I’m so glad I serve a God who is both patient and merciful. I set out this week to prepare to teach a Sunday School lesson on Israel’s cycle of idolatry… which turned into an honest appraisal of my own tendencies in this direction (if I am honest that covetousness is in fact idolatry*, and that discontent is a sort of covetousness…).
Here I am heading into another Alberta winter without a vision of how I shall bear it happily…why am I here? Does God not know how much I fear/dread/dislike bitter winters? and etc. At the same time I am missing a much-loved occupation which I have had to let go this month…with nothing yet to replace it. Feeling loss, feeling lost. Feeling ungrateful. Feeling like the Israelites must have felt when they succumbed to bitter complaining and were bitten by fiery serpents!
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
Num. 21:4-6 ESV
So this Sunday School lesson is very much for me before I deliver it to the kids in the morning:
. “Idolatry is never a matter of obedience alone; it reveals a heart that does not have faith and trust in God and all his purposes. Idolatry puts our selfish desires over the one true God…Will [I] trust that God is faithful to his promises and that his promises are the true prosperity of his people?”
But even if I can psyche out what idolatry looks like in a child’s heart, even if I can drive home this lesson… the one I most want to convey is that being caught in sin is not the end. God is merciful and gracious. He’s on our side, knowing that pursuit of false gods will ruin us, knowing that His designs for our lives are only and always good…
We can run to Him with those things we want so badly. We can lean on Him when we are lonely, or cold, or feeling lost…We can take our discomforts to Him. He’s given us this amazing promise that no temptation is strong enough to overpower us and He will always make a way of escape. He actually wants us to win over temptation and find our heart’s desires met in Him.
So it’s ok to be uncomfortable, but not ok to mutiny! It’s ok to be honest with my feelings but not to complain about my lot in life, as though I were a god-forsaken orphan rather than a much-doted-over child of the King. And I can bear up with joy because God will make a way.
No flowers are blooming outside my window and the weather is less than balmy. But His mercies are new every morning. I have only to dry my eyes and watch with gratitude and wonder at how He will provide for all I need. Christians are by definition people who have turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and wait for His Son from heaven. (I Thess.1:9,10) Why would we want to turn back now?
And so I affirm with gratitude: God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help… in preparing Sunday School lessons, in seeing myself honestly, in facing winter, in finding my purpose in this stage of life, in everything, at all times! I’m in good hands, and so are you ( :
Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I Cor.10:11-14 ESV
I mentioned at the start that I am thankful God is both patient and merciful. That’s because in looking back I see that He and I have been over this issue before. So I have mercifully kept this post short today for your sake ( :
Past posts talking about idolatry at greater length are here:
Why are you Discouraged?
[on the easily missed connection between discouragement and idolatry]
[on trying to pinpoint what counts as an idol]
[What do I insist I must have in order to be happy? That thing has become too important]
*”Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Col 3:5 ESV