What do the tragic deaths of great talents like Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and now Whitney Houston all have in common? The evil hand of Satan, according to author and church leader Trevin Wax.
"The Evil One not only hates it when people find joy in God [but]...he also hates it when people find joy in God's gifts," said Wax in a recent blog.
Houston's voice was a gift from God and a gift to the world – a display of God's common grace, which theologian John Murray defined as "every favor of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God."
When people begin tracing "back the path of joy," they will ultimately be directed to God who is the Giver of those gifts, Wax shared.
"It's easy to follow the path from being awed at Houston's talents to being awed at the God who grants talent in the first place. Whenever we see people in this world whose gifts inspire wonder, we are seeing signposts that point us to the God who loves the world enough to shower us with gifts of common grace, even as His greatest expression of love is demonstrated through the blood-drenched cross of His Son."
In order to deprive the world from hearing about God's saving grace as well as His common grace, however, Satan works hard to extinguish all "signposts," leading people to squander the good gifts from above.
"...If [the Evil One] can snuff out the brightest lights of common grace, he will try," Wax, the managing editor at Lifeway Christian Resources, said. "And that's one reason we see a pattern of sinful squandering, self-destructive behavior that leads to the silencing of golden voices," or why "the bright lights of common grace go dark before their time."
Though Wax believes Satan largely contributed to the tragic end of countless of young artists and stars, he understands that superstars sre responsible for their own demise as well, getting caught up in the "perils of idolatry" such as money, fame or power.
Houston, who died Saturday at age 48 and is famous for her hit "I Will Always Love You," had admitted that she was the only one to blame for her addictions and struggles with fame, he noted.
"Nobody makes me do anything I don't want to do," she previously told Diane Sawyer in an interview. "It's my decision. The biggest devil is me."
But her confession nonetheless does not downplay or excuse Satan's role in her downfall. Oftentimes the cause of temptation is twofold and closely intertwined – a mix of self and Satan.
"The Evil One is not content merely to hold people in spiritual bondage and lead them to hell," Wax, who formerly served as associate pastor of First Baptist Church, wrote. "He wants to diminish even the contributions they make to the common grace we benefit from society."
Houston's and many others' stories of fame leading to addiction and death is not just a cautionary tale exposing the emptiness of riches and success, but a story of how Satan desires to erase all vestiges of God's grace.
But the good news is that for the believer, "greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world," Wax concluded.
"There's no need for any Christian to serve as a cautionary tale. Nor do we need to be an example of Satan's thievery of the gifts we contribute to Christ's church. We hope in the One who has conquered sin and death and lavished His grace and gifts upon His children."
Trevin Wax regularly blogs at Kingdom People and contributes to other publications including Christianity Today. He is the author of Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals and Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.