Acts 2:17 “…Your old men will dream dreams.” The sky was dark with clouds. I was standing on a grassy plain in the dim light of what felt like a descent into night. When I realized that a large black obelisk was near to me, just in view to my side, I was startled and shocked by the cold dark presence. I had been here before, but I had not noticed that dark structure. The menacing shape was in plain view and could be seen from a great distance away; yet I had not noticed it. The shape was black, felt evil, taller than anything around it. Yet…I woke up and I heard the Lord speak to me, “I am setting you free from this curse.” It was a dream, yet the cold dark feeling still hung in my mind. What was the Lord trying to show me? Was I under the influence of some dark evil? I began to seek the Lord to see if there was truth and substance to this dream.
It was now a week later, and I was sitting in the office of a trusted friend and counselor to me. As we were talking about the dream, suddenly a moment of clarity gripped my heart as the word, “idolatry” was spoken. Over the course of the week the Lord had brought to my understanding a series of memories and truths about my life and my work as a Pastor. I had recognized that often times my relationship to the “position and the image” of the pastoral ministry had been unhealthy. I “needed” the role in a way that was not honoring to God and destructive to my spiritual and emotional health. Now, after this dream, a fuller picture of my life was coming clearly into view. I was able to own the fact that I had been in an idolatrous relationship with the position and image of professional ministry. I wanted and needed to be a lead pastor as much, or more than I wanted to simply serve and love my God. It had been an idol to me.
The revelation of the idol in my life was a process that my Lord put me through. A process that was motivated by the pains and frustrations of my life in ministry, and my desire to see “success.” By His great grace I had chosen to put my life with Him above the enticements of position, authority, image and power. The saddest part of my confession is that my greatest deliverance and healing did not occur until I had been in professional ministry for more than 30 years.
1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
I now recognize around me, all too often, the men and women who have been trapped by the idol of “success” in ministry. We can worship “success” in so many ways in the American culture. In the verse quoted above, Paul is speaking to Christians who, in the context of their church life, put the comforts of the flesh above the love of God. Paul now had to warn them about how their lives were inviting the judgement of God, because they were pursuing idols and not God. I was recently shocked to see and hear about a group of leaders in a living, influential, Bible teaching church, who were now not following Christ any longer, after losing their “positions” of ministry. It is tragic to see how when our idols fail us, we blame God and turn away. God have mercy on us.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us examine our hearts. What are we seeking after? Is it the love of God, or the love of position, success and power? Chances are for most of us, it is mixed. But, are you aware of it? Often, our level of frustration and pain in ministry, or our work life, is a direct indicator that we are in love with the wrong things. I am sad to say how long it took me to fully see my own idolatrous lusts. Flee from it! Get help and find someone you trust to help you examine your own soul for the truth that needs to be seen. Don’t let the enemy win. The love of God in Christ Jesus is truly the only thing that will endure in this life, and the next. Make that your true goal. Make Him your true and only God.