How to Deal with Functional Saviors?

pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

Every day is a battle of faith. I will sacrifice time, money, energy, and affections to someone or something. Christian or not, we all put our faith in something. We trust in something to give our lives meaning.

Maybe it’s faith in the chair I’m sitting on won’t break. Faith in gravity to keep me planted on earth. Could be faith in a political party or a special someone. Faith that my brain and lungs won’t fail and I’ll make it home for dinner.

Whether conscious or subconscious, whether you’re religious or staunch atheist, we all have a faith system that gives meaning and purpose and stability to our lives. 

As a disciple of Jesus, I’m in a daily battle to give affection and allegiance to the Big S, Savior, and the smaller s variety. Some have called the latter versions: functional saviors. These impotent saviors designed to give meaning, purpose, and weight to my lowly existence, and yet never quite deliver on their promises. 

The scary part about these functional saviors is they’re typically rooted in good things. Like work, family, hobbies, friends, leisure activities, food, and church. 

My small s saviors can be work and productivity. Believing what I accomplish and produce, or write, and how much money I make, defines my existence, worth, and value. It’s when I’m doing, God is please with me. 

I can bow at the alter of parenting. Believing that if the kid’s are happy and healthy, I’ll be too. When the kid’s are growing spiritually, obedient, and thriving in the classroom, and on the soccer field, my joy is complete. When they aren’t, how long oh Lord?

My functional savior can be marriage. Using my wife to be something only God can be for me. Expecting her to meet every need, rather than serve her, like Christ served his church. 

My saviors are many and varied and come in all shapes and sizes. The harsh reality: I confess a Savior, but many functional saviors lurk in the shadows. Vying for my attention and affection with a simple wink of an eye. 

Let’s not live in theological clouds. Can we bring this idea of functional saviors down to earth and to the every day? How do I know what my functional saviors are?

Jerry Bridges in his book The Bookends of the Christian Life, suggests doing this exercise. Fill in the blanks below and see where functional saviors may lurk:

I am preoccupied with________.

If only__________, then I would be happy. 

I get my sense of significance from___________.

I would protect and preserve_____________ at any cost.

I fear losing___________.

The thing that gives me the greatest pleasure is______________.

When I lose_________ I get angry, resentful, frustrated, anxious, and depressed.

For me, life depends on ____________.

The thing I value more than anything in the world is ____________.

When I daydream, my mind goes to______________.

The best thing I can think of is_______________.

The thing that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is______________.

When I work through these questions and shine a spotlight on my soul, it’s not pretty. But that’s why I need the True Savior. When I deal with my little s saviors, I’m faced with the realities of my sins before a holy God. 

But when I deal with my functional saviors, I also see how deep, wide, and high it reveals the love of Christ in the gospel. I’m a great sinner, but I have a Great Savior, who forgives and showers us with mercy. 

I may look to cisterns that don’t hold water, but the gospel keeps leading me back to water that satisfies. 

What functional saviors can you bring to the cross today?


(Source: The Bookends of the Christian Life, by Jerry Bridges, page 73).