in its wake over two hundred beautiful wild mustangs. The entire tribe, overjoyed with this newfound wealth of horsepower celebrated with the chief over their great blessing. His comment, . . . “Well, maybe,” . . . . . . .
A few days later, while breaking one of the newly acquired ponies, the chief’s only son, a strapping eighteen year old brave, was thrown and suffered a broken arm. The tribe offered their beloved chief their condolences on such a rotten turn of bad luck. His response, . . ..”Well, maybe,” . . . . . . .. .
The corral filled with fine new horses provoked the envy of another band of Indians who then attacked the tribe. Every young man in camp rode off on their new war ponies to defend the tribe’s possessions. That is, all but one. The chief’s son, a veteran of other battles, had to stay behind because of his injured arm. When the few survivors of the tribe’s horrific defeat struggled back to camp, everyone remarked how fortunate the chief was that his son couldn’t participate in the battle. His boy, who would almost certainly have been killed, was spared by Providence to one day become their new chief. The wise old chief’s reply, . . . . “Well, maybe” . . . . . . . . .
How many of the prayer requests we hear in our churches and Christian gatherings are for things? . . . “stuff ?” And are those desires of our hearts the good things of life . . . . . .
Or maybe, just maybe, the traps that ensnare us?
Consider three movie idols of the American screen. James Dean was a legend at age twenty-five. He had starred in only three motion pictures, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, EAST OF EDEN and GIANT. Yet in 1955, this young man was toast of the town in Hollywood. He loved the fast life. Fast money, fast women and fast sports cars. It was the crash of one of those fast sports cars that cut short his blossoming acting career and ended his life.
Steve McQueen, star of numerous movies including BULLITT also loved speed. Particularly on motorcycles. He was killed on one.
Rock Hudson’s pursuit of thrills was a secret one. Instead of material things, he desired an “alternate life style”. He chose one that is described in both Leviticus 18:22 and Romans chapter 1 as being particularly repugnant to God. Rock Hudson died of AIDS as a direct result of his homosexual life.
There is an ancient Chinese proverb that reads, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”
We are often so caught up in the things of the world that many professing Christians equate them with the blessings of God. This mindset is not new. It was the common perception of the people in Jesus’ time on earth. The Pharisees of that day reinforced this idea.
Our Lord best explained the danger of this thinking. Jesus speaking in Luke 16: 19-25, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sore, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died and was buried; And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”(KJV)
How many times I long to hear the fervent prayer of a Christian in church for the privilege of being used in a mighty way to advance God’s kingdom, whatever the cost. The Righteous Brothers recorded a popular song in the 70’s in which the chorus begins, “If you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand . . . . . .” So how can a man profit who gains the whole world at the cost of his soul?
If we trust our Father to care for His own, we can stand on the words of the Son in Matthew 6:33. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”