When you hear the word “idol,” what comes to mind (other than the TV talent show)? We might think of money, materialism, or even the golden calf. But rarely do we think of people.
We worship what we think we need—whether it’s God, money, or even people. People make us feel good. Like a sunflower in a sunny field, we face the source that keeps us satisfied and meets our needs. But whom we worship, we will also obey.
That’s why worshipping people—or using them to get what we think we need—leaves us enslaved to them.
Years ago Cathy and I were given a gift certificate to the Dallas Hard Rock Café, which used to be, ironically, a place of worship—the McKinney Avenue Church. Inside the café I saw a 50-ft high stained glass rendering of Elvis, seated on a throne. It reminds me of what British pop singer Robbie Williams said to the BBC Radio:
I’ve got the tattoo on my arm: ‘Elvis grant me serenity.’ Before the gig we all get in a huddle and pray to Elvis to look after us while we’re onstage.
God offers a better alternative.
A Common Struggle and a Bad Decision
Of course, we all struggle with the fear of man. Even people of great faith wrestled with this:
- Abraham feared the Egyptians, so he lied and said his wife was his sister (Gen. 12:13).
- King Saul feared the people, and so disobeyed God’s direct command (1 Sam. 15:24).
- Peter feared for his life, so he denied he ever knew Jesus (Luke 22:59-62).
So, we’re in good company in our struggle to fear God and not people.
Of course, we’d never actually pray it out loud, but we ask God: “Whatever You do, don’t keep me from being liked by others.” Right? We wonder how we were perceived, or what people thought of our comment, or how our outfit looked. We’re more concerned about being liked by people than being obedient to God.
For some reason, we can have a clear faith in Christ for eternity, but we live our daily lives in the fear of people.
The context of Jeremiah 17 shows Judah threatened by foreign invaders. But instead of going to the Lord for help, Judah chose to go to other nations. Look at what the Lord said to the struggling nation of Judah:
Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.’
If we’re honest, there is no difference between Judah looking to other nations for military help and you and me looking to other people to give us whatever we think we need. We’ll even sacrifice to them:
- They get our time and priorities.
- We’ll give them money.
- We spend time thinking about them.
- We follow their advice regardless.
Bottom line? We sacrifice to what (or whom) we worship.
I spoke with a woman who told me: “I don’t care if I have to get married ten times, I will find a man who will make me happy.” If the goal of your life is to be happy, you’re headed down a dead end street. Even a great spouse makes a lousy god. If our trust is in people instead of God, Jeremiah calls it a fatal choice—a curse. When we worship people we end up painfully dissatisfied.
Of course, there is a far better alternative.
Our Best Object of Worship
Jeremiah offers a marked contrast away from the curse of trusting in people:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. —Jeremiah 17:5
The way Jeremiah wrote the word “blessed” indicates an intimate relationship with the one whom it’s intended. A person is blessed who has an intimate relationship with his or her God.
When you’re hurting so badly you think you’re going to die from sheer pain, where do you draw strength to draw another breath? You meditate on the truth:
- We can trust God because He’s good and all-powerful.
- He’s on the throne and in complete control.
- We can trust God because He is eternal—His throne is from the beginning.
This truth gives us a sanctuary in the midst of struggle. A God enthroned on high is worthy of our trust and worship.
As you face the choice today to worship God or people, ask yourself: Do I really believe God can be trusted with my life?
Tell me what you think: How would you answer that question? To leave a comment, just click here.