June 21st 2013 No comments yet
One of my small pleasures in my newfound grown-up life is listening to Steve Farrar’s podcast during my commute. Starting and ending my work day with the no-nonsense spiritual guidance and biblical encouragement Pastor Farrar has tailored to men is far superior to listening to the morning radio shock jockey shrieking about a celebrity rumor I don’t care about.
His study last fall was of Hebrews 11, what he refers to as “God’s Hall of Fame.” It’s a chapter that runs the gamut from the “heavy hitters” like Abraham, David, and Moses to guys like Barak, Jephthah, and Samson. In the lesson I was listening to one morning, a mention of Joshua caught my attention.
Pastor Farrar picked up where Joshua, the man who led the Israelites to victories over many nations, felled the walls of Jericho and brought the Israelites out of the wilderness, was nearing the end of his life in Joshua 24:15:
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
You know what the Israelites did shortly after Joshua died? They went right back to worshiping the idols.
“Well that certainly was dim of them,” I thought to myself quite condescendingly. “God brings them through all that, and they still go worship some metal statue of a cow?”
“Yeah Townsend, it’s not like you built yourself a shrine to the Kansas City Chiefs in your apartment or anything,” my oddly sarcastic conscience chimed in.
Score one for conviction.
We often scoff at the notion of the Israelites bowing down to an inanimate object with the greatness of God staring them in the face. I have, until I remembered bowing to my television set when Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles took a handoff 91 yards to the house against the Saints last season. I may or may not have joyfully shouted, “We are not worthy!” at the time. May or may not.
All of us have our golden calves, and while some might not act like the raving lunatic I seem be to during Chiefs games, our priorities certainly indicate whether or not God is our foremost focus.
We all know the worn-out Sunday school example of shiny sports cars being the modern day golden calf (or in this hillbilly’s case, a brand new bass boat). But, in my experience, many of our idols aren’t physical things. For months after college, I chased financial stability and a career path significantly more than the will of God for my life. Maybe you’re pursuing an ever-elusive relationship. Perhaps you want more respect in your workplace, to be seen as a bigger asset than others give you credit.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting those things; it’s a perfectly human behavior to desire good happenings and accomplishments in our lives. It becomes a problem when those desires start to push God down on the priorities list.
Here’s the funny thing: Put God first, and if it lines up with His plan for you, He will lead you right to what you desire (or what you didn’t even know you desired). Â Psalms 37:4 tells us, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Does that mean if I follow God a bass boat will be waiting for me when I get home, and life will be butterflies and a bed of daisies? Â No, that’s not what the Christian life is about. In fact, the connotation of this verse is that if you sincerely take delight in how the Lord works in your life, He’s the only true desire you will have, and your desires will start to line up with His. Not exactly what those folks big into “prosperity gospel” preach.
Sadly, the reality is I really want that dadgum boat. You really want that promotion or to finally find someone to dispel the loneliness. Â We’re people, and people are an imperfect and an exasperatingly needy bunch.
Now and then, God sees it fit to fulfill an earthly desire, but often it’s not what you were expecting, or how you were expecting to acquire it. Often, God’s blessings are received after periods of great hardship, and His blessing isn’t how you pictured it would be. For example, after going through school I thought I was a lock to have a job in sports journalism. A very rough and eye-opening seven months after graduating, I finally began my career path, but at Stonebriar instead of a newspaper. I didn’t understand initially, now I couldn’t be happier with where I am.
Nonetheless, just as a golden calf didn’t bring the Israelites out of the wilderness, neither will anything you value on this earth truly satisfy you. Cars and boats break down. People will fail you. Careers end, and the Chiefs will probably disappoint me for the rest of my life. None of these things merit our devotion and praise.
Only God deserves that kind of dedication. He won’t disappoint.
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