May 2014: The Illusion of the American Dream
** The Illusion of the American Dream
** New Video – Mike Genung’s Story
** More Reading
The Illusion of the American Dream
By Mike Genung
His American Dream
is beginning to seem
More and more like a nightmare
With every passing day…
Casting Crowns, from the song “American Dream”
Too much of the good life ends up being toxic, deforming us spiritually
David Goetz, Death by Suburb
The American Dream. Work hard, buy a nice house. Save up and retire as early as you can; live off of Social Security and savings and waste, er, spend the rest of your life having fun. Achieving the American Dream is woven into our culture as a sign of success. If we’ve got a nice house in a pleasant neighborhood in the suburbs (or the country, whichever is your preference), all is well. Christianize the American Dream with the right church and maybe some ministry involvement, and we’ve got it made, right?
The problem is that the American Dream clashes with success as defined in God’s word; it can also, as David Goetz alluded to, lull us to sleep. Too much comfort has a way of softening our spirit and our character; we can become spiritually dull, and obsessed about the wrong things.
Think of the Christian who’s addicted to porn. He lives in a nice, quiet safe house in the suburbs. He attends a church with all the right people, a preacher that preaches God’s word, and an awesome building. His culture tells him that comfort and pleasure are good and that acquiring more things is what he must do; this ethos is ingrained into his mentality. The pleasure of porn, the comforts of his environment, his success, all conspire to tell him that his life is okay. “God loves you,” he hears repeatedly. He has enough of God to make him feel better after he sins and enough porn to fill in the gaps, temporarily.
His heart is numb. Apathy and the desire for comfort and pleasure reign. God’s word doesn’t get through; his prayer life is non-existent, and he can’t stand to be alone. His life is filled with compromise. He has a hard time seeing his “little porn problem” as something that could train wreck his life. Over the years he gets in deeper, until one day, he wakes up and realizes that everything he’s based his life on is a lie. Porn no longer satisfies, and his material things and house are a time and energy sapping burden that don’t provide eternal benefits.
He starts going to support groups. He starts building a collection of 30 day sobriety coins; a month or two is the best he can do. He can’t seem to break out of the malaise. There’s no sense of urgency and little reason, other than his wife’s occasional outbursts, to take it seriously.
Such a man has several different paths ahead of him to choose from:
1. God may introduce pain and suffering in his life to wake him up.
2. He continues on his current path, and wastes his life.
3. He realizes the desperation of his situation, cries out to the Lord for mercy, and starts taking radical action steps.
Tragically, there are some men who will encounter suffering and/or the harsh consequences of their sin and yet never break free. Their lives are wasted for all eternity. Some may even wake up in hell (see Luke 7, Ephesians 5:5).
Some will be so shaken from the consequences of their sin that it propels them to action. This is better than the second path, but the tragedy is that they waited too long; some will lose their marriage and family.
You don’t have to take either of these paths.
But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.
1 Corinthians 11:31
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test?
2 Corinthians 13:5
You can start the process of healing and freedom, now.
1. God’s word is the standard to compare your life to. Not the opinion of others, not your support group’s program, or even what your pastor says. Get into what the Bible says about sexual sin, His priorities, and compare your life and the American Dream to God’s vision for success. Then make an honest appraisal for where you are and where you should be. Ask the Lord to help you and open your eyes.
2. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul (Luke 10:27). Where is your relationship with God? Do you love spending time with Him? Is He really your first source of love, value, joy, and peace, or have other things choked your relationship with Him? How’s your prayer life?
Is your relationship with Him real and alive, or are you faking it?
3. Examine your heart. What’s really your first love? Do you experience joy and peace? Or are you empty and miserable all the time? Is there bitterness, hurt, or something else you need to deal with? How’s your pride and self-absorption meter? Is life all about you, or do you seek to help others as opportunities arise?
4. Examine how you spend your most precious God-given asset: time. What do you think about the most, obsess about, and spend most of your time doing? Are you making a difference with your life that will count for eternity? Look at Scripture for the things that matter the most. Are you pouring too much of your time and resources into your home and stuff, or are you making deposits in your eternal bank account?
As I grow older (I’m 51), I’ve been watching people more closely in their 70s; their approach to life, retirement, and what it does to them. Those who buy into the second half of the American Dream; that life is about retiring as early as possible and “enjoying the good life” end up living life without purpose. They have little more to do other than to obsessively clean, upgrade, and pour more money into their houses. Depression sinks in. Some lose their edge and their mental faculties start slipping. The American Dream, their house, has become their purpose. On the other hand, those who see their last years as an opportunity to make more deposits in their eternal bank account by helping and serving others do better mentally; they stay sharp and make positive contributions to society. The things that give us purpose and meaning have nothing to do with our stuff.
The American Dream has been sending men and women to hell for centuries. If this sounds harsh, read the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. There’s also:
“Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
Don’t allow your stuff, comfort, and God’s blessings, which He bestows on both unbelievers and those who know Him (Matthew 5:45), to seduce you into the idea that your life is on good standing with God. Remember, Lazarus, who ended up in hell, was a rich man. Our culture’s messages of success are both subtle and powerful, and it’s easy to buy into them without realizing it.
4. Take effective action. A lot of men sit on the fence because they know they need to start going to a support group, counseling, or trade in their smart phone for one without internet access. There is no fence, and doing nothing is choosing sin. You will have to fight your way out of your comfort zone and apathy and go all out, but with God’s help and the support of others you can. Going all out includes extended time in prayer and soaking in God’s word, removing every stumbling block of temptation under your control that takes you down, and immediate obedience once He makes His will clear.
5. Do that which goes against the grain of the American Dream. Invest your time, energy, and resources in the things that count for eternity. If you’re spending too much of your time and money tending to your house or other material things, rethink this. Reject the idea of retirement; resolve to pour your life out and make investments in your eternal bank account until God takes you from this life.
Go against the grain. Fight through the fog of apathy. Take the actions you know God is calling you to but have resisted. Don’t hold back. Renounce the American Dream mentality. Don’t stop pressing in until God opens doors and provides breakthroughs.
Most importantly, do whatever it takes to make your relationship with the Lord the biggest thing and number one priority in your life.
I will close this article with a quote from Laura Schlessinger:
“If you want to change, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable.”
You can watch Castings Crowns perform American Dream here.
New Video – Mike Genung’s Story
Here’s a new video of my journey to freedom from sexual addiction:
Blazing Grace’s purpose is to minister to the sexually broken, encourage believers to draw closer to God, and encourage the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.
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May God’s grace abound to you.
All material copyright 2014 Mike Genung