The Place of Priority in Your Life
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 29, 2003
Philippians 3:1-14 (NLT)
For those of you who
have been following Canadian Idol, you’re not going to want to miss
tomorrow night. Over the past three weeks we’ve seen the judges narrow
the field of contestants from 13,000 all the way down to 143. And by
the end of tomorrow’s show, we’ll be left with a mere 30 hopefuls to
become the first Canadian Idol. Plus, there are a couple of other
incentives to watch tomorrow night. Ruben and Clay from American Idol
are suppose to stop by, and the promotion for this episode promises a
surprise ending that nobody could predict.
Canadian Idol is, of course, a rip off of the American show, American
Idol, which in turn is a rip off of the UK’s Pop Idol. But we’re not
alone. Other countries such as South Africa, Poland, The Netherlands,
Germany, Belgium, Norway, the pan-Arabic region, France and Finland,
have either already crowned their own Idols or are in the process of
With all these Idols popping up everywhere, I suppose it would be a
good idea for us to know what an Idol is. So I checked it out this week
in the dictionary. This is what I found:
1. A representation or symbol of an object of worship; a false god
2. A likeness of something
3. A form or appearance visible but without substance
4. An object of extreme devotion
5. A false conception
Traditionally, I think this is what we think of as an idol… some object
carved out of wood or stone or formed out of precious metals that
people would bow down to and worship. And it’s true these were idols.
Throughout history and even in a few cultures today you would find
people bowing down to these statues.
But here in PEI this seems like an archaic practice. You’re not going
to find many people in Charlottetown who have devoted their allegiance
and their worship to a stone carving. But not all idols are carved, and
you don’t have to set up a little shrine and offer prayers in order to
I suspect that what Canadian Idol is all about is definition #4. The
contestants want to become an object of extreme devotion because of
their musical ability. And that’s fine. I enjoy watching the show, and
I’ll be watching right through until September 16 when the winner is
crowned. In the end at least one young Canadian will have the
opportunity to begin a professional music career and the rest of us
will have been entertained for a few months. And that that’s all fine
and dandy. Really, it’s all pretty harmless.
But there are some Canadian Idols which aren’t quite so harmless.
William Ullathorne said,
“Whatever a man seeks, honours, or exalts more than God, that is the
god of his idolatry.”
~ William Ullathorne (a 19th century Benedictine Monk)
So by that definition, what are some Canadian Idols that are worshipped
in our society?
(money, power, comfort, approval, achievement, success, sex, sports,
fitness, popularity, self, family)
For the most part, in and of themselves these things aren’t evil. In
fact, they can be pretty good. But they become a problem… they become
an idol… when they become more important in our lives than our
relationship with God.
In Mark 12 we read;
Mark 12:28-31 (NLT)
One of the teachers of religious law was
standing there listening to the discussion. He realized that Jesus had
answered well, so he asked, "Of all the commandments, which is the most
Jesus replied, "The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O
Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love
the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind,
and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your
neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these."
So in this short little section we find out what’s really important. We
need to love God, and we need to love others. God alone deserves all
our praise and our worship and our adoration. We need to love Him above
all. And we need to love others as much as we love ourselves.
Everything else pales in comparison to these two prime directives.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to talk a bit more specifically
about some of these idols which vie for our love and attention. But
today what I want to do is this: I want to take just a few minutes to
talk about what’s the big deal with idols (what’s so wrong with them),
and then we’ll talk about what it takes to put God first in your life.
What’s the problem with Idols?
1. No Idol can
Blaise Pascal was the
great 17th-century mathematician who studied vacuums (which would
really suck), hydraulics (which could lift his spirits) and it’s highly
likely that he studied probability. He described the craving we have to
know God this way:
"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be
filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known
through Jesus Christ."
~ Blaise Pascal
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
God has made everything beautiful for its
own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so,
people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.
Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT)
I will give them hearts that will recognize
me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for
they will return to me wholeheartedly.
God has placed a craving within each of us to seek after Him. And no
matter what idols we choose to bow down to, only the true God can
2. No idol will
meet your needs
“When your world caves
in, when everything starts unravelling around you, only the true God
has the character and the love and the power to come through for you in
your time of need.”
~ Bill Hybels
1 Samuel 12:20-21 (NLT)
“Don't be afraid,” Samuel reassured them.
“You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the
LORD with all your heart and that you don't turn your back on him in
any way. Don't go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help
or rescue you—they really are useless!”
The gold and stone and wooden idols of the day when Samuel said these
words were really useless when it came to meeting their needs, and the
idols of money, career, power, success and position are really useless
when it comes to meeting our deepest needs today. How often have I
heard stories about people who chased after these things all their
lives, and when they finally attained what they were working for, they
were left empty and disappointed.
No idol in any form can meet your needs. Only God can do that.
3. Our idols
are an insult to God
Nobody wants to be told,
“I don’t love you, I don’t need you, I don’t want you.” But that’s
exactly what we tell God when we place other things in our lives ahead
of Him. We need to place Him first. He’s our Creator, He’s our Saviour,
He gives meaning to our lives, He loves us more than we could ever
understand, He is there to meet our every need, He offers strength and
comfort when we need it, He never fails, and He alone is worthy of the
place of priority in our lives.
Leviticus 19:4 (NLT)
Do not put your trust in idols or make gods
of metal for yourselves. I, the LORD, am your God.
He is our God. He deserves first place.
Okay, so there you have
it. Idols, bad. Putting God first, good. But what does it mean to put
God first? Four things…
Putting God First Means…
A. You love Him
above everything else
Mark 12:30 (NLT)
And you must love the Lord your God with all
your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.
An easy way to find out what you love the most: check out your bank
statements and your calendar. Because where you spend your money and
where you spend your time says a lot about what you love the most.
When you evaluate your life, what wins out as being most important to
you? Be honest.
The second thing it means to put God first is this:
B. You trust
You may be familiar with
the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Old Testament. If
you’re not, you may want to take a look at it this afternoon. It’s in
Daniel 3. But basically what happened was this:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three Jewish young men who loved
God and lived for him. But they lived during a time when the Jews were
conquered by the Babylonians. In fact, they had been taken to live in
Babylon, just about 50 miles south of modern-day Baghdad in the area we
know as Iraq.
Anyway, while they were there, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar
decided that he would build a statue 90-feet high that everyone would
be required to bow before and worship. This was a real idol. And
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow before it.
This really ticked off the King, and he flew into a rage, turned green,
and threatened to throw these three young Jewish men into a blazing
furnace. Check out their response:
Daniel 3:16-18 (NLT)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, "O
Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we
are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to
save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if
he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods
or worship the gold statue you have set up."
They trusted that God was fully capable of rescuing them if they were
thrown into the furnace. And even if for some reason He didn’t rescue
them, they were still going to trust Him. They trusted Him completely.
And you can check out what happened next by reading the rest of Daniel
Trusting God completely means you really believe God knows what is best
for your life.
~ Rick Addison
C. You obey Him
1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)
But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing
to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to
his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is
much better than offering the fat of rams.
Putting God first means we listen to Him and we obey what He says. And
we do it…
You’re not going to hold
You don’t put it off to
see of God forgets or if it gets easier or if someone else does it for
Do you realize the
privilege God has given you? He trusts you to perform His ministry.
Approach it with joy, excitement, and enthusiasm.
And the final thing
about putting God first is…
D. You focus on
fulfilling His purposes
You focus on His
purposes, not yours. Check out these words of the apostle Paul. At the
time, Paul was imprisoned for preaching about Jesus. But he wasn’t
about to give up…
Ephesians 6:20 (NLT)
I am in chains now for preaching this
message as God's ambassador. But pray that I will keep on speaking
boldly for him, as I should.
Whatever the cost, he was going to fulfill the purpose God had called
1 Peter 4:19 (NLT)
So if you are suffering according to God's
will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who
made you, for he will never fail you.
Are you willing to set aside your own preferences and goals in order to
be on call when God needs you? Accomplishing His will for your life is
more important than your comfort or any recognition you could ever gain.
Kind of a mantra I’ve used for my life is this: Any sacrifice required
to be in the middle of God’s will is no sacrifice, because there’s no
better place to be. Do you believe that? Is it your desire to love God,
obey Him, live for Him, and follow Him everyday of your life? The call
is high, and it isn’t easy, but it’s sure worth it.