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.
Break free of the idolatry of money. You may struggle with financial idolatry if you look to money to give you security, peace, or happiness; or if you’re often anxious about getting more money or holding onto the money you already have rather than being content and generous as God wants you to be. Jesus said that you can’t serve both God and money because trying to do so will divide your mind, and you need to devote yourself to God with a single-minded focus so you can become the person He designed you to become. Choose to trust God completely with your finances, following biblical principles to manage your money as a tool to accomplish God’s purposes for your life.
Break free of the idolatry of religion. You may struggle with religious idolatry if you try to earn God’s love (or try to avoid losing it) by following religious rules and performing religious rituals. Realize that God’s love for you is unlimited and unconditional and Jesus’ completed sacrifice on the cross has made it possible for you to connect with God, so you don’t have to use religion to try to gain or keep God’s love. Instead, decide to embrace the love that God freely offers you. Make your top priority spending time with God often, just to communicate in love and build a closer relationship with Him. Remember that what you do with God is more important than what you do for Him.
Break free of the idolatry of appearance. You may struggle with appearance idolatry if you rely on being physically attractive to help you get what you want or if you think that how you look is who you are. Realize that even if people consider you to be physically beautiful or handsome now, your appearance will change when you age. And if people don’t think you’re attractive, God does, because He made you to be distinctively the way you are. You can be truly beautiful – no matter what you look like externally – when you’re a whole and healthy person who lives in a close relationship with Jesus.
Break free of the idolatry of your dreams. You may struggle with dream idolatry if you’re constantly frustrated with God because He hasn’t made your dreams come true. Ask God for the wisdom you need to discern which of your dreams align with His purposes for your life, and which don’t. Then let go of whatever dreams don’t help you accomplish God’s purposes for you, and trust God to help you see the right dreams come true in His way and in His time.
Focus your worship on God. What you worship determines what kind of person you’ll become. For example, if you worship money, you’ll become greedy, and if you worship power, you’ll become corrupt. But if you worship Jesus – the image of the invisible God – then you’ll grow to become more like Him, which is God’s will for you. So place your relationship with God through Jesus at the center of your life and revolve everything else around it on a day-to-day basis.
Adapted from Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, copyright 2012 by Pete Wilson. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Pete Wilson is the founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tn. Pete desires to see churches become radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to one another, and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside of God’s family. Pete and his wife, Brandi, have three boys.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: [email protected] to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: January 25, 2012