Idols can be immensely deceptive.
Upon recognizing a stealthy idol in my own heart a few weeks back, I felt as though I had gotten punched in the stomach, and the scales fell from my eyes. “How could this happen?” I thought to myself. “How in the world could something so good become such a ruling force in my heart?”
What I seemed to be clinging to, although unknowingly so, was the ministry of writing that the Lord had given me such a passion to see used for his glory. Faced with a major life decision involving clear leading from the Lord, I knew that obeying God could mean a potential effect upon this ministry…one that I was certain, in my grandiose human wisdom (note the sarcasm), I was not meant to release.
My heart broke upon the stunning realization that my iron grip was clenching a good gift given by God’s hand, ultimately turning it into an idol in my heart.
Then a gracious challenge presented itself through the Lord’s leading: Let the idol go, and find me all-sufficient. There is not room in your heart to glorify anything but me as your Lord and Savior. Will you obey me?
Faced with weaknesses and idolatry, I heard the Lord’s tenderness in his command to let go and trust him alone—but in whatever context, for the Christian pursuing holiness in Christ, this is never an easy feat.
As Christians, we talk about "letting go" often throughout our faith journeys. Faith in itself is all about submission and surrender to Christ: "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Though Jesus Christ, the glory of the one and only Father, walked among men thousands of years ago, we Christians today have not physically seen him. We walk by faith, learning to love him more each day as we release our very lives into his ruling, kind hands.
I contend, however, that most of us do not really understand what letting go means. I think our willingness to fully entrust our lives to Christ comes with...terms. And if not actual terms, then resistance in one form or another, whether we recognize it or not.
Because if we are honest with ourselves, with our hearts, we know that we are not yet perfect. There is so much work to be done by the Holy Spirit to conform us totally to Christ-likeness; to transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; to bring us to a fuller understanding that our lives are ultimately not about us, but about the glory of the Son of God (Romans 14:7-9) and his plan to unite all things to himself, things on heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:10).
Even Christians have a problem with this, if we are honest with our sinfulness. Our flesh much prefers to crown itself king, and to rule over its own kingdom. But our new nature in Christ, the "new self" we have been given by being united to Jesus, cannot live in independent from God! This autonomous way of living would be contrary to our identity as a new creation.
However, because we are not yet perfect, because our sinful nature still rears its ugly head, there is a part of the inner-man that resists letting go, giving him or herself fully and completely to Christ, whatever the terms, whatever the cost.
Total and complete submission to Jesus Christ can be terrifying.
Or so the flesh tells us. But the Word of the Lord discloses something entirely different: total and complete submission to Jesus is our freedom and our satisfaction, both presently and eternally.
"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35).
It might be helpful in examining our own hearts to consider some examples of how Christians might resist trusting totally in Christ’s sufficiency. The following are seven signs that we might fear losing our lives for the sake of Christ:
We cling tightly to all that has been entrusted to us by the Lord, being unwilling to let go because, after all, didn’t these blessings come from his hand in the first place?
We neglect to recognize the idols in our lives because they have become such an integral part of how we get through each day; our dependence upon them has replaced our dependence upon Christ.
We place restrictions on how Christ chooses to spend us for the gospel: "Use me, Lord...unless you want to use me there. I'd prefer not to do that." (To clarify, we are called to be wise and discerning with the opportunities presented to us (Ephesians 5:15-17), realizing that we have limitations and that God does not call us to participate in every available endeavor.)
We prize the "things of Christ" over Christ himself, cherishing the gifts over the Giver. Time spent with the Giver is sacrificed as his good gifts infiltrate our daily lives and routines. The goodness of the Giver is soon enough wrongly associated with the steadfastness of the gifts, or lack thereof, which are guaranteed to fail us.
We only trust and obey Christ's Word and his call if the path is clearly laid and is to our immediate advantage. We are like King Saul (1 Samuel 13:13), disobeying the Lord to pursue our own crafty plans and timing.
We care more about our present comfort than God's eternal glory. Therefore we resist change, even change that may be brought about by God’s sovereign leading, for his glory and our benefit.
We complain incessantly during suffering and trials, focusing on our circumstances and blaming our pain on the Lord’s seemingly unloving hand. We see no fellowship with Christ in hardship and, in effect, discount the suffering of Jesus on the cross. We cease to be thankful.
And above all:
We seek our satisfaction in worldly, temporary objects, hungering for what will supply our immediate needs, but what will ultimately come up short. We fail to realize that, when all else is stripped away, Christ is solely sufficient to satisfy our souls forevermore (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The good news: the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, is enough to sustain our faith until the end! If any of the above indications of resistance are in your heart today, cry out to your Savior and Sustainer. He delights to answer the prayers of those who genuinely seek him. He will be your ever-present help, renewing your mind and focusing your heart to seek his glory and his will above all other pursuits.
May we be women who do not fear losing our lives for Christ's sake because it means that we gain Christ, the Son of God, himself. May we be women quick to confess our misplaced affections, who run to our Hiding Place for refuge. And may Christ be all-sufficient, always enough for us, from now until we worship him forever in glory and see him face to face!
Kristen Leigh Evensen is a writer, blogger and singer/songwriter. She writes on faith and identity at The Identity Project and keeps a column at WHOLE Magazine. Her desire is to see women transformed by the Gospel! Follow her on Twitter @kristenlevensen and on Facebook.
Publication date: January 28, 2014