God Substitutes


By Dr. Harold J. Sala

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

Substitutes are never quite like the real thing.  They never quite look like the real thing, taste like the real thing, or feel like the real thing.  Artificial sweeteners may deprive you of the calories but–face it–Pepsi Light just doesn’t quite taste like “the real thing.”  The same thing goes for salt and butter substitutes.  You can’t quite compare what is churned from pure cream with what comes out of a laboratory in a plastic bottle with a picture of a Swiss cow on the label.

Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician, wrote that there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person that can never be filled apart from a personal relationship with God.  But a lot of folks today haven’t gotten the message.

Instead of a personal relationship with God, they’ve accepted a wide variety of God-substitutes. Like what?  Pleasure, self, money, fame, power, and addictions which include a vast number of things.  You tell me what you live for, and I’ll tell you what has become your god!  Many of the folks who have bought into god-substitutes go to church almost every week and would be quite perturbed with me for suggesting that they have put their faith in a God-substitute, yet the reality is they have settled for less than the real thing.

Almost all substitutes have side effects of one kind or another, and for those who settle for God-substitutes, the side effects include a lack of connection, an indifference to drawing lines, saying “This is right; this is wrong!”  Their world is often painted in shades of gray, neither completely black nor white.  Their values are obscure, and by and large what they worship is what they can see, taste, or feel.

But probably the most glaring difference between God-substitutes and knowing God is that substitutes never satisfy the spiritual thirst which is deep within your heart.  Whether their addiction is to money, sexual satisfaction, or things, the completely satisfied level is always just ahead, just beyond their grasp.  And no matter what they have, to be satisfied requires just a bit more.

Long ago, the psalmist threw out the challenge, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8, KJV).  The challenge is still valid; it is something you can personally experience.

When Jesus and the disciples drew near to a village in Samaria where cool water from a deep well could satisfy their thirst, Jesus asked a woman to draw a drink of water for Him, and in the conversation which took place, He told her that if she would drink of the water which He would give to her, she would never thirst again!

A final thought.  Individuals who expect to get the real thing and find that they have been given a substitute scream and yell, “Fraud!”  At least I did, the time I went into a camera store in Hong Kong and asked to purchase a wide-angle lens for my Minolta camera.  The price was OK.  It looked like the real thing.  It came out of the Minolta box with all of the wrappings.  But when I read the very tiny print on the bottom of the lens, I quickly recognized, it came with the Minolta packaging but a cheaper lens with inferior quality had been substituted.

Life at its longest is short, and when you come to the end, the one thing you never want to discover is that the god you bought into may have come in the traditional packaging but wasn’t the living one who created our world, nor the one whom you will face when you die.

God-substitutes never satisfy.  Make sure you have the real thing.

Resource reading: 2 Timothy 3:1-5. 


Dr. Harold J. Sala, well known speaker, author and Bible teacher, has served as founder and President of Guidelines International, Inc., since 1963. He is the featured speaker on the daily “Guidelines-A Five Minute Commentary on Living” which is broadcast on over 1000 radio stations around the world and translated in over 15 languages. Author of over 40 books published in various languages and hundreds of publications. Residing in Mission Viejo, California, Harold and his wife, Darlene, have three adult children and eight well-loved grandchildren.

Used with permission from Guidelines Philippines, Inc. To learn more about Guidelines and the ministry, please write to Box 4000, 1280 Makati City, Philippines or e-mail address box4000@guidelines.org. You may also visit the Guidelines website at www.guidelines.org.

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