Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:20).
I have ministered in India many times and there I notice idols on just about every street corner. We don’t have those kinds of idols in America, but we still probably have just as much idolatry here.
An idol is an extravagant admiration of the heart; anything that is the supreme object of our affection; any object of ardent or excessive admiration or affection. In that light, I think you can see there are quite as few idols around.
An idol could be a child, a spouse, a car, a house, a hobby, a business, a church position, overeating, excessive work, drug use, alcohol addiction, pornography, or anything on which we depend to meet a need in the place of relying on God.
Abraham made an idol out of his promised son Isaac, and God asked him to slay him as a sacrifice. When Abraham released him to God, his life was spared.
Years ago I had an idol of personal pride and of ministry that the Lord asked me to surrender to Him. During a season of transition in ministry I was praying and looking for a supplemental source of income, and the Lord spoke to me that I was to “paint,” that is, start a painting company. After much persuasion I finally began painting houses while not on the road in ministry. The first idol to fall was my personal pride.
I had always dressed to perfection and prided myself in dressing nicely and in keeping myself well groomed. I loathed the idea of painting because it seemed so messy and it lacked the prestige of “ministry.”
I was painting the stippled “popcorn” ceilings in a house one day and the white paint and stipple fell all over me; in my hair, down my face, all over my clothes. I was a complete mess! I got a call at the same time to give a contractor an estimate on some work on a new house. I arrived with this white stipple and paint all over me. The contractor looked me up and down and asked if I always looked like this. Well, that just knocked my “pride in my looks idol” right to the ground. I was humiliated. Somehow I knew that the Lord placed me in a position to face this kind of circumstance and sacrifice my “well groomed idol” to the Lord. I was set free of the need to look perfect that day! Now, yes, I want to dress appropriately for any occasion now, but it’s not to meet a personal need as it was before.
Some time later, I was grinding old paint off the exterior of a house, and feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t busy in ministry. And the Father began to deal with me about yet another idol that I had erected in my heart. It was the idol of ministry. I had been in full time ministry almost my entire adult life and felt that I just had to be in ministry. Ministry met a need in me to feel significant.
With flecks of paint and sweat covering me as I grinded away at old paint wearing a face mask, I came face to face with the ministry idol in my heart. The Father showed me that I could be satisfied in any circumstance as long as I had Him with Me. He showed me that I did not need ministry to be fulfilled as a believer. I only needed Him.
I cried out to the Lord in that moment and told Him that I would paint the rest of my life if that was His will for me. I felt immediate relief from the burden of having to be in ministry to be fulfilled. The release from the weight of my “ministry heart idol” was incredible. For the first time in my life I was content to do whatever and be happy in it. Not long afterward, the Lord opened up full-time ministry in my life again.
I no longer serve the idol of personal pride or the idol of needing to be in ministry. And I’ve never been freer as a child of God. Ministry is a joy, not a burden. I don’t have to be in ministry. I am privileged to be called by the Father to serve His people. Jesus meets my personal needs. And now I’m free to commit my life to serve the Father as I serve others.
It seems to me that God is coming after idolatry in America with this Corona crisis. In America we love entertainment, all kinds of sports, eating out in our favorite restaurants, and we love our money. The things that Americans value have been sidelined for weeks now. The sports venues are empty. The movie theaters are empty. The restaurants are empty. Our GDP as a nation is at a record low! Could God use all this to deal with America’s idols? We’ve watched the show by that name for years. And now we’re watching things being set aside that many people use to meet their needs to relax.
It’s time for a reset. It’s time for you and me to examine ourselves yet again. Have I used anything available in our culture to meet a need that only God can meet? To say it again, idolatry is meeting a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Let’s search our hearts, and make sure that Jesus and His Word are what we lean on when pressure comes. Not sports viewing. Not eating. Not entertainment. Not making money. To deal with life’s pressure, we need Jesus and His Word. We need fellowship with Him in prayer. These other things may have a place, but we should never use them in a way that they take a majority of our time. That is idolatry!
Take advantage of the current environment we are in and allow the Father access in your life to deal with any heart idols that may be in the way of His best for you!