As many of you already know from the homepage and initial post, this quarter’s book recommendation is Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. Today we are focusing on the empty promises of idolatry, in particular, The Hidden Idols in Our Lives which Keller addresses in Chapter Six.
Idolatry affects everyone. Because idolatry is second on the list of Ten Commandments, we know that idolatry is also a sin against God (Exodus 20: 4). Keller addresses the importance of discerning the counterfeits gods that influence our own hearts and culture.
To that end, I will make a confession to discern an idol from my own heart: Security. I come from a very small town in South Carolina. Although my father always worked hard, he didn’t always make a lot of money. Sometimes my parents struggled to make ends meet. They never discussed these struggles with us children, but we certainly were aware of the facts. When my parents started having the college discussions with me, I saw education as a sure way out of financial hardship.
Once college graduation was on the horizon, I looked forward to a secure life. Life in the military was financially comfortable. The pay raises and promotions came regularly. (It’s probably important to note here that I have the heart of the giver, so I didn’t struggle with having an open hand.) At the same time, however, I was very aggressive about paying off the little debt that I accumulated and building up my saving account.
Remember, idols are good things turned into ultimate things. I could have enjoyed the fruit of my labor a little more, and probably should have done that, but I was motivated to not be like my parents in the area of fiscal responsibility. As the old folks would tell us, “Save for a rainy day.” I knew that a rainy day would come, and I wanted to be ready. When is the rainy day coming? How much do I truly need? Will I ever have enough?
This is where the idol revealed itself. This idol was birthed out of a fear, and a lack of trust that God would do what he promised (Matthew 6: 25-34). This idol revealed my lack of faith in him. When confronted with an idol, God will normally do one of two things through you:
1. Keep testing you so that you learn the lesson that he is teaching. He wants you to confess and turn away from the idols in your heart; and challenges you to place your trust in him.
God to me: Will you give this up? – Me to God: Maybe?
This was the case after I got married, had our daughter, and faced the decision of whether or not to leave the military. I could have stayed in that career path and probably would have fared well professionally and financially. The personal alternative would have meant separation from my husband and daughter, and that was a decision that I was unwilling to make.
God to me: Are you going to trust the military or me to provide for you? –
Me to God (very reluctantly): I’m trusting you.
2. God will call you to a higher level of commitment and reveal himself in a new way.
God to me: There is a lot that I need to teach you in preparation for where I am taking you, but you have to trust me? – Me to God (now scared): Okay?!
This was the case a couple years later after I transitioned into a federal government. Again, I was in a position to leave another great career opportunity that offered financial stability. My husband received a job elsewhere. I could have stayed in that position, which would have resulted in both me and my daughter being separated from him. Again, that was not gonna happen.
God to me: Are you going to trust the government or me to provide for you? –
Me to God (freaking out at this point): I’m trusting you.
I have to constantly remind myself in thought and prayer, “I’m trusting you; I’m trusting you; I’m trusting you…”
The way to overcome idolatry is to identify the idols, confess and turn away from them, but most importantly, make the constant decision to place our hope and trust in the only one who truly matters. We will explore this concept a little more next month.
Be encouraged: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3: 2
How difficult is it to identify idols in your life? Do you confront them or simply ignore, in hopes that they will eventually go away?
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© Natasha L. Robinson 2010