Happy Mother's Day to the wonderful women in my life. How blessed I am to be a son, husband, father and friend to many exceptional people who are also women. Here's this week's installment of the College/Away lesson from my heart to yours. Prayers for your future and hope for tomorrow,
Ric FrazierCounterfeit Gods: Success --2 Kings. 5:1
We are in a series of messages that addresses how the heart is an idol factory and what you worship can wreck your life. Success and career are good things from God, it’s important for you to find your vocation for life. But when they turn success or career into ultimate things, they become an idol(more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart). And, we never imagine that getting our heart's deepest desires might be the worst thing that can ever happen to us.
Listen, a counterfeit god [idol] is anything so central, so essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. It holds such a controlling position in your heart that you spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought.
The true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy daydreaming about? What occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about?
Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God. What’s your idol? It’s what occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about. Then when an idol gets a grip on your heart, it spins out a whole set of false definitions of success and failure and happiness and sadness. It redefines reality in terms of itself. Success is not always about money, fame, or power.
Pop Queen, Madonna (Panel) “I have an iron will, and all my will has always been to conquer some horrible feeling of inadequacy…I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being, and then I get to another stage and think I’m mediocre and uninteresting …Again and again. My drive in life is from this horrible fear of mediocre. And that’s always pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I’ve become Somebody, I still have to prove that I’m Somebody. My struggle has never ended and it probably never will.”
I. When does personal success & achievement become an idol?
a) When our view of ourselves becomes distorted Achievements = basis of our self-worth Achievements = keep us safe Achievements = lead us to a belief in our self-sufficiency b) Luther: “I have three evil dogs: ungratefulness, arrogance, and envy. When all three bite, one is badly mauled.” Envy – when we covet the success of others. We are saying that God doesn’t know what He’s doing! The fallen, arrogant creature is trying to tell the Omnipotent Creator what is best?! Can you imagine anything so ridiculous?
II. What are the possible signs in an individual’s life which point to the fact that success is an idol?
a) Lack of confidence unless we’re at the top Chris Evert – “I needed the wins, the applause, in order to have an identity.” b) Think our success can solve our problems
Naaman (TEXT 2 Kings 5:1) – he is commander of the army, highly regarded among men, but he had leprosy. Though he had success & wealth, under it all his life was falling apart His wife’s slave – she was an Israeli girl taken captive by Naaman’s men; she directs him to see Elisha the prophet (we’ll get back to this slave girl when we talk about solutions to our success idols) Naaman takes money, clothing, letter from his king – he thinks he can use his success to get healing
Question: How do we follow Naaman’s folly?
Putting our faith in our success instead of God
Naaman was seeking a tame, private God who can be put into debt. It is God who puts us in debt with His grace. Only if we understand Grace will we see our successes are ultimately gifts from God. It’s ironic: We want to use gifts given from God to hold God in debt – typical sinful man.
III. How can we break our heart’s fixation on doing “some great things” in order to heal ourselves?
We must look at the Slave Girl – captured by the raiding Syrians; at the bottom of the Syrian social structure; who is responsible? Field Marshall Naaman!
a) Idolizing the top of the ladder can lead to cynicism & bitterness. That’s not what this slave girl felt. “If only my master would see the prophet.” She saw her role as glorifying God • Mt 5:44-45 – “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate , and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
She did not seek revenge; she trusted God to be the judge of all. Francis Schaeffer: “The vocation of an honest merchant or housewife has as much dignity as the vocation of a king.”
b) The Idol of Success cannot be expelled – it must be replaced
1. Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God’s salvation does not require us to do “some great thing. 2. Mt 6:19-21 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 3. This is what Naaman struggled with – he took money, clothing, references from his king; that’s where his heart was – thinking his success and temporary treasures would save him. 4. When we focus on Christ and His reign and use any success for His glory, then our success will be in the proper context and we will less likely to make any success or dream an idol.
• Naaman humbled himself in the end and did as Elisha instructed, and as a result, Naaman’s leprosy is healed! But Naaman still doesn’t get it – the free gift of Grace. • 2 Kings 5:14 – “But he (Elisha) said, ‘As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.’ And he (Naaman) urged him to take it, but he (Elisha) refused.” • Elisha gets it on 2 fronts:
o 1. He wanted Naaman to know & realize grace is free! o 2. Elisha himself is focused on the right thing – it’s not his success (Naaman’s healing) but God’s success.
• Jesus’ and the salvation He offeres, is received not through strength but through the admission of weakness and need.• Lack of personal success can be a blessing through which God brings mercy to the lost (the Slave Girl). • “God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
If we are not willing to hurt our career in order to do God's will, our job will become a counterfeit god. That’s why the idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart's desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable.
If you only try to uproot them, they grow back; but they can be replaced. By what? By God himself. But by God I do not mean a general belief in his existence. Most people have that, yet their souls are riddled with idols. What we need is a living encounter with God.
Today, you can get off of the rollercoaster ride of comparing and the nagging addiction of achievement. You can stand firm on the rock of Christ and His everlasting love for you. But you must ask Him to occupy your heart, exclusively.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand.
— Acts 7:55 nlt
Stephen had been chosen to serve widows because he was full of the Spirit. Stephen had spoken the truth of Jesus in the face of great hostility by the power of the Spirit. Stephen had warned those who opposed his words to not resist the Spirit like their ancestors before them. And now, when the enemies of truth had stoned the life out of Stephen's body, we are told an amazing truth: the same Holy Spirit who had shaped Stephen's life in this world was now letting him see over the horizon of history and see the Lord Jesus in glory. How important is the Holy Spirit? For Stephen, the Holy Spirit influenced, qualified, empowered, and brought home to glory this man of God! May the Spirit do the same in each of us!
O Father, be at work within me through your Holy Spirit. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
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"You stubborn people! You are heathens at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That's what your ancestors did, and so do you!"
— Acts 7:51 nlt
Stephen spoke with wisdom and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Yet he knew that there was great opposition to the Jesus he proclaimed and the truth that he spoke. He also knew that this was nothing new. God's own people had consistently opposed God's servants in every age even though those servant leaders had been inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Their stubbornness made their hearts hard and their ears deaf to the truth of God. Yet it wasn't the words of Stephen and the prophets that they ultimately resisted: they resisted and rejected the Holy Spirit of God (1 Thess. 4:8). Let's be different than they were. Let's humbly ask God to use his Spirit to convict us where we need to be changed, fortify us where we need to be strengthened, to instruct us where we are ignorant, and bring hope to hearts when they are broken.
O Father, with the words of King David, I pray: "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." I ask, dear Father, that you cleanse my heart of any sin and purify my motives as I seek to serve you and never resist the influence of your Holy Spirit within me. I pray this in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.