“Counterfeit Gods” by Tim Keller – Chapter 1: All You’ve Ever Wanted

Opening Prayer

Focus Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Does that mean that God will give you whatever you want?


“The minute a person becomes a celebrity is the same minute he/she becomes a monster.  Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbra Streisand were once perfectly pleasant human beings with whom you might lunch on a slow Tuesday afternoon.

But now they have become supreme beings, and their wrath is awful.  It’s not what they had in mind.  When God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you he grants you your deepest wish and then giggles when you suddenly realize you want to kill yourself.

Sly, Bruce, and Barbra, fervently, more than any of us, wanted fame.  They worked, they pushed, they stepped on the other guy’s face in their desperate need.

“If I can be famous, people will adore me and my noese,” Barbra thought.

“If I can be famous, I can get my chin reduced and life will be a breeze,” Sly reasoned.

“If I can be famous, I can have a baby with Demi Moore and all my dreams will come true,” Bruce decided.

The night each of them became famous they wanted to shriek with relief.  Finally!  Now they were adored!  Invincible!  Magic!

All their fantasies had been realized, yet the reality was still the same.  If they were miserable before, they were twice as miserable now, because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and (ha ha) happiness, had happened.

And nothing changed.  They were still them.  The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.”[1]

“In 1997, Home Depot stocker Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. won a $31 million Texas jackpot. To the former Pentecostal preacher, $1.24 million per year was a gift from heaven.

He bought a ranch, six homes for himself and family, and a bunch of new cars. After the initial glory subsided, however, Harrell found himself losing and loaning money at an alarming rate. Like many winners, he had trouble saying no to those who ask for his funds.

As a result, Harrell’s life became too stressful to handle. He divorced his wife. Less than two years after hitting paydirt, he committed suicide. ‘Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me,’ he is quoted as saying shortly before his suicide.”[2]


  1. Tim Keller writes about a friend who badly wanted to have children and was able to do so, but then he adds “Getting her heart’s deepest desire may end up being the worst thing that ever happened to her.”  (p. 2)  Are you aware of a similar situation?
  2. How would you answer the question Tim Keller asks, “Why is getting your heart’s deepest desire so often a disaster?” (p. 3)
  3. What was God trying to do in asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? (p. 13)
  4. Are there some “Isaacs” that you need to put on the altar and give God the central place in your life?  (Cf. p. 14)
  5. How does knowing that God is both holy and gracious help you to do that? (Cf. p. 11)
  6. Who is the “ram” who served as our substitute sacrifice?


  1. Tim Keller writes, “The most painful times in our lives are times in which our Isaacs, our idols, are being threatened or removed.  When that happens we can respond in two ways.  We can opt for bitterness and despair…

Or else, like Abraham, you could take a walk up into the mountains.  You could say, ‘I see that you maybe calling me to live my life without something I never thought I could live without.  But if I have you, I have the only wealth, health, love, honor, and security I really need and cannot lose.’  As many have learned and later taught, you don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” (p. 19)

What thoughts come to mind when you read that?


Closing Prayer

[1] Cynthia Heimel, If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet? (New York:  Grove Press, 2002), 13.

[2] “10 People Who Won the Lottery—Then Lost it All,” Amazing Facts:  Your Single Source of Amazing Facts From the World (Internet; found at:  http://myamazingfact.blogspot.com/2009/09/10-people-who-won-lotterythen-lost-it.html; downloaded:  14 Oct 2010).


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