A Warning About the Idolatry of Good Health

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Precious Believer,

This message is for the weary pilgrim whose body’s weakness and brokenness has been the cross of sanctification that God has given you for this season. As I was preparing for the topic of our next devotion, I opened my inbox to find a word from Paul David Tripp on the very topic I had been praying about. My last blog was on Stewardship of the Body, and was meant to be a refreshing source of hope to your exhausted and burdened hearts. It was meant to help you see the kindness and compassion of Jesus and remind you that he is a high priest and king who intimately knows our struggles-

“15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 (emphasis mine)

He beckons us to Him, who knows our sorrows and grief and promises to provide all that we need to endure in faith.

But the message in this blog is to serve as a reminder to us that every trial we face is an opportunity to expose our heart and the idolatry buried deep within- the desires that lead us into sin. This is actually a very good thing because when our desires are exposed we have an opportunity to repent from the heart and turn again to see the beauty of Christ and all that He accomplished for us on the cross. Look at the reminder that John, the apostle of love, gives us:

“ My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

This same apostle finishes his five chapter treatise of love of God and love of the brotherhood with these words-

“1 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:12

When we struggle with the brokenness of our bodies, our unsanctified flesh that still wars against our redeemed hearts can often lead us into two different sinful positions- 1.) indifference and giving up and 2.) obsessing over the illness. Both positions give homage to the idol of control, the desire of our heart that we often long for more than Christ in the moment of our weakness.

When we are indifferent and give up on the call to carefully steward our bodies, to care for them in faith and as an act of worship, we have attempted to recapture control of our situation. I know this seems counterintuitive, but consider this- you have control over your decisions. When the pressure of the broken world presses in on us in the form of pain and suffering, we can choose to do nothing. And this choosing is an attempt to reclaim power over our situation. We have bowed before the idol of control.

We worship the same idol when we obsess over the outcome of our efforts to achieve healing and physical restoration. When our hearts and our minds are constantly concerned about getting better and how bad we feel to the point that it leads us even to justify obvious sins (anger, impatience, selfishness), we are allowing the cares of the world to rule our hearts, not our love for the Savior. Believe me, this is the side of control I am most familiar with in my own life and I am easily deceived and often reminded of Proverbs 4:23:

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”

Sin is above all deceitful, so we must keep watch over our hearts as we walk the path laid out before us. Consider your Savior as you endure with patience and faith:

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and cis seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2 (emphasis mine)

In my morning devotion, Paul Tripp, described the idolatry of body this way: “A desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.”

As I was walking through my own suffering, I was drawn to the verse in 2 Corinthians that helped me to keep an eternal perspective in the midst of suffering:

“16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[a] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I shared this bible verse with my young son, whose body is broken with the effects of Lyme Disease, and I saw life and light restored to his eyes as he pondered these truths. He wrote the verse on the inside of the brim of his cowboy hat and told everyone he saw about it. This is the child-like faith that we need to cling to. Don’t let the cares of the world steal the joy of your salvation and your hope in Christ.

“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Let me finish with the word from Paul David Tripp, that encouraged me this morning as I sat down to share with you:

“We were never wired to live for the glories of what is seen. At best, these shadow glories were meant to point us to the only glory worth living for: the glory of the Lord.”

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