Today I’m continuing this new series, called First Things, which are really just a some simple thoughts that God has been underscoring in my heart whilst away on sabbatical.

Sometimes, it’s only when we step away from the day-to-day reality of life that we are able to meaningfully observe and reflect upon patterns of life. This has certainly been the case for me over these past few months. And, as I’ve done so, I’ve been reminded afresh how pressure, whether the sudden and unexpected or the daily accumulation that takes places through the churn of life, has a wonderful ability to uncover the functional gods in our hearts.

Martin Luther, the great church reformer said:

‘Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god, your functional savior.’

Tim Keller, author of The Reason for God, said something very similar:

‘If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.’

So basically, a functional god is anything we reach for in our lives that is more central or fundamental to our identity than God and our relationship with him. This could be anything from family, romance, money, power, achievement, emotional dependences to health and fitness and physical beauty (thanks again to Keller).

So let me show you how pressure can uncover these types of functional gods in our hearts.

‘Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life. Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?‘ – Luke 12:22-26, NIV

If I look back over the last ten years, I’ve worried way too much! And guess what? Pressure is a wonderfully clear lens to see just how much my heart worries. However, here’s the thing: through this passage in Luke 12, Jesus is showing that worry is the symptom of a heart that at times rests and relies upon other things (a functional God) rather than Jesus for security and identity! If that’s not enough, Jesus shows us that the functional god we rely upon when we are worrying is most often ‘me’(oh boy!), yet he goes on and shows us that I’m impotent to even try to extend the span of my life by one day (not a very impressive functional god).

This is uncomfortably close scrutiny, and yet that is the purpose of scripture. Jesus wants to lead us into a place whereby we daily live lives that centre around him and not a cobbled together functional God.

So, this side of the sabbatical, rather than pushing down the worries and anxieties, I’m learning in the cut and thrust of daily life to bring them more quickly to Jesus through prayer and journalling andallowing him to be my place of security, peace and answer.

What about you?

In those moments of pressure, what gets uncovered in your heart? Are there any functional gods that need dismantling through repentance and then to go on a new adventure of daily trusting Christ?

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