A Stroll At Leisure With God

Subtle and Not So Subtle Idolatries

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to visit over lunch with my pastor friend Dan. He and his wife Michelle are awesome servants of the Lord.

What tends to happen as Dan and I meet together—remember we are talking about two pastors here—is that we get into some kind of theological discussion.

Of course, I love it, and I think Dan does as well.

But these discussion are not what I call “ivory tower” stuff. Usually, they relate to things that are going on in both of our lives. Yesterday was no exception.

We got into the topic of decision-making. As Christians, how should we go to God about decisions we are facing? To coin a phrase, how do we hear from God?

Out of my reading these past few days in the Horner plan, I referenced 1 Kings 3 in which the Lord invited King Solomon to ask for anything, and the king made the right choice. He asked for wisdom, and as I result, the Lord gave him everything else. You know the story.

Balance that out with the command in the only NT wisdom book—James—and one has the verse in chapter one: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5, NASB).

So, how does this correlate? Is asking the Lord for help in a decision such as what job to take or what person to marry the same as asking God for wisdom or not?

Up front, I would say NOT.

Let me try to explain. Now, of course, I am speaking in generalities. Some might read what I am going to say at this point and protest, “That is not me or my friend, John.” I understand. I’m speaking out of my own personal experience and that of a pastor.

Many people who ask for help in a particular decision do not have much time for God. They only want Him to “help” with a decision, to show them what to do, so that they can go on their merry way. I contend that this is a form of idolatry. This makes God in our image—that somehow, He is an errand boy for us. They want God to show up only when they “need” Him. Otherwise, they don’t have much time for Him.

I go back to a rather informal poll I took several years ago as pastor. It came out of a desire to be able to pray from a more informed standpoint for the members of the church I serve. So, I just called everyone in the church, asking a simple question: “Is there anything for which I could pray for you?” Simple, right?

Here is an alarmingly frequent answer I received. “No, John, everything is going well for us. We don’t need any prayer right now.” What? Oops! Do you see the fallacy and subtle idolatry in that statement? We are all guilty of it to one degree or another.

But how about this? What about those times that the Lord clearly speaks? Notice this response from the people of Israel who migrated to Egypt against God’s orders.

"As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we are not going to listen to you! But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune. But since we stopped burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have met our end by the sword and by famine. ‘And,’ said the women, ‘when we were burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and were pouring out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands that we made for her sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?’” (Jeremiah 44:16-19 NASB)

My mom has always said, “When the women in a culture turn away from God, we are in real trouble.”

These folks refused to obey the Word as spoken by the prophet AND built a case for their side through an observation of how “well” things went when they disobeyed God. And the women blamed the men. Of course. But the men were at fault because they did not provide spiritual leadership to their wives and families.

Anyway, back to the whole subject of wisdom as Dan and I discussed it. Asking for wisdom is a WHOLE lot more than simply asking God to help us make the right decision. It involves this, of course. God wants us to make the right decision, but He also wants us to live in a way that honors Him as well.

When we are walking with the Lord, sometimes (not always), decisions are very easy to make. When they aren’t, we still need to keep walking down the straight and narrow path. This is what wisdom is—a lifestyle of worshiping God and loving our neighbor as ourselves in the practical arenas of life.

Lord, even though I am realizing the danger of what I am praying, this morning, I pray for wisdom, and I lift up Dan and Michelle in that regard as well. All three of us, as well as many readers of this blog this morning, I am sure, need You and need wisdom. Amen.
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