I have one of my favorite professors from college to thank for turning me into a Rolling Stones fan. I took “Philosophy of the Mind” with Dr. Hoyt my sophomore year to fulfill a requirement for one of my minors, and it was a great decision because it was one of the best classes I took at Western. At the end of class one day, Dr. Hoyt told us there was a song by the Rolling Stones that discussed 1950s housewives taking valium, called “Mother’s Little Helper.” If you know me well, it won’t surprise you at all that I was very interested. So right after class, I went back to my room and looked up the song, and of course, I loved it. After a while, I listened to more of their songs, and now I actually love the Rolling Stones. (The fact that young Mick Jagger was very attractive doesn’t hurt either.)
Our wonderful pastor mentioned the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” two or three times on Sunday. (Any sermon that references a Stone’s song will be a favorite of mine.) The point he was making was when we look for something or someone other than God to fulfill us, we won’t find satisfaction.
As I mentioned in the last Idols blog post, the things we turn into idols weren’t made to be worshipped. We build them up to idol status, but their faulty and imperfect nature remains the same despite how much faith we put into them. We see them as being better than they are, so when they fail us, we’re heartbroken.
But it’s not exactly easy to de-idolize something.
Tony Nolan, one of my all-time favorite preachers and people, said something similar in a sermon. I was at Winter Extreme in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with my college group from church when I heard the sermon. He was talking about what we hold onto instead of letting go and holding onto God. He gave the example of exchanging a penny for a much bigger bill (I think it was a $20 bill, but I’m not entirely sure). He said that’s what it’s like when we exchange whatever we’re holding onto, whatever we love the most, for God. He said, “I know what you’re thinking. ‘But Tony, this is worth a lot more to me than just a penny.’”
Maybe it’s just me, but when I talk about my idols to people who don’t have the same idols I do, I start to feel really stupid. If I’m being honest, my biggest idols are usually bands. Only a few of my friends like the same bands as I do, but I don’t think any of my friends like them as much as I do. So if I’m talking to someone about this band, they usually just let me ramble and say something like, “Okay. That’s nice.” They don’t light up and bubble over with excitement like I do. They don’t really engage in conversation with me, so it’s more like me giving a monologue about this band to someone who doesn’t really care. So I’m left there thinking, “Wow. I look and sound so stupid right now.”
Other people may see my idols as a penny, but to me they’re worth millions.
Why is that? Ultimately, I serve idols that make me happy. Different idols produce different kinds of happiness, but it’s the result of all of them. Being successful produces a deeper happiness for me than the feeling I get when I go shopping, but both make me feel good. My happiness means a lot to me (as it should), and I keep the people and things that make me happy close to me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. But idols are a result of keeping something that makes you happy too close to your heart.
God has so much more to offer us than mere happiness. He gives us joy that never fades, unconditional love, more mercy than we can ever know, a purpose for living, and so much more. To trade what I know makes me happy and comfortable for the unknown and unfathomable plans and ways of God feels like a gamble, but I know it’s not.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with loving people and things that make you happy or that have always been there for you. God’s given them to us for a reason. They’re a gift of His love. They are meant to point us back to Him, but sometimes we spend too much time looking at the gift instead of Who is giving it.
How are we supposed to dethrone an idol? There’s no need to eradicate whatever it is from your life completely (unless you feel that God’s telling you to do so). You just need to make it less of a priority in your life.
The next time you need a pick me up or help or an escape, instead of turning directly to an idol, turn to God first. Spend a moment in prayer or reading a passage from the Bible. It doesn’t have to be anything long, and it could even be something you’re already familiar with. Talk to God about it, and give Him the chance to talk to you and provide for you. How is He supposed to bless you if you never even give Him the chance?
So easy, right?
Not always. We’ve become so used to our idols, so comfortable with them, that they’re now our first reaction. We must make a conscious decision to start putting God first.
Jesus told us that’s what we’d have to do. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24, NRSV).
As the Rolling Stones said in another song, “You can’t always get what you want.” We may think we’ve found just as much fulfillment in whatever it is we’re worshipping as we have in God, but we’re wrong. If the god we think is perfect for us and the God that actually is aren’t the same, we have a decision to make. God has a jealous nature. He said not to put any gods before Him and not to make anything into a god to put before Him (Exodus 20:3-5). We can’t serve two gods; we have to pick one. Do we serve this idol that gives us a shallow version of what we think we want or do we serve God, who gives us what we really want and need?
Sometimes following the will of God means giving up what we love. People have been giving up the most important things in their lives to pursue God and His dreams for them since the events we read about in the Bible were considered current affairs.
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “Carrie, I appreciate the concern and all, but I just can’t give this up. You say your idols are worth millions, but my idol is priceless. I can’t live without it. It’s my whole world. It’s more than that; it’s my whole life.”
Go back and read Luke 9:24 again. Jesus says if we’ll lay down our lives for Him, we’ll be saved. He knows it’s no easy task, giving up our loves and obsessions. Scour the Bible from beginning to end, and you’ll never once find where anyone said that serving God was a piece of cake. However, you’ll find countless places where it proves that it’s worth it.
By Carrie Prevette