I 'tuned in' online to a short sound-bite on "Wretched TV" * which has kept me ruminating all week. It had the innocuous title: "Why You are Discouraged". I don't know what explanation I was expecting. But this wasn't it. Have you ever considered the connection between discouragement and idolatry?! I hadn't either. But consider this…
Cutting right to the point, Todd Friel posed the question: "Are you discouraged because your idol has not come to fruition." Huh? My idol? I may be a little discouraged because I want to see certain things happen/or not, in my church, or in my family, or in my own life but…idolatry?! He explained it this way: When the things that we desire move beyond wants to needs, demands, "I gotta' have it!", our desires--legitimate though they may be, have become idols…
Then came this sermon clip by Rev. J.Ligon Duncan:
"In disappointment and discouragement we are tempted to succumb to idolatry". Why? Because "we are tempted to think that there is a greater treasure that has been withheld or taken from us than what God has or can give to us."
Oh. Wow. Sounds like the Garden--luscious fruit, strong desire, subtle temptation to doubt God's intent and goodness, and Zammo! I think I wanna' be in charge! Red Flag—who's going to be god here? Is that what is happening when things don't seem to be working out just as I'd like to see? But they're good things, 'right' things, surely God wants them too… However, I reveal my heart's loyalties when the deferment or denial of my longings plunges me into deep disappointment and discouragement. When what I want (and I think God wants) becomes what I must have to be happy. When I withhold whole-hearted joy-filled worship of God because I'm just not quite satisfied with what He's doing/not doing for me…well something's up. And that something may just be called idolatry!
Todd put it something like this: How is discouragement related to idolatry? If you are worshiping God with all your heart, soul and mind, it doesn't matter if you get x,y, or z you already have the best thing that there is! But when we practically forget the Gospel, we will set up other things as idols and take Jesus off the throne…
Hmm… it’s worth thinking about. You can view the whole 2 minute clip for yourself HERE.
Peter too reminds us that an effective and fruitful faith is contingent on remembering what we have been saved from, while not losing sight of the hope we are called to. (II Pet.1:8-11) We have after all, been brought into fellowship with the Creator of the universe who supplies our every need and lives His life through us…When we hang onto this LIVING God, by faith, idols lose their luster. They can't deliver the comfort, the significance, the security, or the HELP!! we need. They weren't designed to. When we forget this we will end up discouraged.
Have we succumbed to that original temptation to believe that God's holding out on us? Not giving us what we most want and need? Withholding the best from us…and it’s up to us to ‘get a life’ as best we can? Billy Joel gives this impression of God in his catchy tune: "Only the Good Die Young" as if to do things God's way were to miss out on life. Does that make sense?
If God is the author of life and the giver of every good gift (Ja.1:17), can we not trust that He will do for us all that is best and in the perfect timing? Can we not trust that the boundaries He sets, the 'good things' He denies, the race and its pace that He sets for each of us (Heb.12:1) is ALL for our greatest good and His highest glory? Billy Joel is wrong.
"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." (Ps.84:11) He is the one who "satisfies with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."(Ps.103:5)
To believe otherwise sets us up to fall for idols--to grasp at straws in search of a more effective strategy for getting our will done, (or His will done our way!?). These idols won't be carved statues probably. Others may not recognize them. But when we go searching for 'something more' than what God has provided for life and godliness in the knowledge of Him, (II Pet.1) whether it be a more dynamic 'spirituality' or a magic key to success and favor, we are following in the error of the Israelites who could never rest content for long with their own God and were always looking to gain something by following the customs of the nations around them. They had the same problem we do. They wanted something they could see. They wanted worship that felt good. They exchanged the glory of their immortal, invisible, holy God for man-made images. (Rom.1:23) They worshiped in ways that were an abomination to their God. And they missed out on the worship they were created for.
God saw and ached for their return. I’ve been reading Jeremiah lately with its poignant passages on idolatry, from God's point of view:
"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Jer.2:13
Thus says the LORD: "What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after (vanity) worthlessness, and became worthless?" Jer.2:5
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: "Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?" "Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images and with their foreign idols?" Jer.8:19
"…they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein; but have walked after the imagination of their own heart and after Baalim" Jer.9:14
What a grief idolatry brings, to our hearts and God’s.
More next time, on spotting the culprit, and by God’s grace being done with it!
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. I Jn.5:20,21
Have you met Todd Friel of Wretched TV?
This conservative Christian radio/TV talk show host always has something provocative/ witty/ insightful to say. Defending the Word of God and the unadulterated Gospel is his passion. Short daily blurbs cover a range of issues—sample his sound bites at YouTube.