What Is Idolatry?
Time and time again the Bible warns us about idolatry. 1 John ends abruptly with “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Idols can be anything, a person, place, thing, or idea, that is receiving from you some of the love, devotion, and worship that should only be given to God. Idolatry is a sin because we were made by a loving Creator who is jealous for our attention. He wants our undivided love, devotion, and worship and when we give those things to something other than God we are effectively cheating on God. That’s why Colossians 3 commands us to put idolatry to death and reminds us that on account of idolatry the wrath of God is coming.
We often think of idolatry as a problem people used to have or as a problem only people who live in primitive, remote corners of our modern world have. Why? Because we think idolatry is limited to the worship of statues. When we think of idolatry our minds quickly recall the story of the golden calf in Exodus and we say to ourselves, “See, I don’t have an issue with idolatry. Idolatry is just weird. Who worships statues anymore?”
What Are We Missing?
The problem with that mindset is that idolatry is far more crafty than we think. Satan has sneakily woven idolatry into the fabric of our society. He has done this so well that we often don’t even realize what our idols are these days. With this thought in mind I want to tell you what I feel has become one of the most destructive idols in America. This idol is not destructive in the sins it causes people to commit, but in the sins of omission it convinces us are ok with God. In other words, it’s what this idol causes us to not do rather than what it causes us to do that makes it so destructive.
So what is this idol to which I am referring?
Yep, I believe comfort is among the most destructive idols in America. If you’re reading this from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone from your work, car, or home and you have enough money in your monthly budget to pay for the data plan or wifi to connect your device to the interwebs you are among the richest 1% of people to ever live. Do you realize that?
Let that sink in.
Sure, you have friends who make 10x or even 20x more money than you do every year. I do too. I can think of four or five friends who probably do right off the top of my head. That’s true for all of us. But essentially everyone reading this is among the richest 1% of people who have ever lived.
What does our annual income have to do with idolizing comfort? Our incomes provide each of us with the opportunity to thrive rather than merely survive. If you’re reading this you aren’t living in fear of where your next meal is going to come to from. You aren’t concerned in the least about your survival because you have far, far more than you need to survive. Survival is a given. The question is, “Will you thrive?”
Thriving vs. Surviving
When surviving becomes easy we naturally begin to look around for pain points to eliminate. This can and should be wonderful thing and we live in the greatest era of pain point elimination in history. By God’s grace we are creating new technologies and new ways of doing old things everyday. As a society we improve our ability to be efficient day after day and there’s never been a time in which it was easier to get things done. Not only that, but I believe we were created to thrive to God’s glory. Adam and Eve had zero concern about surviving. Their eyes were on thriving.
Important side note: I am in no way implying that with enough faith you will thrive and become uber rich and successful by the world’s standards. When I speak of thriving I mean to imply the type of thriving that leads to Christ-centered, effective lives.
The tragedy within all of this, and the reason it matters in our discussion on idolatry, is that all of this technology and increased efficiency is often used to feed the great American idol of comfort. Too often and in too many ways we are using our ability to thrive on ourselves. We create increased comfort for ourselves rather than innovate new and exciting ways to enrich our worship of the Lord in and through all things.
Comfort: a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.
Think about it, isn’t comfort something we are constantly striving for? Aren’t we all guilty of throwing little fits our comfort is disrupted? Pay close attention to the ads on TV next time you watch live television. What percentage of the ads appeal to your desire to be comfortable financially, socially, spiritually? It’s a lot, right?
When people idolize comfort it breeds laziness. It breeds laziness because hard work and dedication demand the abandonment of comfort. You aren’t truly working hard and being truly dedicated until you’re uncomfortable. No one ever achieved their true potential in anything without extending themselves well beyond their comfort zones.
How to Combat Comfort
So what do we do about all this? How do we fight against idolizing comfort and becoming lazy?
We keep our eyes focused on glorifying God and we get tough.
If you genuinely desire to Compete4Christ because you understand that He came to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe in Him and believe that He rose from the dead conquering sin and death than your ambition in competition is going to be to glorify God in all things. Plain and simple. Black and white. You will have your good days and your bad days, but glorifying God will always be your top priority.
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Comfort vs. Toughness
The more you remind yourself that your greatest ambition in sports is to glorify God the more you’ll be willing to be tough. In a world where comfort is idolized we had better take a minute to define toughness. A few days ago I was listening to a podcast and heard the definition of toughness Andrew Coverdale uses for his football team. I’ve tweaked it a bit because he works at secular school, but here is what I came up with using his template:
Toughness: My choosing to push through my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual comfort zones in response to the Gospel and because of my love for my team and my teammates.
Take a minute to picture the last time you had to go to practice but you really didn’t want to. Or picture the last time you had 2 hours of film review to complete, but your mind and body were exhausted. Or picture the last time you thought you were about to pass out from fatigue only to hear your coach yell “Everybody on the line.” Picture that last time you were tempted to give less than your best in order to idolize comfort. Now ask yourself what would have happened if someone had reminded you of your highest ambition in sports. What would have happened if your understanding of what it means to be truly tough had come to mind? Would you have pushed through to the glory of God, worshipping Him with your effort and attitude?
Know Your Highest Ambition
Take some time right now to ask God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to help you remember your highest ambition in sports and your desire to be truly tough the next time you are tempted to idolize comfort and then be on the lookout for the ways in which God will use that prayer request for His glory.
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