Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Pete Wilson's book, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, (Thomas Nelson, 2012).
Everyone wants the good life, but too many people fail to find it because they’re looking for it in the wrong places. Society often promises that you can find the good life by pursuing goals that seem good, such as earning more money, gaining more friends, or becoming more physically attractive. But those are just empty promises that can’t really fulfill you.
Only a relationship with Jesus can give you the good life that God has designed you to crave. Placing your hope in anything less – even if it’s something good that God has created – turns into idolatry that interferes with your relationship with Jesus and actually leads you away from the good life that God wants you to enjoy.
Here’s how you can find the truly good life:
Recognize how you may be trying to fill a God-given appetite with something that’s not God. Even when you love God, idolatry can creep into your life. Idolatry happens whenever you look to something that doesn’t have God’s power to give you what only God has the power and authority to give you. Reflect on your life right now and honestly consider whether or not you’re hoping to derive fulfillment from things like material possessions, a successful career, an exciting romantic relationship, or close relationships with family and friends. None of those things – or any other good things except for a relationship with God through Jesus – can deliver true and lasting fulfillment. Be aware of how you may be trying to use good things to produce something in your life that only God can produce. At times, everyone struggles with idolatry in some way. Ask God to show you if you’ve wandered away from Jesus and toward idols, and what type of idol is His biggest rival in your life right now. Clues include what you spend the most time thinking about, and what you invest the most energy and money into pursuing. Anything that you’re devoting yourself to more than you are to Jesus is an idol in your life.
Break free of the idolatry of achievement. You may struggle with achievement idolatry if you: want to achieve regardless of what it does to the people around you, depend on your success getting people to like you, confuse who you are with what you accomplish, feel the need to constantly climb higher on the ladder of success, or compare yourself with others and struggle when they succeed and you don’t. Realize that you are much more than your list of accomplishments. You have great intrinsic value simply because God made you in His image and loves you no matter what. Choose to base your identity not on what you have accomplished, but on what Jesus has accomplished for you: connecting you to God for eternity.
Break free of the idolatry of approval. You may struggle with approval idolatry if you expect someone else to: complete you, take your pain away, understand you completely, heal you, make you feel good about yourself, or always be with you. No human being can truly do any of those things for you, but God can. So stop relying on other people’s approval to fulfill you (it will lead you to mediocrity, exhaustion, disappointment, and rejection instead). Decide to look to God alone for approval; God’s opinion of you is the only one that truly matters. Embrace the complete and unconditional love that He offers you.
Break free of the idolatry of power. You may struggle with power idolatry if you have a hard time taking correction from your spouse, a friend, a teacher, or a boss, because you want to be in charge. Realize that the control you think you may have in life is actually an illusion; God is in ultimate control of every situation. Since God will take care of everything you need when you trust Him, give up trying to be in charge and surrender to God’s plans for every situation that concerns you. When you do, God’s unlimited power will flow into your life and transform it for the better.