A young, 31 year old male Hollywood actor was pronounced dead after being found alone in a hotel room. Knowing NOTHING of this man at the time, I commented to my nearby family members, “I bet it was drug-related.” Sadly, I found out later that I was right.
It’s not always easy to be right. Though I’ve seen this same scenario played out both personally and professionally, it is still sad and this recent newsworthy tragedy is no different. Once again another wealthy, superbly talented, handsome, “successful” Hollywood actor who achieved the “American dream” and the pinnacle of fame is dead from a drug and alcohol overdose. Specifically, heroin mixed with alcohol led to a tragic ending for this young man and his remaining loved ones.
Other than sports and occasional news, I am not a tv watcher so I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of “Glee.” But haven’t we heard this story before? Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, John Belushi, many actors from Saturday Night Live, and many other movie stars have died from some form of alcohol and/or drug-related incident. It only takes one overdose to end a life. Ironically, his show was named “Glee” yet when most people die from an overdose they are far from gleeful though they achieved the so-called American dream.
Are any of us surprised that the American dream is really more of a nightmare? Here’s the American dream checklist for Cory Monteith:
Outwardly, seemingly happy? Check.
Hit TV show? Check.
Talented? Check, check. (double check mark for Cory Monteith)
And you could add more temporal pleasures to this list. He possessed all that the world had to offer. Yet it wasn’t enough. Why?
Well, I’m glad you asked because I can tell you why. God designed us to live for Him, not ourselves. God designed us to worship Him and Him alone. In those moments when we seek temporary, sinful pleasures, we are worshipping something other than God: ourselves and our own idols, or “tools” as they are called at Vision of Hope. It is a problem rooted in the violation of the very first Commandment of the Ten Commandments: “Have no other gods before ME,” says the Lord (Ex. 20:3).
It’s not an easy thing to say but it is the truth whether we want to believe it or not. God didn’t design us to be satisfied with the things of this world but only to be satisfied in Him and Him alone. When we look for ultimate satisfaction in other things, other people, or even ourselves, we will be miserable though we might be able to hide it for a little while.
The world calls this problem “addiction” and makes it a medical problem likened to a “disease” but that leaves God, the gospel, and worship out of the equation. The Bible describes this same problem as “drunkenness” and “idolatry” rooted in pride and foolishness. Which is true? Both cannot be true though many try to marry them and mix them together. The truth is that they are like oil and water: they don’t mix (Col. 2:8). The world and the Word agree that “addiction” is a spiritual problem but the two believe the spiritual solution to be very different at the foundation. Millions of people continue to check themselves into rehab and treatment centers for addiction and leave no better than when they were admitted. Cory was one of those people. There is no way to change the heart and its desires apart from the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word of truth. The secular world’s treatment for drugs and alcohol is not working; the entire industry needs an overhaul.
Or a better alternative may be the church should step up and begin calling it “sin” once again. Then the Gospel which is good news can be presented once again as relevant to this problem since Jesus is the only solution. I appreciate Faith Church’s leadership and boldness to venture out of the box of its comfort zone to launch and oversee the residential ministry at Vision of Hope on its own campus.
For the Christian, let this tragedy of Cory Monteith drive you to the cross. Let it motivate you to cry out to a lost and dying world that there really is only one answer and it is found in a relationship with a loving and truthful God. Let it push you to more boldly share the gospel. The world is not as happy as you might think they are! Don’t be fooled by their so-called glee.
In His Word, we find the real American dream checklist that can only be found in a relationship with Christ:
Not Wealthy but Poor? Check. Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We need to recognize our weakness and our sinfulness apart from Christ.
Unhappy with the things of this world? Check. Matt. 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We need to be broken about our sinful state.
Unknown not famous? Check. Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Not particularly handsome/beautiful? Check. Matt. 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Beauty is fleeting but righteousness lasts forever. For women in particular, Proverbs 31:30 warns: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Not powerful but weak? Check. Matt. 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Be an agent of God’s mercy to others and find satisfaction in service.
Not admired or loved by people? Check. Matt. 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Seek to love God with your whole heart and not the approval of mankind. God is pleased with His children and loves it when they obey His Word.
No hit tv show? Check. Matt. 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Who needs a top-rated tv show when you can be used by God to bring everlasting peace into people’s lives?
Not talented in a way the world respects? Check. Matt. 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” and Matt. 5:11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
Jesus then commands those listening to His sermon in Matthew 5:12: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus’ message was radically different than what we hear people say will make us happy. True satisfaction and true joy are only found in Christ and in a thriving, vibrant relationship with Him. Anything else is simply an idol meant to please self but ultimately leads to despair and often death.
Am I saddened at this news? Yes. Am I more motivated to share the truth of God’s Word under the loving power of the Holy Spirit? Yes. Is it a David vs. Goliath type of battle to speak the truth in love? Yes. But we know who won that battle, don’t we fellow Christians!?!?!
Be bold. Share your faith. Speak the truth in love about “addiction” as an idolatrous heart problem requiring repentance and faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform. Show the Word of God in action in your life.
Someone’s eternal life depends upon it.
-Pastor Mark Shaw (thankful that God opened my eyes to find true satisfaction in Him)