We talked about idols yesterday in church, and if you’ve been reading this blog for even a few weeks, you already know that I struggle with a big, fat idol: the writing life. I’ve written about this struggle before, but the long and the short of it is that my deepest personal desire and ambition is to become a full-time writer and a published author, and sometimes that ambition takes priority over just about everything else in my life. Including God.
I didn’t recognize my big, fat idol for a long time because it cleverly masquerades as something positive and good. After all, I reason, I write about God and faith – how bad can that possibly be?
Inherently, it’s not bad at all. A passion, an ambition or an enjoyment only becomes a problem, an idol, when it begins to dominate everything else, and most especially when it begins to dominate God himself. I’ve learned recently that even though my passion is intricately connected to God, it still has the capacity to displace God if I let it…which I often do.
Yesterday in his sermon Pastor Greg suggested that once we recognize our idol, the key to remedying the problem is to replace the idol with a new passion, specifically a passion for God. “To replace your idols, Jesus must become the master of your heart,” said Greg.
The problem, I thought immediately when I heard his suggestion, is that my idol is appealingly concrete. Creating a writing life seems doable, attainable, but cultivating a passion for God? That feels too amorphous to me. Exactly how does one “cultivate a passion for God” or “allow Jesus to become the master of your heart?” It sounds great on paper, but a little loosey-goosey when I actually think about making it happen in my everyday life.
I should have known Pastor Greg wouldn’t stop at the loosey-goosey, and yesterday’s sermon was no exception. He wasn’t about to let me off the hook.
“How do you make God the central passion of your life?” Greg asked. “You work at it.”
Turns out, I don’t need to look any further than my church’s own mission statement for a list of concrete steps:
Worship. Grow. Serve. Give. Invite.
It’s true. When I slack off in my pursuit of God, when I let any of these areas slide, my focus easily shifts from God to myself, from his needs and desires to my own.
Honestly it’s frightfully easy for me to get lazy in my pursuit of God. I’m inclined to skip my morning Bible study after I’ve watched one too many episodes of House Hunters and stayed up too late the night before. I’m tempted to sleep through Sunday service when from beneath the cozy comforter I hear the Nebraska wind howling. I reason that I’ve “served enough” lately or that I’ve “given enough” for now. I get squeamish when offered the opportunity to talk about God outside my faith community.
Yet when I consider these five steps I clearly see how they all contribute to cultivating a passion for God:
Worship keeps me actively praising and thanking God.
Growing through Bible study, morning devotions and my small-group study keeps God’s word front and center in my life.
Serving my community places others’ needs before my own, and reminds me to be grateful for the many blessings in my life.
Giving shifts my focus from my own wants to the needs of someone else.
Inviting encourages me to step out of my comfort zone to express how God impacts my everyday life.
It’s work, sure; honestly, it's a lot of work. But if these steps can help me keep my big, fat idol subdued and God in his rightful place, then I say it’s worth the effort.
What about you? Do you have any tips for keeping your idols at bay?
Linking with Jen and the the Soli Deo Gloria Sisters: