Thomas Brooks began his explanation of this first device against Christians’ devotion to God by illustrating four negative qualities of wealth. Its weakness, meaninglessness, unreliability, and danger make it a terrible substitute for the riches of our inheritance in Christ. The length of Brooks’ writings on this device made necessary our dividing it into two posts.
As he closes this segment, he writes:
“I have been the longer upon the remedies that may help us against this dangerous device of Satan, because he does usually more hurt to the souls of men by this device than he does by all other devices.”
For an entire book dedicated to learning how to defeat our greatest enemy, this is a sobering statement. We would do well to pay special attention to the advice of this wise teacher here.
We continue through this first device against Christian devotion with Brooks’ final four remedies. This second half illustrates how the promise of better things in Christ, based on God’s eternal promises to us, can help us look beyond temporal pleasures.
Remedy 5: Don’t expect unmixed happiness
This remedy sounds much like wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes. There is a time both for sorrow and for joy, a time to laugh and a time to weep. And in terms of earthly riches, there is a time for prosperity and for adversity. The person who becomes the subject of a “rags-to-riches” story would be wise to keep a few rags nearby.
Christianity can’t promise you happiness. But the joy it does promise is better. Happiness is fleeing. Joy is eternal.
Remedy 6: Focus on better things
Have you ever lived in a brand-new neighborhood, with freshly-painted houses and perfectly clean sidewalks? Each home typically has a tiny tree planted in the front yard. The stakes required to prop it up are sometimes bigger than the tree itself. It’s not typically the most appealing sight.
Now imagine one of those gorgeous old residential streets, the kind you see in movies. Kids ride their bikes down the lazy road as the summer sunlight filters through the leaves of massive oak, ash, and beech trees. The idyllic scene evokes feelings of warmth and peace.
Someone planted those trees. Decades past, someone paid the expense and exerted the effort to secure that warmth and peace for another generation, for people they might not ever know, nor ever meet. That’s the idea of looking forward to “something better,” but a better thing that we might not even ourselves see.
In his explanation of this remedy Brooks cites Hebrews, specifically the “faith’s hall of fame” section. One of the most notable parts this Scripture speaks of Abraham’s and Moses’ deferred joy. They hoped for things they would never see. God makes them promises that would be realized generations later, sometimes centuries later.
To Abraham God promised both a nation born of his blood and a land of inheritance. He would never live to see either. To Moses God delivered Abraham’s nation and used him to lead them to that land. Yet Moses was destined to die before entering it. Both men acted by faith according to God’s promises, yet against the limitations of time and space that darkened their views of promises fulfilled.
The writer of Hebrews draws a connection between those Old Testament heroes and first-century Christians. He shows that under the old covenant life with God really was lived by faith, but a faith according to a promise that was understood to a lesser degree.
“Fix your mind on things above, where he is king.”
There’s a saying in some church circles that “you can be so heavily minded that you’re no earthly good.” Brooks counters this argument by insisting the more heavenly minded Christians become, the less good the world is to them. It’s not that we become ineffective servants in this life. But by contemplating more the next life, we can free ourselves from this world’s allure.
Remedy 7: Seek what truly satisfies
My wife and I had a difficult first year of marriage. I was a senior in college. She was just starting a new job. We lived in a small apartment in Southern California with a single wall-mounted air conditioner and an ancient furnace with a finicky pilot light. Our neighbors were loud. We had next to nothing. Our income was pitiful.
But we were happy. We were in love. We had a great church and wonderful friends. A fun date consisted of walking down the street for pizza or tacos, then home to watch a rented movie. We often talked about things we thought we needed or wanted. But not having them never seemed to be a problem. We had each other.
I have often heard similar stories of “that first year.” Many young married couples who struggle will later look back fondly on those times. Some may even wish to go back to such simplicity. A few will actually achieve it by downsizing, selling possessions, and living by choice the way they once lived by need.
With brutal honesty, I can say there is one possession I would mourn over if lost: the drum set I purchased with cash when I graduated from high school in 1988. My red Yamaha Tour Customs are still with me, after four years of college, nine years of steady gigging, and a lot of start-and-stop practicing efforts. They are the very last things I would ever sell. But despite their sentimental value, even my drums are replaceable. I’m blessed to be able to say my possessions don’t own me.
Thomas Brooks’ point is valid. We will never be truly filled with that which we love most. If it’s a spouse or a child, she in her humanity will fail us. If it’s riches, they may be taken from us. If it’s honor, it may pass to another. If it’s a home or a car, it will decay and break down.
If our greatest love is Christ, the riches of his love will never be exhausted. The more we ask of him the more he will give. The favor of his companionship will never pass to another. His equal attention is on all his children. The quality of what he supplies will never diminish. The springs of his living water never run dry, and the bread of the life with which he feeds us will always satisfy.
Remedy 8: Remember your worth
We all know what to do in case of a fire: Leave! The dangers of smoke inhalation, burns, and structural collapse in a building fire require an immediate exit. Homes, businesses, and schools can be replaced. People are irreplaceable.
Estimating our self worth is easy when life is on the line. But what about our spiritual lives? How do we value our souls when the world’s riches and beauty seek to ensnare them? What price do we apply to our eternal satisfaction and temporal peace when we are tempted to be weighed down with possessions? If only the things we desire to own featured spiritual price tags as well as monetary ones.
Jesus told us we are worth far more than the sparrow whose flight he sees. We are worth far more than the grass of the field whose flowers he planted. The Lord values us so much that he would rather we forsake the world’s treasures to gain his eternal friendship. And by the grace and strength he supplies in abundance, we can.