A dark, wrinkled face bows low to the ground, paying homage to the only god she knows. Its terrible face looks down at her, frowning in the mid-afternoon sun. She has given up everything she can, but still, when she leaves the temple, her eyes are sunken and drop to the ground. Rags cling to her body, but they cannot cover the shame, the fear, and the loneliness. Her feet drag down the dusty street. Her shoulders rise and fall with each shallow breath, but one thought lingers deep in her mind. Do the gods hear? Do they see? Do they care? She gave them her life, and they seem to have thrown it away like the worthless trash under her feet.
On the other side of the world, a man pulls himself to his full height. His dark hair is slicked away from his forehead, and his suit coat is spotless. His square jaw loosens into a smile as he examines his newest fortune. Surely this mansion, this second home, will bring him happiness. The building towers above the tallest trees, casting a magnificent shadow on a full-sized pool, gardens that lay as far as the eye can see, and his collection of spotless vehicles. A butler opens the door, bowing his head. But as the man lays alone in a plush bed that night, the doubts creep in. Lost marriages. Fake friends. Failing businesses. Fear crawls up his spine and into his heart. It grips him with unyielding force. Would he ever find joy? Would he ever find someone who truly cared? But as the moon dipped below the horizon, the fears only grew stronger. Something was missing.
A teenage girl pushes back her chair and grins at the computer screen. Her hair falls down to her shoulders in tight curls, but she fails to notice, ecstatic over her huge success. 200 followers! What other blogger had that many people who wanted to read about herself?! She pushes back her shoulders, her blue eyes flashing in pride. Grade A student, successful blogger, the most popular girl in the school...what else could she want? She ignored the voice of her mother calling her down for dinner and placed her fingers on the keyboard. Her new goal: 250 followers. Nothing could get in her way. But when the stats rose again and she reached her goal, the success felt empty. A divorce shattered her family. What did achievements and popularity mean anyway? What was the point of life? Was there something more than this endless cycle? Would anyone remember her after she died? Suddenly, nothing seemed to matter anymore.
These three lonely people, though fictitious, represent so many around the world today. They represent every human on earth who is seeking joy apart from the True source of Joy. They represent millions of souls that are hurting, longing for someone to see, someone to care. They might have everything under control on the outside, but their hearts know otherwise.
Everyone has a master. Someone (or something) that they live for and seek joy from. Perhaps it's to make a person love them, to attain a certain amount of money, to have a certain amount of followers, to achieve a certain goal...the list goes on and on. There are so, so many things that catch our eyes, and, before we know it, we are giving our lives trying to gain that objective.
There's a name for that. The Bible calls it idolatry.
Idolatry: The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God...excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration. (Noah Webster, 1828)
While idols can indeed be a man-made object that you literally bow down before and worship (as in my first example), this is not always the case. I mean, how many people do you know actually visit a pagan temple or own idols in their home? But as I was reading a book by Randy Alcorn titled Money, Possessions, and Eternity, I realized something. He quotes A.W. Tozer:
"What do we value most? What would we most hate to lose? What do our thoughts turn to most frequently when we are free to think of what we will? And finally, what affords us the greatest pleasure?" - A.W. Tozer
Hmm...hard questions. But really, think about them. Go back (right now!) and reread them. What do you value most? What would you most hate to lose?
Based on these questions, what is the thing you are seeking in life? What is your treasure? What is your goal in life?
If your treasure, your source of happiness is anything other than Jesus Christ, be wary. If Jesus is not your all in all, what else is sitting on the throne of your heart?
Matthew 6:24 states that no one can have two masters. You can only serve one person or goal or object. There is no alternative.
Idolatry is worshiping anything other than Jesus. This doesn't mean literal worship in the sense you may be thinking. You don't have to sing songs or bow down to something for it to be an idol. To "worship" means to give something or someone a place of honor in your life. To glorify them.
In the stories above, I mentioned three people. One worshiped idols - fake gods. The second worshiped the idol of materialism, riches, and comfort. The last worshiped the idol of success and popularity. Idolatry is loving anything more than you love God. Riches, relationships, success, comfort, sports, possessions, a job or hobby. Anything. Even religion can become an idol if your heart is in the wrong place. Do you read the Bible, pray, and serve God out of a love and passion for Him or a "check off the box" duty to make yourself feel good?
If you have an idol in your life, you will not be abiding in Christ. It will be impossible. Futile. Purposeless. You cannot serve God and yourself at the same time.
That's what it so often comes down to, doesn't it? Worshiping yourself or God? If your love for things, success, followers, popularity, or anything else is first in your life, you will not abide in Christ.
Randy Alcorn writes,
"Materialism begins with our beliefs. Not merely what we say we believe - not our doctrinal statement - but the philosophy of life by which we actually live... materialism is first and foremost a matter of the heart."
What (or who) are you living for?
To take this a step further, I encourage you to stop right now and watch this 3 minute clip by Leslie Ludy. It challenged me greatly in this area of life, and I think it will make you think deeper.
I don't know about you, but I desire to have a constant honeymoon with Jesus. I want love Him so much that if everything else was stripped away, it would be okay. Sadly, that is so often not the case. This world has millions of distractions. And every single one threatens to pull my attention away from the eternal to the temporary. How can we keep our focus pure and un-diverted?
I wish I had all the answers, but this is something I struggle with. How does one live life without losing focus? How is this even possible in all the craziness, the turmoil, and the distractions?
While I struggle for answers, I know this is true. If we really want to abide in Christ - to make Him our all in all - we cannot have idols in our life.
This is my challenge to you. And not only to you, but this challenge is also for myself. Examine your life. Pray desperately, pray openly. Let God show you if something is in the way of your relationship. Ask yourself those important questions once again. What do you value the most? What is one thing that you could not give up? Where do your thoughts wander to when you are alone?
If there are any distractions, let us esteem them as rubbish and direct our gaze on what is truly important.
I end with one last quote,
"There was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself." - Blaise Pascal
If everything was stripped away from you, would Jesus be enough? If not, what is standing in the way of having a deep, abiding, and personal relationship with Him? Comment below!