Summary: A sermon in a series about the sins we set up as idols in our lives.
…Homerun Derby, an annual competition. A player by the name of Josh Hamilton, who used to play for the Cincinnati Reds…but they traded him away (as they often do with their best players) to the Texas Rangers (Laughter)…and so Josh Hamilton steps up to the plate, but the path to get to that plate had been pretty bumpy. Nine years earlier he had been the number one draft pick and was living the dream: (he was a) multimillionaire overnight, he was an instant sport celebrity, he was the picture of success. But he and his mom were driving in a car not long after that and a dump truck ran a red light and struck the car. Josh would spend a month out of baseball recovering from those injuries. During that month he passed the time by hanging out at a tattoo parlor, and it was at this tattoo parlor that he was introduced to cocaine for the very first time. With plenty of time and plenty of money, it didn’t take long for that to become a very strong addiction. Things spiraled down from there. Twenty-six tattoos, numerous stints in rehab—but nothing could defeat this god that was winning the war within him. Eventually Major League Baseball stepped in. They suspended him from the sport for three years, which is the kiss of death. Everyone assumed they would never hear from him again.
During those three years he hit rock bottom. It came one night when he woke up from a coke binge in a trailer surrounded by people he didn’t know. He stumbled out of the trailer. He made his way to his grandmother’s house. He had lost everything. He fell asleep at her house and that night he had a dream. He says in the dream he had a large stick, or a baseball bat, and he was beating this ugly looking creature again and again. He identified the creature in the dream as the devil. He would hit him, and the devil would fall and come right back at him and just bounce back. He would hit him and he’d bounce back. He’d hit him and he’d bounce back. Josh says he woke up from the dream. He was sweating and he was exhausted and he was defeated.
So he continued in this way of life, and seven months later he had the same dream…except this time with a little different ending. He was beating the devil with the bat and the devil kept bouncing back. But this time when he started to feel tired, when he felt like he was ready to quit, he sensed a presence beside him. He looked over and in his dream he identifies the person as Jesus. And he realized that Jesus is fighting beside him and he is filled with strength. Here is what Josh Hamilton said about the dream. He said, “We keep fighting and I am filled with strength. The devil didn’t stand a chance. To me the lesson was obvious: Alone I couldn’t win the battle but with Jesus I couldn’t lose.” Josh says that he has been clean ever since.
So, a little more than a week ago, on July 14th he steps up to the plate at Yankee Stadium, and he sets an all-time single round record for most homeruns in a Homerun Derby. He hit 28 homeruns. It was an incredible accomplishment.
Afterwards, Erin Andrews, a reporter for ESPN, was interviewing Josh, and Josh said, “I can’t believe what God has done in my life and how quickly he has done it.” And he went on to give glory to God. After his testimony one of the baseball commentators said, “It’s a bad day to be an atheist.” (Audience clapping)
And you know, what Josh Hamilton experienced is exactly what we talked about last week. That is an expulsive power of a new affection, an expulsive power of a new affection. When Jesus became his primary affection, it had an expelling power on these gods that were at war within him. What could not be defeated by mental determination, what could not be defeated by physical strength, what could not be defeated by natural consequences—he had everything taken from him—could only ultimately be defeated or replaced by the affection of Jesus Christ.
That is what we are talking about as we study the idols and the gods in our lives. Until we understand who or what is sitting on the throne of our hearts, we will not experience victory. Instead we will continue to experience frustration and we will continue to experience defeat.
Now we hear the story of someone like Josh and we think, “Well, you know, at least cocaine isn’t the god that sits on the throne of my heart.” Maybe you say, “At least it is not alcohol, drugs, pornography or sex. At least it is not some blatant sin that I am bowing down to.” But we have to understand that our gods can be just as dangerous, even more destructive, because they are often scarcely recognizable as gods. We take the very good things that God has given us and we turn them into false gods…but we don’t even realize that’s what they are. We don’t realize that they have replaced the Lord God on the throne of our hearts, because they seem fine and they seem good. We are constantly displacing one god with another in our lives.