The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who demonstrated through His life and His words that He was fully God. All God’s powers and attributes are in Jesus—nothing missing. There is nothing more of God that we can get apart from Jesus. Jesus Christ is over everything. Evil is under His feet. As we sit with Him in heaven, evil is under our feet. So, when life’s challenges hit us squarely in the face, why do we turn to substitutes?
What happens when you get tired of waiting for God to answer your prayer? What happens when you don’t see Him rescuing you from a tough situation? What happens when He doesn’t heal your disease? When you lose confidence in God’s power to manage whatever is burdening you, where are you tempted to turn?
When Christians lose confidence in the one true God to meet our needs, we can begin to rely on the aid of other “powers,” even subconsciously. We look for something that will work, such as formulas for “success,” religious experiences, and lucky practices. We turn to other power sources, substitutes that “seem to work.” Doing this, we settle for less.
Let me explain what I mean with this example:
An article in our local newspaper touted the legend of St. Joseph for selling your house. A legend started years ago that if you buried a statue of a man named Joseph upside down near your for-sale sign, St. Joe would reach out to whatever higher power is out there to get your house sold quickly. The St. Joe kit even has a prayer so that God is included for good measure. And, the article said this practice seemed to work. But, work to do what?
Here’s another example:
As I was visiting with a friend recently, I noticed on her kitchen counter a card with a prayer to some guy named St. Anthony on it. We started chatting about this prayer. My friend had been looking for a missing wallet full of cash for about 2 weeks. As a Christian, she asked Jesus to help her find it. After a few days when nothing happened, a Christian neighbor suggested to her that she pray this special prayer to a “Saint” because he was “good at finding lost things.” So, my friend did. Immediately, she looked in front of her and found the wallet. She told me, “I have never done anything like this before, but it worked.” Or, seemed to work. But, work to do what?
Traditions like those are probably more common than we think. Sometimes we do things without even thinking about why or what impact they have on our faith. But, placing our faith in some ordinary man who died hundreds of years ago, believing there is magic associated with his statue or his “prayer” has got to lead to trouble somewhere. It is not depending on the power of God. I believe when we do that kind of thing, we are settling for a substitute.
Why substitute anything for God’s power?
I read the Bible and see that all the power in the universe is directly available to each of us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. And, Jesus is more powerful than ANYTHING we can substitute for Him. We are fused together with Him by the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:5) who comes to live inside us (Romans 8:11). We cannot get any closer to God. We have a direct pipeline to our Lord’s ear (Romans 8:26). Nothing and no one (alive or dead) is closer to Him than we are as His child. Why would we go elsewhere?
Isn’t the most powerful God in the universe good enough for us? The One who wants us to know Him intimately and completely fills us with everything we need for successful life, isn’t He good enough?
Remember this: No one who ever lived or is alive today is closer to your Father God than you are. Here you are, in Jesus, basically in His lap, next to God the Father, the closest you can be to the mightiest power in the universe. Why would you go elsewhere? If you have a house to sell, you can go to your Father and trust Him to sell it when He’s ready.
So, I have been puzzled by this—why some Christians choose to settle for a substitute power source to meet their needs rather than relying on the real thing—Jesus Christ. Could the reason be that some Christians are losing patience or confidence in the one true God to get what they want so they rely instead on the aid of other “powers?”
I know my own weaknesses and realize it is not that hard to get caught up in superstitious behavior without realizing it when we try something someone recommends for “quicker action from God.” And, it “seems to work.”
Substitutes that “seem to work” are deceptions.
That’s what bugs me—it seems to work. It dawned on me that this “seems to work” outcome could be a deception from our enemy. My friend kept that card on her counter after she found the wallet. I bet she’ll use it again because it “seemed to work” to get what she wanted. I know if she had waited on Jesus, she would have found that wallet anyway. Does she believe that now?
The one who buried the statue and sold her house quickly will likely use that approach again to get what she wants “from God.” My friend’s Christian neighbor certainly has used her “pray to the saint method”—and recommends it to others!
It dawned on me that Satan, the enemy, could be using our tendency to superstition (and impatience!) to get believers away from a life of dependence on Christ. Could that be why prayers to saints/burying statues “seem to work?”
Paul said that Satan can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Could reliance on “prayers to saints” be one way he does this? It certainly makes those Christians depend less on Jesus Christ’s power on their behalf and replace Him with a power substitute.
What about you? Do you do anything to avoid “bad luck” or to guarantee “good luck?” What picture do you post on social media, claiming that it is the answer after the day’s stressful challenges? Do you follow a certain formula for prayer guaranteeing that God hears you and will answer your prayer? All of those become a substitute for Christ.
Get rid of the substitutes and cling to Jesus Christ.
When you recognize your use of substitutes, remember what the Ephesians did in Acts 19. They burned it up! They deleted it from daily life. They saw that the treasure they had in Jesus was more powerful than any of their substitutes. So, they were willing to get rid of their substitutes and cling to their treasure in Christ alone.
I am confident that the treasure we have in Jesus Christ is more powerful and valuable than anything I could substitute for Him. He hears my prayers instantly—no intermediary needed. I must choose to trust in His goodness in whatever He chooses to do. That means I must trust His timing, too. I choose to wait on my God’s timing rather than be drawn away from Him by any saintly superstition substitute that “seems to work.” You can do that, too.
Radical Acts Bible Study (read online)
Radical Acts Bible Study (download pdf)
Acts of the Holy Spirit Bible Study (read online)