God wants to be first in your life. He wants you to love Him, trust Him, praise Him, give Him credit for all the good things in your life. He wants you to run to Him in times of trouble and times of joy. He wants you to give up your need for control, desire His will, and trust His providence in every situation.
Anything that we put first and serve for all of those things I just listed, that is what God calls idols. Who do you turn to when times are bad? When things go well? When you are confused? When you are bored, lonely, scared, sick, poor? If God is not the answer to that question, you are worshipping idols.
2019 was a warmup for 2020. A lot of us were ready for 2019 to be over! Little did we know things were only going to get more intense! Maybe 2019 was a great year for you. Did that draw you closer to God? I hope so. But for many people, good times can actually lead us into a false sense of security on our finances or other people or careers. Either way, along comes 2020 and it feels like we have been under siege by an invisible enemy army! This enemy was like a thief in the night, unexpected by most people and unprepared for.
Of course the enemy I am talking about is the coronavirus, but it isn’t just the virus, it’s all the fear, chaos and confusion that flew in with it. The virus can only cause physical sickness and for some, death. But the results of the fear, chaos, and confusion have been spiritual. The threat of a supposedly very aggressive, but invisible enemy that could cause death has created a situation that most of us have not experienced before, at least on a worldwide scale. A situation where we are forced to depend on outside guidance that is imposing new rules, job and movement restrictions, schools closing, churches closing, that changed our lives in many ways.
When the enemy arrived we turned to the scientific and government experts on TV and the internet to tell us what to do. Most of us hoped that they had some actual helpful information so that we would not become sick or die, not lose our jobs, find out what to do if we couldn’t go to work, etc. We naturally wanted to be safe. Unfortunately they really didn’t know what to do either. But we kept watching and obeying. Some people said from the very beginning that it was a hoax, just the flu, or a political ploy. Others slowly began to believe that the whole truth wasn’t being told as governments imposed more restrictions and the science began to seem a bit less scientific. But some clung harder to the experts and got angry at those who questioned them. Anger and fear grew and turned to violence.
As time went on and life did not get back to normal as we’d hoped , the virus began to expose our previously existing idols. The restrictions showed us the things that we were putting first in our lives before the enemy arrived, things that brought us security and were at risk of being taken away, or had already been. Such as : our daily routine, our jobs, school and all the things that go with, endorphins from exercise, security from money, assurance of health, personal freedom, personal rights, faith in the system, the idea that we were superior to others, our image of ourselves as a good person. Some of us turned to help and relief from our idols of science, more experts, conspiracy gurus, comfort in food, alcohol, drugs, emotionalism, blaming others, outrage, hopelessness, hours on the internet and phone seeking to numb ourselves from the reality of what was happening. Others found ways to profit off the situation by feeding the fires of fear and chaos. Youtube and Twitter and Facebook and Amazon and vaccine manufacturers made billions!
But some turned to God. God began to show them where they needed to change some things in their thinking, routines, actions towards others, and relationship with Him. He showed them where false religion had crept into the church and replaced true worship and faith. He drew them in closer and they began to weep over their failure to put God first! The more they repented and turned to Him, the more their faith grew! Weeping turned to praise! Fear turned to rejoicing! These people saw that God was at work in this world and this country. They began to let go, relax, and trust that God is able to save them from all enemies, invisible and spiritual. They remembered how God had worked in their lives before and had worked in this country before and that God loves when his people truly trust Him.
What about you? Have you turned to the Lord who is all powerful, all knowing, and loves you so much he sent his own son to save you from judgment from all your idol worshipping and sins? Has 2020 revealed some weak spots in your faith? Will you repent and pray for God to show you the way out of the trap you walked into when you stopped putting Him first? I’m praying that God will have mercy on us and not bring disaster. But whatever happens, His people can trust Him. Amen.