I was in a church service a couple of weeks ago, and I heard the pastor state something that truly hit me hard. He was preaching a sermon about idols, and he said, “God doesn’t want to simply be at the top of your list. He wants to be the only one on your list.” This was such a quick and simple phrase, and he moved on from it so quickly, but those words continued to ring in my ears throughout the entirety of the service, as well as throughout the next couple of weeks. It was one of those instances that I’ll never forget, for although I had always known what the pastor had said to be true, it was as if it had just been revealed to me for the very first time. It was as if I had just had some great revelation, and it soon led to me hungering to find the answers to a question that was continually running through my head after that service. That question was: What’s on my list? This was not a simple question for me to begin delving into right at the start, for I felt that it would be necessary to truly dig deep within myself in order to find what I was looking for, despite the fact that I knew I most likely would not love what I would find.
When I first think of idols, I instantly begin forming the picture of some type of statue that people, especially during the times of the Bible, used to worship. As I begin to think about the idols of the world today, I begin to picture objects such as money, clothes, technology, cars, riches, etc. These were the items that I had always thought of, but what I wanted to find now goes much deeper than that. The things that I wanted to discover on my list are the issues that lie below the surface of the material things. They are the underlying problems that we put a spotlight on within our daily lives, and because we sometimes do this, they can so easily become the driving force for most of what we do. These issues have a large range when it comes to what they could be for each individual person, but for the purpose of this blog post I will stick to my own personal experience and what I have uncovered within my own life.
When I began to examine the things in my life that could easily be placed on my list, I found things such as the search for acceptance and validation, the hunt for knowledge, the race to success, and the desire to appear a certain way. These are all things in my life that I have allowed to become driving forces for the decisions that I have made numerous different times, and it makes me sad to admit that I have also let them push God to the side on quite a few different occasions. I have never let God completely leave my life, and I have almost always found myself striving to keep Him at the center of everything, but there have still been times when I have failed to do so. As I look back on the past, there have been times where I have both knowingly and unknowingly let other things steal the spotlight, even if only for a short time.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have let my desire for acceptance and my desire to appear a certain way take over my thoughts. They became the sole thing that I focused on, and before I knew it, everything that I was doing ended up revolving around those things. At other times, my problem has been seeking knowledge. I love to learn, and school has always been something that I thoroughly enjoy, especially when learning about things that peak my interest. Appearing as someone that is intelligent was never a huge issue for me until I became a little older, but as I glance back over the last couple of years, I can see how that desire within me to be knowledgeable and to be seen as intelligent began to dictate how I was spending most of my time. It became the center of everything. Schoolwork was pushed to one of the #1 slots in my life. The race to success also became an issue as I got older. I was longing to be seen as someone that had accomplished great things, and I wanted to be seen as someone that could succeed despite the odds. These things that I have just listed aren’t necessarily bad goals to have, but they truly began to take over everything, and that is not the way it should be.
Now, as you read this, I don’t want you thinking that I am telling you to throw all of these things out the window, for I most certainly am not doing that. I understand that striving to have a bright future and giving your all in school, as well as putting a lot into relationships with others, etc., are all important and not necessarily bad things by any means. The point I am trying to make, however, is that these things should not be so high up on our lists that they are competing for God’s #1 spot. It should never even be a question as to what is coming first in our lives, and unfortunately that is something that I feel I have struggled with on and off throughout a few different seasons of my life as I have started to become older. God doesn’t want us to throw away our futures or our potential, for He is the one giving us the abilities and talents to accomplish these things for His glory, but He should never have to see these things compete with Him for his place. God is somebody that is jealous over His relationship with us, and when we begin to take away from that relationship and devote our time and life to the things around us, we are not serving God the way He longs to be served. Unfortunately, this is something that can easily be done, and I can promise you from personal experience that taking away from your relationship with God and giving all of your time to earthly things and relationships brings nothing but a sense of sadness, incompleteness, and emptiness. I understand that we live in a very busy world. Some of you reading this may be in high school or college. Some of you may be married. Some of you have kids. Some of you have jobs that demand a lot from you. Some of you may be a part of a relationship that is beginning to move to your #1 spot. All of these things are very important in their own way, and I don’t believe that God wants us to disregard them by any means, but it’s also important that we keep God in His top spot, for then I believe that everything else will fall into its own place according to His specific plan.
Honestly, I have a difficult time understanding why I ever even let some of these things compete for the center of my life, for when God isn’t at my center, life just simply doesn’t make much sense. When God is my driving force, and when my world revolves around Him, His plan for me, and what He desires for my life, everything seems so much clearer. It’s as if He begins to wipe clean the foggy glass in front of me, and I can instantly see so much more. Suddenly, everything that I am doing and deciding begins to revolve around Him, and He becomes my direction when I feel lost and don’t know where to turn. Proverbs 3:5-6 has been a very influential verse in my life over the past couple of years or so, and I feel that it is very fitting here. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.” By placing God in our #1 spot and allowing Him to be the only thing on our list, we are no longer having to rely on our own human understanding. We can instead put our full trust in God, and we can allow Him to direct the path of our future.
When I place things such as success, appearance, validation, or acceptance at my center, they can really only give me one thing. They give me the picture of an end goal that I have formulated within my mind that I feel I must obtain, and before I know it I am left feeling stressed and confused as to how to get there. They can’t comfort us, give us peace, give us Godly wisdom, give us true purpose, or anything else. They may give us some sense of earthly pleasure at times or maybe even a faint hint of happiness, but all of those feelings are so fleeting that they truly don’t even matter.
Coming to terms with all of this has been a rather difficult lesson for me to learn, but I must say that learning it has been one of the most amazing growing experiences of my life, despite the fact that I still haven’t truly figured it all out just yet. My challenge to you today is to ask yourself what items and issues would be placed on your list. What are the underlying problems that sometimes work behind the curtain to knock God from his top spot in your life? It’s not exactly a fun question to answer, but it is a question that I feel must be answered in order for us to truly make God our main focus. I most definitely don’t have it all together right now, and I can assure you that it’s probably going to take quite a bit of time and discipline for me to truly knock some of these issues off of my list and let God be the one thing I fully focus on, but my hope and prayer is that we can all begin doing this together. Remember that if you too feel that you struggle with this at times, you are not alone in this. I am currently still in the process of trying to learn the exact same thing as well. So, I encourage you today to begin letting go of the things on your list that are holding you down and tearing you away from the one that should always be held at the center. I know you can do it. It all begins with one simple question: What’s on your list?