“You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.”
Every generation likes to think of themselves as advanced beyond the previous generations. We look back on ancient civilizations and think of them as backward, and of ourselves as having progressed far beyond them in every way. This is particularly true of idolatry. We, in the western world, do not think of ourselves as idol worshippers, particularly, because we do not have carved images which we carry in our pockets or bow down to in prayer. The absence of an image is not, however, the only evidence of the lack of idolatry. An idol can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives. For many, even dedicated believers, it is common to put someone or something above the Lord and to pursue it more than God.
One area in particular where Christians seem to be prone to setting up idols is in ministry. Over the years, I have observed many Christians who sense that God is calling them to serve in one way or another, but instead of sitting back and waiting on the Lord to open the right doors and to sanctify them for the tasks, they run on ahead of the Lord. They attempt to accomplish, in the arm of the flesh, what God wants to do through His Spirit. One of the great advantages of waiting on the Lord is, when He works things out, it is clear He was in fact “in it.” If we put the ministry above the Lord and strive to make things happen, we will forever wonder if it was truly God calling us or just us desiring something for ourselves.
I remember when my wife and I were preparing to move across the country for ministry, a good friend suggested that we ask our pastor if he would be willing to support us for a period of time. While I knew there might not be anything wrong with asking, I also knew we wanted to have every opportunity to see if this venture was actually of the Lord. We felt to ask for outside support did not give God the opportunity to prove if He was really calling us. I treasure that decision, because while there were many events over the next few years that caused us to question our calling, we can now see how God had been faithfully and miraculously providing for us, as a testimony of His calling.
If you are sensing the call of God on your life, be careful not to place the call above the Lord. Remember, ministry is designed not just to get things done, but to draw the minister closer to the Lord and accomplish a deeper work of sanctification in his life.