People are moving, ending careers, changing careers, starting families, and redefining what matters to them. If nothing else, a year of Covid has made us all reconsider where we put our faith and trust. Should we put our trust in the government, our finances, the media, or public education? For many, the answer is, “not really.”
This re-evaluating is not just happening in Christian circles but in the secular world as well. People have begun to recognize that they have been following idols. Some may prefer to call these idols distractions, but that doesn't change the reality of what they are. They are the things that get in the way of our serving God and fulfilling our greater purpose — loving others more than ourselves.
One way the world deals with these idols is in a system called minimalism. While minimalism can help us deal with these distractions (idols), it can never deliver the peace it promises. The release from the burdens other things create in our lives may seem like peace at first, but minimalism itself just becomes another burden or system that is just as empty as all the rest of the things we fill our lives with.
As Christians, we should constantly reflect on our lives, but our reflection should never end in replacing one idol with another. Instead, we must use Matthew 6:33 as our guide, seeking God and His kingdom first. We don't find our strength in a system but in a relationship with an everlasting God. In seeking him, we gain peace, strength, and wisdom. How much better is true wisdom when seeking to live a better life than another system of rules (Proverbs 8:11)?
Instead of asking, "Does this spark joy?" as Marie Kondo would say, we must ask questions like, "Does this bring me closer to God or further away? Is this honoring him or dishonoring him? Is my social media use serving him? Is my Netflix subscription or all the stuff we own? How are these things glorifying him, and if not, how can I be a better servant or steward with what I have been given?" This is where we need to start as Christians; not with our happiness, but with God's glory.
In this, we take up our cross and honor him while being careful not to shove the cross into one corner of our lives. It's about every part of our lives. We die to ourselves not in just one area but all areas. We seek out our failures daily and repent to God as we seek him and pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In this, he will give us the wisdom to make the necessary changes we need to be better servants and stewards. It may not always make sense at first, but the Holy Spirit will guide us as we seek God’s will (1 Corinthians 12:31).
At the same time, we must also be careful with our motives, for though our lives are better when we seek God, the purpose of seeking Him isn't about our temporal betterment, which is what the so-called “prosperity gospel” is all about. We don't seek God to receive a good-looking spouse, better home, or money. We seek God because of its eternal value. That should always be our focus. If we seek God because of what He can give us financially, then we are not seeking God; we’re just looking for a way to use Him. If so, do you think that is something God will honor? That He would be so foolish?
To make sure we don't do that, we need to constantly reflect and repent as He refines us and helps us better understand the ridiculous motives in our hearts.
Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with praying for prosperity. There is nothing wrong with including it in our prayers. But it should be tempered with an even more excellent prayer, which is our continued sanctification. That God helps us keep idols or selfish pursuits from getting in the way of the work He is doing in us (Philippians 1:6).
God is using this time to not only grow the church and bring lost sheep to Him, but also sanctify those who have already received Him. God is refining us. He is removing the scales from our eyes so that we can see that our trust and faith have been in false idols. That isn't to say spending too much time on social media, having too much stuff, or working too much is the same as bowing down at the foot of a statue of Baal, but they are signs of a heart that is straying from the purposes that God created it for.
The world wants it quick and easy. People want the solution that will cure them of their problems right away. We don't want to truly reflect. We want an easy solution so that we can live how we want to live. However, God knows that isn't what's best for us. He is always seeking our maximum eternal gain over our limited temporal gain.
Pursuing a relationship with God is a lifelong process that won't make us rich, powerful, or famous by the world's standards. In fact, it might even be a detriment that will lead to more suffering in our lives. Yet, in that suffering, we can have joy because it glorifies God, which is the only thing that matters. It's all about His eternal glory. Everything else that we pursue robs us (and more importantly, others) of the only meaningful gift we can ever receive in this world.
Jim Miesner is an author and ghostwriter of several books. He currently lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and two kids. You can find more of his musings on jimwriteswords.com.