When you put anything before Me, you ultimately hurt yourself…
“…I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in My ears, I will not listen to them.” Ezekiel 8:18
Recently, while on a call with Comcast to cancel services on my account, the representative was amazed when I voiced that the reason for cancelling my services was that there’s a difference between need and want and I certainly didn’t need Comcast for the services they were offering. So it started me on this path of reflection to discern between those things that I need and those that I want. If you’ve not tried this before, consider trying this exercise to see those things that make it to one column or the other. This isn’t to say that all wants are bad… for instance, I have, and always will want deep relationship in my life. Wanting such things in and of themselves aren’t necessarily bad… putting this, or any other want or desire above God is the issue.
We think we can hide those parts of our lives that keep us away from fully engaging with God. We don’t like to think that we have idols in our lives, but when we withhold parts of ourselves from God, we hold them above God… and anything that we place above God is an idol.
We don’t wipe out idolatry once and for all without ever having to purge it again from our lives. Other interests constantly try to take over where only He belongs, so we constantly have to remain on guard. Beyond the fact that our Father deserves all of our honor and respect, in His infinite wisdom, when we focus on Him exclusively, it has the effect of protecting us from the deep pain that ultimately happens when we turn to outside influences for happiness and fulfillment.
The seducing influence of idols has us believing that we’ve found true happiness. However, this happiness is really temporary, lacking the depth that is needed to sustain us on a long-term basis… the kind of depth and peace that can only be found in submitting to the Father’s will, regardless of what life throws at us!
I had a friend several years ago who was a strong Christian… one thing I remember about Chris was that he was always happy and was rarely affected by life’s ‘junk’ being thrown at him! One day, I found myself getting more frustrated than Chris over hearing all of what he and his wife were going through with their son dealing with muscular dystrophy! It was at that moment that I realized that Chris had something I wanted. I didn’t fully understand it, but Chris had something deeper, more substantive, much larger than anything I had ever experienced before. And it was amazing to me how many ‘breaks’ Chris and his family received! Well… they weren’t really breaks… I’ve come to understand them to be abundant mercies and blessings, being offer to a family, who made the conscious decision to follow a God that was much bigger than any challenge or circumstance they were going through!
After speaking with Chris at length, I realized that in order for me to experience what he and his wife had found would require sacrifice on my part… it would require me to give up what I learned were harmful influences and start living according to a higher standard… our Father’s will! It was only through this process of letting go of false idols that I could tap into that deeper joy and peace I had witnessed, in spite of the outside influences from life. By aligning ourselves on ‘the rock’ that can withstand any circumstance, deeper, more sustaining joy can be had.
Oh, how we serve an unselfish God!! At the core of everything He does is our good! However, in order to experience His best and His protection requires a commitment on our parts to follow Him and His will completely. And while we can never lose the love of our Father, idolatry hurts the relationship with our God and puts in jeopardy all the blessings He has for us. Imagine one day, being in heaven, and seeing a large room full of boxes, and learning that they were all ours… but we never experienced what was in the boxes because the path we choose, other than focusing on our Father and being obedient to His will, prevented all those boxes from coming our way!
Caring for our children… enjoying a hobby… fostering friendships… our jobs… in, and of themselves, all good things, but when these things are done to excess, even good things can become bad… idols! Therefore, it’s a daily fight to ensure that we keep ourselves ‘in check’… to keep our Father first, before all others and all things. And, could it be, that by keeping our Father, and His will for our lives first, that we’ll receive more of God’s mercies? That our prayers will not fall upon deaf ears? That the pain life can be reduced because our Father’s ways are better?
Father, I reach out to You to ask that You search our hearts… remove and cleanse it of anything that keeps us from being closer to You. Father, I ask you to strengthen us as we re-learn how to live our lives according to Your will and not ours… that we grow in faith so that while we may not understand why it is that we are going through the challenges, we can rest knowing You are who You are, that we should cling to You always, and that Your love is enough, with no need for any substitutes. Amen.