When I was little boy, I heard the story of Elijah calling down fire from heaven. In my little southern evangelical church, Elijah was the proto-type preacher. He was standing up to power, calling the people back to God and bringing fire from heaven. Now, that was preaching.
I couldn’t wait to get to seminary and learn to preach like that.
When you’re young, both in age and in ministerial experience, you see the battle between good and evil like some kind of comic book battle of super heroes. On one side was Satan and all his demons. He had enslaved people in blindness and darkness. They were slaves, each of them bound to an idol, a false god that had promised to save them.
I, of course, was a soldier in the Lord’s army, charging the armies of evil and darkness to free the captives. I was outfitted with the full armor of God, protecting myself with the shield of faith and my flaming sword of truth. I was on a mission to slay dragons and save sinners.
Every day, I thank God social media wasn’t around when I was younger. I would never be able to live down some of my judgmental sermons and heartless pronouncements. I thought that’s what prophets did.
I found out I was wrong.
No one gets up and says, “today, I’m going to mess up my life beyond all recovery.” No one who takes a drink thinks they’ll become an alcoholic. No one who uses drugs thinks they’ll become an addict. Neither does the first-time viewer of porn, all they want is a little relief from the pain. Only too late do they find out they have become enslaved to their idol.
Worse are those of us who have become enslaved to socially acceptable idols. Work seven days a week, make more money than 10 people could spend, and you’ll be famous. You’ll get a book deal and be able to hang out with presidents and world leaders.
Work out seven days a week in the gym. Measure every mouthful of calories, and you’ll be called a “beast” by your friends. You’ll be able to admire your perfection in any mirror that’s nearby. Those are sins too — we just like those.
And it all happens because we’re just trying to get through the day. We’re just trying to get away from the pain. We’re just trying to find a little easier path. Life is hard. We just need some relief. We’re all just looking for a little help.
Yet, we don’t see the peace of Christ or the healing of the Spirit. For some reason, people don’t think Jesus is who He says He is and can’t do what He says He can do. There are lots of reasons for this: years of bad preaching, generations of unfaithful living…why should anyone believe if the believers don’t seem to?
We find our idols, and we trust them to get us through. They don’t. Idols fall over. We always want to point to the judgment of God. See, the Almighty has arisen and struck down the false gods of this world. It’s not quite that dramatic. God doesn’t have to push the idols down. Sooner or later, idols just fall over. The earth shifts, dirt moves, rocks slide and whenever the world changes, the idols just fall over. Our carefully crafted saviors, our make-believe gods, are revealed for what they are — human created imposters. The Old Testament prophets taunted the false gods around them because they had to be carried around by the people who worshipped them. These carved pieces of wood and stone couldn’t talk, couldn’t see, couldn’t speak. What kind of gods were they?
The kind of gods that fall over when the earth shakes.
Here’s what I didn’t know. People get hurt when the idols fall over.
And here’s what I found out. I wasn’t a soldier in the Lord’s army. I was a medic. My job was to run into the wreckage like first responders after an earthquake and pull people out from under the fallen rubble of ruined idols.
They’re grieving their loss.
Angry at being deceived and scared to ever believe again.
So, that’s where we begin — in all of the anger and disappointment, in all of the grief and brokenness - and we started telling them again about the love of Christ, bandaging their wounds with grace and forgiveness.
We’re living in a time when the idols have fallen over.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is one of the best war movies ever made. What makes the movie so interesting is the movie is about a conscientious objector. Desmond Doss refused to carry a weapon into battle. He served as a medic. In one the bloodiest battles of the war, Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa, Doss is credited with saving 75 soldiers. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.
At the end of the movie, Doss himself is interviewed. He says he was praying the whole time, “Please, Lord, help me get one more.”
Everything that was normal on March 1 isn’t normal anymore. The stock market is sinking. Science can’t figure this one out. Governments jump from one plan to another. We’re quarantined against an enemy we can’t see. Friends are getting sick.
And some of them are dying.
The idols have fallen. People are hurt. Like Doss, we run in praying, “Please, Lord, help me get one more.”