Two of my friends frequently put hashtags up on social media that catch my attention. Yes, there is too much noise on social media these days, but I am truly grateful for these reminders. A friend from college, Rodney Bond, persistently reminds me to #PutGodFirst. Another friend from seminary, Brett Shilton, challenges me with the hashtag (and discussion) #NoMoreIdols.
There was a time earlier in life, when I would just sit and marvel at the greatness, deepness, and vastness of God. I still have moments where the full force of the Gospel washes over me, and I am acutely aware of my smallness and God’s greatness. But too often these moments are fleeting and swept away by worries, fears, and the uncertainties of life.
These hashtag reminders confront me with the reality that God is no less wonderful and no less deserving of my adoration, praise and devotion, no matter how overwhelming and complicated life seems.
Putting God first is fundamental to the faith and necessary if we expect our heart and motivations be rooted and grounded in what really matters. Putting God first makes sense. Putting God first might not lead to a carefree, easy life, but I do believe it will lead to a life of fewer regrets. Putting God first helps us maintain proper perspective and allows our priorities to reflect what Scripture requires of us.
Putting God first also contributes to making the second hashtag a reality. If we are putting God first on a consistent basis, it is increasingly difficult for the enemy to grab a foothold by us allowing idols in our lives. Yes, we might not be prone to worshipping a golden calf, but there are plenty of things that we can end up worshipping and prioritizing above God if we do not guard against it. Anything that we try to place in the place God must occupy is an idol. It could be our marriage, our kids, our career, our self worth, our success in life, even our effectiveness for the kingdom of God. None of these things are bad or sinful in and of themselves, but when we are depending on them to provide us with worth, security, and satisfaction in a way only God is meant to provide, then we are on a pathway of disappointment and regret.
When we acknowledge that nothing is able to satisfy us like Christ, it seems like we would swallow hashtags like #PutGodFirst and #NoMoreIdols hook, line, and sinker. But we are sinful, short-sighted people. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to let down others who depend on us. Our motives might seem pure, but if all we end up caring about is ourselves and people’s perceptions of us, then those pure motives seem to have an agenda that is self seeking. The problems we face are real. The pressures we endure can seem more than we can bear. It might feel easier or safer to depend on something smaller than God, but how silly does that sound?
We all are facing battles. We all have to overcome temptation to put something in the place where God ought to be. We can convince ourselves that things would be easier if we had more money, or better leadership, or greater opportunities, or healthier relationships. We tend to cave into ourselves instead of lean into God. It is not that problems and difficulties in life should be overlooked or ignored, but the bigger our view of God, the smaller our trials and tribulations might seem.
There is a reason that Paul could write in Philippians 3 that he considered everything a loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus. One reason why I’ve always admired Paul is because circumstances never seemed to cause his commitment to wax or wane. He was all gas and no brakes in his pursuit of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel. That’s not to say he was a robot. I’m sure he considered the cost. But he also considered the prize. He has a big view of God.
Cost: being cursed, despised, rejected-worth it.
Cost: being shipwrecked-worth it.
Cost: being falsely accused-worth it.
Cost: being stoned- worth it.
Cost: being left for dead-worth it.
Cost: being imprisoned-worth it.
No hesitation. All gas, no brakes. I really do want to live life like that. It is not that the power of God is not strong enough to light a fire like that in me. It is that too often my view of God is too small. And when all I can see are my problems, then it is painfully obvious how small my view of God has become.
I’m sorry if this sounds like something I’ve written on here before. It probably does because this is a lifelong battle, and a battle worth fighting. Because no matter how painful and stressed and complex life seems to get, it is always the right time to sit and marvel at the greatness, deepness, and vastness of God.
“The Lord’s hand is not shortened at all, that it cannot save; Nor His ear dull with deafness, that is cannot hear.” -Isaiah 59:1
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything to hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6-7