When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies…Then the one who brought the news replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken.”
1 Samuel 4:3, 17
Many well-meaning, self-labelled Christians make the same mistake as the Israelite elders did with the Ark of the Covenant, acting as if the power lies in the object rather than in the Creator. Granted, the Ark itself is not around anymore to tempt us with idol worship rather than reverencing the Holy Presence of God which guiding and directing all who call on His name. But we humans don’t seem to have any trouble dreaming up our own idols out of good things that should be glorifying God but through misuse, bring about only heartache and disappointment.
Just as the Israelites egregiously erred in treating the ark as a magic talisman that had power to save and protect in and of itself–note that they did not say “let’s go consult Yahweh about the battle plan” but plotted to bring the ark, “that IT may deliver us from the power of our enemies.”
In the same way, self-proclaimed Christians will often elevate seemingly good things like church attendance, helping the needy, serving in various ministries or following the prescribed forms of their particular brand of religious Christianity, over an actual rubber meets the road, practical, every day, living it out, deep and personal relationship with their Lord and Savior. They act as if their endless “doings”, as admirable as they may be, are what is going to save them. Their service becomes their idol, as if the power is in their dutiful labors or just showing up or the guilt-driven contribution or the rotely repeated prayer….and then they wonder why there is no spark.
Why don’t they “feel” the joy, the victory, the love and peace that they hear about? It’s because they are seeking more of a relationship with the to-do list on their smartphone than with God Himself. No matter how wonderful their actions may be IF they are truly the fruit of a life fully-committed to Christ, they fall flat as items on a religious checklist. You can’t fool God into thinking you are holy and righteous when your heart lies elsewhere.
I know that I am not immune to the distractions of the world that pull my attention away from You to focus too much on the daily details of living in the calling You have placed on my life. Let me not be distracted by objects, forms or situations that are not mine to deal with, much as it would be a good thing on the surface. Help me focus all and only on You and You alone and leave the messy stuff to You. Let me not get so stuck in thinking that my service to You is comprised only in certain things or that I need to get involved in solving every situation that comes my way when doing so takes my focus off of what I know you want me to do. Help me to just keep my mouth shut when you say, “shush, I’ll handle it.” For You alone are God and sufficient to every need, even the ones I don’t yet recognize. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12