The Dangerous Idol You May Accidentally Be Worshiping

Sometimes I wonder why God doesn’t just neatly bubble-wrap His followers. Have you asked that question? (Okay, maybe not that question, but something like it.)

Idols are sly and slippery things that surreptitiously supplant our Savior from His station in our soul’s sight. If we aren’t watchful, we can find ourselves in a dark place because we mistakenly followed a usurper when our eyes were not on Him.

In our times, personal safety can become an insidious idol.

Safety concerns are wise, of course, to a point, but when they rise to the level of anxiety, when they take priority over service and calling, when they rob us of sleep and consume prayer time that might be better invested in eternal concerns, it’s time to open ourselves to a hard conversation with God about His place in our priorities.

I’m tempted to serve at the altar of safety myself, even more so for my loved ones than for me. When it becomes my most frequent, fervent prayer for others, it’s a sign to me that safety is climbing the charts of my minds’ top 40 and I need to take stock and help it descend before it unseats Jesus from His place at number 1.

It’s natural that we consider our safety. Life is a precious gift from our loving Father. Of course, we value it, so why ever risk our safety?

We’re allotted one life on this planet. One. And that one is over in the length of a dash on a headstone.  Isn’t preserving life as long as possible the ultimate goal? Shouldn’t protecting ourselves from harm be our primary pursuit – all the better and longer to be about the work of the kingdom?

This is the thinking that causes people to question the decisions some Christians make of leaving the relative safety of life in the West to pursue work in more dangerous places of the world.

There are Christians   risking Ebola to care for victims of the deadly disease in Jesus’ name.  Others relocate to inner cities to care for the urban poor or to desperate and volatile locations like Haiti, Somalia, or Afghanistan to bring the good news of Christ to places of endless danger and need. Still others risk travel to countries openly hostile to Christ to deliver Bibles and encouragement to persecuted Christians.

With all the good there is to do in the world that won’t put our lives at risk, shouldn’t we just focus on that?

NO.

Why?

Because, there are conditions less favorable than death.

To believe that is one thing. To act on that belief requires great faith and an appreciation of the afterlife, of eternity, of a future sealed up with Jesus Christ.

That faith is hard enough to find (except when it’s a gift from God). But worse, Satan distorts this truth by perverting belief in the afterlife, twisting it into warped, uninformed, deceptive knock-offs of faith and inserting them into the world through false teachers and cults.

Because of this, devoted, Christ-like individuals who place service to Christ above personal safety are sometimes lumped in with Kool-Aid drinking dupes and bomb-laden, virgin-populated-Paradise seeking misguided terrorists.

It’s not hard, however, for reasonable people to distinguish between the truth and the life.

First, Christian martyrs (those whose lives are lost in service to Christ) don’t determine to take others down with them. We lay down our lives, we don’t turn ourselves into flesh-and-blood bomb delivery systems in Jesus’ name.

Second, Christians don’t seek glory through martyrdom, we seek glory in Jesus Christ and that sometimes leads to martyrdom. A crucial distinctive of our faith.

Christians love life. Life is a gift from God. Precious. Worthy of protection. We hate death and do not seek it. However, we do not love our lives so much as to shrink from death if it crosses the path of our love for and obedience to Jesus Christ.

There are places on this planet where it is downright dangerous to believe in Jesus Christ – some Christians are born there and others are called to relocate there. In all cases, it’s better to pursue Jesus than safety.

Allow me to encourage all of us who love the Lord (we hobbits, we disciples, we who are loved by God): If God calls us to serve from the Shire, from home, from a place of safety, then we should do so with zealous joy. If God calls us to serve in a place of obvious danger, we should go forward in faith, obedient to His Word and strengthened by His Spirit, with the prayers of the saints our shield wall.

Remember that there are conditions less favorable than death – disobedience, cowardice, indifference to suffering, loveless, faithless, rebellious, in bondage to self and sin. To be without Christ and alive to this world is less desirable than to be alive to Christ and facing death to this life.

Christians who follow Jesus into harm’s way have renounced the worship of personal safety as idolatry. They are no fools or if they are, they are God’s fools in the same way that Jesus’ death on the cross was foolishness to those who are perishing from all eternal hope.

Don’t seek martyrdom. Seek Jesus. Always seek Jesus. Still, know that death in the line of following Jesus is preferable to eternal death of the soul.

If your call is into dangerous territory, don’t expect the world to understand and don’t wait for their approval or applause. It’s not coming. We’re not home yet, but when we are, you’ll receive your reward.

Jim Elliot, who was martyred by the very people to whom He was sent, once said this: “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.” A person who has said yes to Jesus Christ is prepared to die because, for them, death is only a door into the next part of the adventure. Valuing anything ahead of Jesus Christ, even safety, is idolatry and we need to renounce all idolatry, claiming our freedom in Christ.

Death isn’t glorious. Martyrdom isn’t glorious. Eternal life with Jesus is glorious and we entered into that the moment we entered into relationship with Jesus.

So we are content if Jesus blesses us with a long life on earth so that we die peacefully in our sleep and we accept, with grace, if Jesus calls us to die in the line of serving Him because we trust Him with our lives and worship Him above all.

Each of us needs to understand this truth no matter where we serve the Lord at present because one day, danger may even invade the safe Shire. When it does, Jesus will make us ready for it, loved ones, and He will equip us to stand so we’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

To pursue death for the sake of religious glory, this is foolish.

But he or she is no fool who forsakes the idol of safety to pursue Jesus Christ. And let our prayers for our loved ones focus more on their ever-deepening love of God and knowledge of Him than on their safety in this life for there is much, much more life to come.

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6 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Pamela Bower says:

    Lori, I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, and it’s always wonderful. Today is especially so, maybe because it hit a nerve. I value my safety and security highly. Now I’m going to examine just how highly. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for a thoughtprovoking message!

  3. Rob McCullough says:

    Peace comes with trusting the Lord. Who and what are we going to trust?

  4. Deb Kreyssig says:

    A resounding Amen! Keeping Christ above all else. Serve Him without abadon. Whatever He calls us to do, do it faithfully. It’s not about us. It’s all about Him and, if not, time to rexamen our lives and ask ourselves why? People say to me all the time, “you’re so brave!”. I often look behind me to see who they are talking about. I am not brave, I just trust in God. Live safe or live for Christ is the same as saying live for myself or live for Christ. No contest… I choose Christ!

  5. Kim says:

    Well said. This really spoke to me.