The Illusion of Escape
We often try to escape from our problems rather than bring them to God.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are concluding our “Illusions” series this morning…by talking about the Illusion of Escape.
In this series, we’ve been talking about things that seem pretty good at first…but in the end, are just illusions. They’re just a mirage.
Humans have been “escaping” from their lives since the dawn of time.
And I don’t mean suicide.
I mean…life is really hard…and often we just want to numb out…to escape from the difficulty.
We’ve certainly had years of regression, but the overall trendline is that we continue to grow in our affluence and development as a human race
We have electricity…we have indoor plumbing…we have the ability to connect via telephone…and the internet…and on and on.
And yet…despite all of these things, people are even more miserable than they were 200 years ago
Our lives are difficult…stress levels are high…depression levels are on the rise…
Some of us have been through some incredibly difficult life experiences.
Death…or divorce…or cancer…or unemployment.
Others are really hurt by loneliness or rejection
Maybe anger…or even sheer boredom…or you name it.
Despite all the smiley face emoticons we try and cover up our life with, it’s pretty difficult.
And many of us experience these hardships.
For some of us, especially in certain seasons, it’s every single day.
For ALL of us…it’s at least certain days.
There are those days…where everything went wrong at work…or on the drive home…or when you simply can’t believe what your teenagers did this time…
And in those days…so often…we just want to escape.
We want to numb out.
We don’t want to think about it.
We don’t want to deal with it…or feel it…
We just want to escape.
And maybe you don’t think of it that way…but almost every person here is a pretty chronic escape artist.
But the tricky thing, each of us, like different magicians with different illusions, finds a different way to escape the pain of our lives.
I’m going to go over a ton of different examples…so…my plan is to be an equal-opportunity offender here. J
For some…the escape is a little more obvious.
Despite all the research of its affects…the abuse of alcohol…and alcoholism is still rampant in this country.
Now…just like most things in this series…alcohol, in and of itself, doesn’t have to be bad.
The Bible says it’s okay…in moderation.
But the Bible very strongly condemns and warns against drunkenness.
And yet, isn’t it true that for so many, alcohol is merely an escape from the pain.
Maybe for you, it’s become an addiction. You’re trying to get away from the pain of your life…And the bottle…is now your constant companion to drown away and numb out the pain.
Or maybe it’s just in moderation…but even in moderation…so often when people drink…we still drink to escape.
How often do you hear people say: “Uh! I had a rough day! I need a drink!” “I can’t believe that happened, I just need to calm down with some wine.”
We don’t turn to God…We don’t turn to prayer…we don’t talk it out with a friend. We escape.
Thinking…yes, the escape will make it go away!
For others, escape is in the form of drugs.
To get high…and leave your problems behind.
Maybe it’s pot.
Maybe…it’s even prescription drugs.
You’ve been through a lot, so you think…this is a way to not have to deal with it….to adjust your mood and emotions for just a little while.
By the way, if you do have a problem with drugs and alcohol, I do want you to find help.
The best way I see people doing this is through Christian 12 step groups
If you have any addictions, I want you to check out Eagle Brook’s Quest 180 recovery group.
You can go to www.quest180.com or pick up a brochure in the hallway
As any recovering alcoholic would tell you…substance abuse is all just an illusion.
Looks good at first. You feel like you can escape it all. But you can’t.
In fact, you’re not actually escaping!!! You’re just delaying (and adding to) your problems!
But it never feels that way when you decide to take a drink…yet again for the 10th day in a row.
Or when you decide to take a drink to ease your pain from a hard day.
And that’s why this is such a serious illusion.
We literally think THIS WILL HELP!
A member of AA wrote this and I think it’s helpful in showing the illusion of substance abuse:
We drank for happiness and became unhappy.
We drank for joy and became miserable.
We drank for sociability and became argumentative.
We drank for sophistication and became obnoxious.
We drank for friendship and made enemies.
We drank for relaxation and got the shakes.
We drank for bravery and became afraid.
We drank for confidence and became doubtful.
We drank to make conversation easier and slurred our speech.
We drank to forget and were forever haunted.
We drank for freedom and became slaves.
We drank to erase problems and saw them multiply.
And it’s stated so brilliantly. The escape is actually an illusion. Substance abuse will never make your pain go away. It will only add to it.
It’s the illusion of not only “escape” but the “illusion of worldly pleasure”
King Solomon in the old testament, who had EVERYTHING…says this
(Ecclesiastes 2:1-2) - NIV
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?”
And what does pleasure accomplish?
I’m not trying to be a killjoy…but we think the things of this world will heal our heart…but they will not.
(1 John 2:15-17) - NIV
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
The things of this world will only numb our lives. They can numb your mind for a few hours…but they can do nothing to heal your heart.
They are just an illusionary and temporary escape.
But the truth is: you’re not actually escaping from anything.
Gambling is another great example of this.
It’s highly addicting. The rush…the thrill. And the numbing. The escape.
Before I was a believer…I started to get into gambling….a lot of poker. Not just free games or games for $2.
And…I have a highly addictive personality. I’m an intense person. It’s one of the reasons I don’t personally drink.
I’d give myself about 2 weeks until I would be a full-blown alcoholic.
The only suicidal thought I’ve ever had in my life was after a night of losing a lot of money playing cards my senior year of high school.
I was driving home…and for a moment I thought…I’m so angry…I’ll just escape…I’ll just drive into the other lane.
But gambling is not just that kind of escape…
Although interestingly enough it leads all other addictions in suicide rates
Ever been to a casino? Maybe you even go often?
If you do…I encourage you to go with fresh eyes next time. And before you start, take this challenge: Walk around and observe everyone for 20 minutes before you begin.
It’s like a room full of zombies.
Just pulling the slots…zoning out on life…escaping their problems…for now.
But again, most of the time, you’re not escaping, you’re just compounding the issue.
ISN’T THE FATHER ENOUGH??
But why do we even do it?
One interesting place to look is Luke 15.
It’s the story of the prodigal son…
Most famous for a son who sins wildly, and yet when he returns to his father, his father runs to him and accepts him with grace.
A story that’s indicative that God will take you in or take you back no matter what you’ve done.
But it’s also interesting to ask the question: Why did the son leave in the first place?
He was in his father’s house! And he had everything! Let’s look at it
(Luke 15:11-20) – NIV
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Now it sounds crazy that the son would ever leave such a loving father. This is a father that has so much to offer him.
But mostly his love. He seems like a pretty amazing father compared to most dads in this world.
And yet the son, runs from it all, trying to find life in this world instead.
But we are no different…if anything…we do it to a greater degree.
We have a Father in heaven who wants to meet our needs.
He wants to provide for you. To comfort you on your terrible day. To speak kind words…and words of wisdom.
He wants you to come to your knees and receive healing and encouragement from Him. Strength to go on!
And yet…we choose the illusion of escape instead.
It’s a strong illusion!
And in some of these things…you can see it so easily.
If you don’t drink…it’s probably easy for you to cast the stone at the alcoholic and say…”How could you not see what was going to happen?”
Some of you in this room right now…are looking at the gamblers and the drug addicts and saying, “Tsk…seriously…why would you escape with that? Just think through the ramifications…it doesn’t end up well!
But just because you can see someone else’s “escape illusion” doesn’t mean you can see your own.
What about food?
As much as Americans would like to cut it right out of their Bible, the Bible’s pretty clear that gluttony, which is excessive eating, is a sin.
And it IS a sin…because 1) we aren’t honoring our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit but 2) we are turning to food instead of our God.
Let me continue to just let you into my world.
I’ve done this. I’ve escaped with food like I imagine many people escape with alcohol.
I’ve had a really hard day…and rather than pray…or talk to God about it…I stop at Burger King on the way home…and get a cheeseburger meal to feel better. SUPERSIZED!
But it’s just an illusion just like anything else. I felt better for the first 5 minutes…and 30 minutes later…felt a lot worse.
And listen…I’m not trying to be some Amish killjoy.
I’m not saying…never eat a greasy meal (I eat at Culver’s every week for goodness sakes) or never watch a movie to relax…
I’m just saying, I think we need to be a whole lot more honest about this topic and admit…we abuse a lot of these things as an emotional escape.
As an idol that takes the place of our God.
The Apostle Paul, in talking about how humanity is ignoring and abandoning God, puts it this way.
(Romans 1:25) – NIV
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
We try and let created things be our source of joy…or heal our pain…or bring us happiness again.
But they can’t. Not really.
Maybe for a moment.
But they’re just an illusionary escape.
A Quick cover-up.
A band-aid to the gaping wound of the soul
A ROBBER OF PONTENTIAL
In the last 50 years or so, the opportunity to escape is increasingly exponentially
All thanks to our friend technology
And in the next 50 years, you can bet that will continue to increase.
As accessibility in many forms to entertainment increases, as quality increases, as things like virtual reality become more of an option, the ability to escape your problems and zone out will only become more of a temptation.
But they’ll still be an illusion.
But one we love falling for. It’s one of our all-time favorites.
Before I go further, let me reiterate for the 2nd or 3rd time now that I’m not saying people shouldn’t ever relax and enjoy a good movie.
That you shouldn’t go enjoy a concert. Or watch your favorite TV show. Or play a fun video game with friends.
You absolutely should!
But if we think we don’t have “escapist” mentality with some of these things, we’re kidding ourselves.
The average American now watches 5 hours and 11 minutes of TV a day.
That’s not just relaxing for a moment before bed.
That’s zombifying yourself so you don’t have to deal with your problems.
You’re now likely, as an average American to spend 9 years of your LIFE watching TV.
TV is so prevalent in our American homes now, that in a frightening recent study, they asked 4-6 year-olds if they’d rather watch TV or spend time with their father?
54% said they’d rather watch TV.
Again…if you’re a fan of the Amazing Race or something, watch the Amazing Race.
But don’t waste your life watching 5 hours of television a day
Beware of the temptation to escape.
Around Christmastime, when Lindsey was on bedrest with the twins, my stress level was significantly higher than normal.
And I noticed that every night I was watching TV at night to calm down
And although it was just for 45 minutes …I felt convicted.
Not for the time, but for HOW I was using it.
I felt God telling me, “You’re escaping here. You’re feeling stressed. And scared. And worn out. And instead of talking to me about it…asking me to help you w/ it…you chose TV”
At 31 years old, I’m actually part of a growing generation that watches less TV than the generation older than me.
But that doesn’t mean that my generation is spending that time seeking God instead.
We spend that time addicted to our phones. And our laptops.
OH, what’s happening on Facebook? Hmm..nothing.
Maybe that’s because you just checked 45 seconds ago!
The average Facebook user w/ a smartphone, checks Facebook 14 times a Day. A Day!
For others…it’s video games.
Next to maybe drugs, I don’t know if there’s a stronger way to numb out and zone out than video games.
Back in the day...you could only play duck hunt for so long
You can ask the gamers in the room…time will never fly like it does when you play video games.
8 hours can feel like 30 minutes.
And thus…it can be a dangerous escape.
And all of this matters…not just because we tend to turn to these forms of escape as a form of idolatry.
It doesn’t just matter because many of these things are actually sin.
It even doesn’t just matter because they’re illusions that won’t actually solve your problems.
It also matters because they are robbing you of what God can do in your life. In and through you.
Firstly…they are robbing you of your time.
I’m kind of joking, but I also honestly wonder, what could God do with the believers of this country if we all watched 1 hour of TV a day instead of 5?
I believe God could radically transform your life even if he had an extra 30 minutes of your day.
If you gave him 4 hours, he’d probably start a revival through you.
I’ll tell you one thing…we’d all be a lot less busy.
I meet person and person that are too busy to join a house group or serve on a Sunday morning…as if coming an extra 10 minutes early would push them over the edge…too busy to read the Bible…to busy to pray…to busy to connect w/ God
Yet they never miss their favorite TV how on Sunday nights…and Tuesday…and Wednesday and Thursday…and..
And it’s not just a priorities thing… I think we can’t make the right time decisions because we’ve fallen for the illusion of escape…and we think…THIS will make me feel better.
But nothing will heal your heart more than seeking God.
What could God do with you if you gave him more of your time?
What could God do with you if you just said…I’m going to cut some of this stuff out?
In fact, let’s take a step further…what IS God calling you to cut out?
Where can you give more of your time to your maker, the one who called you, and is giving you a purpose to live for Him, and not for your own entertainment?
And it’s not just your time…So many of these things…whether it’s alcohol or drugs…or gambling…or entertainment…….
They are robbing you of God’s transformational movement in your life!
Because when you take the time to sit under the feet of Jesus…when you take time to just lie still by him…He will operate on your heart…and transform you!
And so many of these things are robbing us of God’s transforming work in our life.
He wants to make us more like Him. Make us holy. To use us to change the world.
But world-changing starts in secret…in your room…by yourself…at the feet of Jesus.
World-changing starts with the changing of your heart.
And the changing of your heart happens when after a long day…when after a hard day at the office…when after a hard month…in a difficult season…you say…
“You know what…I’m not going to numb this out…and escape.
“I’m not going to fall for the illusion that this pain is going to go away if I take a drink…
“I’m not going to fall for the illusion that this emptiness in my soul is going to go away if I just watch TV for 5 hours again
The changing of your heart…the healing of your pain…the transforming of your character…happens when you can say:
“I’m turning to Jesus!”
“I’m hurt right now…so I’m gonna go get on my knees and ask God to heal my heart”
“I’m feeling empty right now…so I’m gonna call a friend from house groups and talk it through. Maybe they can pray for me”
“I’m feeling kind of lost…kind of upset lately…so I’m gonna just talk it out w/ God…listening to some worship music …rather than just zoning out to talk radio”
“I feel like I just don’t have any direction…so I’m going to open up God’s word…rather than just procrastinating my indecision by escaping at the casino…or at long hours at work…or in video games…or whatever.
Turning to God is NOT an illusion. It’s not a fake escape that never actually gets you away from anything.
Turning to Jesus is the real deal. Turning to Jesus will actually allow God to come in and starting filling that hole, start healing your pain, and your hurt and your sorrow.
It’s not an illusion. It’s the truth. He is the truth.
This morning, we are going to take communion together. Communion is always a great time for us to remember what our faith is all about.
In the NT, Paul writes this about the reason for communion:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) –DON’T PUT ON SCREEN
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
And that is what we will do. But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey. 2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
And this morning, before you go and take communion, I want you to take some time to call out your illusions.
What is it that you are putting before God?
What is it that you’re escaping to? And just putting off and not really dealing with?
What do you need to change in your life so God can better use you?
And when you’ve made a decision…go back, and take communion…a reminder of God who wants to work in your life so badly that he died on the cross…for you!
In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.
Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do
And when you’re ready, at any time during the next few songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)
We really just want you to encounter God during our service.
Let me pray for communion and we’ll get back into worship.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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