Does He Deserve to Be Rescued? Rags to Riches to Rehab

Ted Williams’ story traveled in and out of the media spotlight last week faster than the flash of a camera bulb.

Initially, he was hailed as a rags-to-riches story when the golden-voiced homeless man was “discovered” and offered a number of lucrative positions.

But then, he was decried as a rags-to-riches-to rehab story when it was revealed that Ted “had issues” and was, perhaps, not handling his rise to fame with sufficient aplomb.

Messy. The whole story got messy fast.

And the media learned a rapid-fire lesson about why they are reporters and not social workers -they can’t handle the truth served up cold.

The media like stories about “deserving people” benefiting from the kindness of others. They don’t really like it when something unsavory comes to light about those on the receiving end of a helping hand.

The media likes to dress the truth in designer clothing with theme music and high-def graphics but when that’s all stripped away, they don’t have the constitution required to look the human condition straight in the eye and not lose their lunch.

The truth about humans is that we’re messy. We’re not easily controlled by others with our “best interest” in mind. Our problems are usually a complicated cocktail of circumstances and choices.

And deciding what is good for other people, who is “deserving” and whether or not people have caused their own troubles is risky business.

We wrestle with that in churches, too.

I’ve heard many a “good stewardship” conversation about deciding how to distribute financial assistance to those who ask. We Christians can be phobic about not wanting to be “taken advantage of.” As if the Lord’s first commandment to the church was “protect Me from being used and ripped-off at all times by ensuring that you only care for those who are worthy of help.”

It’s just not that easy.

I once saw a television show where two firefighters were trying to encourage a dying co-worker by revisiting people he’d rescued. It didn’t turn out the way they had hoped.

One elderly man was furious that he’d been saved when his wife was not – now he was left with a life of loneliness. A neighbor of another rescued man informed the firefighters that the rescued man had lived only to murder his entire family.

The visits went on like this until one of the firefighter observed something to the effect that “lucky for most people we rescue them before we know if they’re worth rescuing.”

The hard truth is that none of us is worth rescuing. We are made worthy by our Rescuer.

In God’s eyes, every single one of us is a “riches to rags to rehab” story.

Riches: We had it all, every one of us was designed to be gloriously, perfectly human.

Rags: We tossed it away and traded our glory for rags – every single one of us. We all choose sin over obedience and make ourselves homeless wanderers begging scraps from the world.

Rehab: When we call on the Lord and find our rescue in Jesus Christ, we enter rehab – the process of breaking our addictions to sin and self and learning to function as we were intended. To live within the richness of our relationship with Him.

It’s messy. Every single story we live out is messy compared to the One, Perfect Son of God.

Read Psalm 107. God rescues people from every circumstance – ones that have happened to them and ones of their own making – even through foolish rebellion.

God is reckless and generous with both His grace and His gifts. The church needs to be more like Him.

God saves the hard questions and the discipline for those of us who are already safe inside the lifeboat. Until then, He doesn’t seem to spend much time asking how we ended up in bad shape in the first place.

And He seems very unconcerned with being “ripped off.”

God sends sunshine and rain to sinners and saints alike. There are many rebellious, unrepentant sinners out there enjoying the very best of the beautiful world God has created, often letting others pay the price. God seems content to work out the consequences for that in the long-run.

Which is why I think He’d rather that the church lavished money on the occasional con-artist than to risk withholding His riches from those who are in desperate straits. He doesn’t seem to live with that kind of fear.

If you’re someone who has made poor choices and find yourself in a bad spot because of them, God will rescue you if you call on Him. That doesn’t mean He’ll make it all go away, but He will walk with you through the process of recovery.

If you’re someone who feels good about the choices you’ve made and struggle with others who haven’t, remember that the wisdom for making those choices came from God, the strength to make those choices came from God and any circumstances in your favor were arranged by God.

Riches to Rags to Rehab – it’s my story and I glory in it as I glory in Jesus Christ, the One who rescued me.


What’s your story?

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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Karin says:

    I’m in Rehab praising the Lord who is my Rescuer – my story is the same as yours! We’re just one beggar telling another beggar where to get The Bread!

  2. Couldn’t we all see that coming? Of course the man is struggling! Wouldn’t we all be, if we were in his shoes? I don’t understand people’s duplicity. We applaud those who go for rehab and “straighten their lives out…” UNLESS they happen to have been given an outpouring of emotional support first. Then, suddenly, it’s as if they’ve betrayed us by still being human after we’ve heaped adoration on them. We humans are such idolaters!

    I became concerned for Mr. Williams the moment he was discovered, because I know that almost nobody can handle the meteoric shifts of a “rags to riches” story without it seriously messing with their heads. And someone with a background of drug and alcohol use is likely to be very tempted by that form of escape when the spotlight gets hard to handle. Hollywood celebs do it all the time.

    Why have people turned on Mr. Williams?

    Simple. We wanted to believe in a fairy tale Cinderella, and he turned out to be a real human with problems. How dare he?

    How often does our love for our neighbor fail because we’re looking for idols instead of loving and worshiping our God? Our God is enough to meet the hunger of our hearts, and when He does, we are free to love. But if we’re grasping for something to worship in our neighbor, we will never be able to love him as we ought, because our soul can’t feed on him.

    If I could talk to Mr. Williams right now, I’d tell him that he hasn’t let me down, because I didn’t need him to be a fairy tale for me. I’d tell him I’m glad he’s getting help. Then I’d do my best to introduce him to the One who meets my soul’s needs, and frees me from the need to search for satisfaction from my neighbor.

  3. I’m right there with you, Karin and Goooooooo!, Betsy! Preach it, woman!

  4. Carmen says:

    Excellent post! I read something in Deuteronomy the other day that told me if I’d lived according to the law, my very conception would have kept me and my prodigy out of the congregation of the Lord to 10 generations. We just don’t realize what Christ has saved us from!!

  5. sheri says:

    Our pastor showed a video clip about Ted Williams, yesterday, and how he was discovered and he agreeing for rehab! It will be interesting to see the outcome. In the meantime, I will be praying for this man that was created and loved by God and wants him in the ‘flock of Jesus’ that will give him unconditional love and acceptance into the community of believers. He has a chance to rehab in a secular world, that I pray he will find true believers as part of his program. ‘God is BIG enough’ our church’s theme for the past seven-eight months!