This morning I was reminded that for the most part, I am fairly superstitious. When I was young in my faith, I believed that if I always did the right thing then I would be safe from any trouble. If I read enough scripture, if I went to enough Bible studies, if I had a servant’s heart, then no trouble would befall me. However, that is very far from the truth. In John 16:33, Christ tells His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble” (NIV). We will experience heart ache. We will experience personal loss. We will experience failure. We will experience tragedy.
I am not alone in coming to this understanding about the world we live in. Dan Boone in his book, A Very Good God in a Badly Broken World, discusses the fact that believers are not immune to pain and suffering. He writes, “there are too many among us who have gotten positive test results back, buried children, lost jobs, had our hearts broken” (Boone 55). We have faced trouble, as Jesus promises in John 16. Our world is a place of trouble.
There are those among us who believe that if we say the right prayers, if we claim the promises of scripture, then we will be protected from any suffering. Boone explains that “we’ve done our human best to protect ourselves from catastrophe: security alarms, insurance policies, neighborhood watch, health checkups, nest eggs, air bags, steel bars, passwords, identity protection, and armed forces” (55). However, it doesn’t matter how many hedges we try to put around our families and our personal possessions. Jesus says that in this world, we will have trouble.
Over the last few weeks of this global pandemic, I have seen many Christian brothers and sisters claiming the promises of scripture on social media. Some of these scriptures suggest that the righteous will be protected from suffering and tragedy in this world. I understand the importance of claiming the promises of scripture. There have been times in my life, especially very dark times, when I have claimed the promise of Romans 8:38-39. I have needed the reminder that nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ. However, I’m concerned that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are using the promises of God as talismans. I’m worried that their superstitions have made scripture into an idol that can protect them from harm.
Amulets and talismans are objects that are thought to hold some mystical or magical power. Most believers consider these objects to be satanic because we are warned against worshiping anything other than Yahweh. However, we need to understand that anything, even things that are sacred like scripture, can be worshiped above God. Dan Boone warns against looking to God only for what God can do for us. He explains that “There is actually something satanic about serving God for what we can get. To serve God for reward, insurance, blessing, or a protective hedge is to fall short of knowing God as God wishes to be known. This makes God into an idol to be appeased for the goodies” (54). When we seek out God or God’s promises only for personal gain, whatever that may be, then we are making God into something that He is not.
In the midst of this global crisis, we are called as believers to seek God simply to seek God. This is always our call. We need to seek God to understand His character, to understand His will for our world, to remember His grace and love. Yes, we need to seek His word for hope and encouragement. However, we should not wear scripture around our necks as if it will protect us from COVID-19. God’s word is not a talisman. It is not something with magical powers that will protect us from harm.
Let us all be encouraged today to seek God, not for what He can do for us. Let us seek Him so that we know the God who loves us, who hears our cries, and who has not abandoned us.
I need to hear this word as much as many others. Be encouraged today as you continue to fight the good fight. Blessings to each of you.
Boone, Dan. A Very Good God in a Badly Broken World. The Foundry, 2019.