“Any time our deepest desire is for something other than God because we think that will satisfy or rescue us, a dangerous ‘soul idol’ is forming.”
My first hint I would one day become a teacher, came as a fourth grader, when I played school in my bedroom. As I got older and watched how students tried to take advantage of substitute teachers, I vowed never to become one.
A substitute is “a person or thing that takes the place or function of another.” Today while trying to adhere to a Paleo lifestyle, I’m learning how to substitute coconut sugar for white sugar and coconut aminos for soy sauce. While those substitutes are good, I’m equally familiar with bad substitutes, such as idols.
An idol is anything that takes the place of God. Who or what do I run to for comfort when I become stressed? (Food) How do I cope when my anxiety begins to rise? (Denial) What is my reaction when life is not how I planned? (Control) None of these substitutes are healthy for me and more importantly, all substitutes rob me of my intimacy with God. Anything or anyone that acts like a god, stands in the way of my relationship with God.
Idols can be things that appear to be good, such as work, exercise, relationships, hobbies, or ministry. They become sin, though, when we worship and bow down to them with our attention and affection. Our trust is to be in God, not in idols that may temporarily relieve our pain. Jonah 4:8 says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Why do we give up the real deal, God Himself, for something so inferior like our idols?
We think idols can answer our prayers and save us from trouble. They can’t. We think our substitutes can satisfy us and give us comfort. They won’t. Only God meets our needs and fills our heart with peace and hope.
In Dee Brestin’s book called Idol Lies, she describes how most of our heart idols fall into three categories: control/power, affirmation/approval, and comfort/security. She says, “Jesus wants us to turn from our paltry gods and trust Him to be our comfort, our control, and our approval.”
The first step to overcome idolatry is to recognize what we substitute for God and admit its inability to satisfy. Second, we need to flee from idolatry and repent of our sin. Last, we need to return to the Lord and ask Him to be our source of security, power, and affirmation. God is all we need to fill and satisfy any void that’s in our life. There is none like Him! (Isaiah 46:9b)
“God is perfectly suited to displace every idol we possess. God wants us to find our satisfaction in Him rather than waste our time and effort on things that cannot satisfy.”
1. What do you substitute for God to find comfort, control, and approval?
2. Repent of the sin of idolatry and return to the Lord.