This week, a pastor at a large church in south Florida admitted to an affair. Shortly after the admission, he resigned. It’s a gut-wrenching story. Another leader for Christ forced to resign because of an affair.
Cheating on a spouse is a serious offense. Rightfully so. When a covenant is broken, there are ramifications. But as I read this story, God spurred another question in my mind.
“Frank, are you cheating on me?”
Hey God, nice to talk with you too. Can you not say hey first? Anyway, the question sunk deep into my heart. And I want to ask you the same question.
Are you cheating on God?
You and I are in a relationship with God. A relationship that parallels (and exceeds) the one between a husband and a wife. When Tiffani and I exchanged vows, I knew what I signed up for. From that point forward, she wasn’t competing with other women. She was the only woman. I pledged to remain pure and faithful to one woman…for the rest of my life. That’s heavy.
And if vowing faithfulness to one person is heavy, how much more so with God?
When Moses delivered the Ten Commandments to the Israelites in Exodus 20:2-3, the first commandment was, “You will have no other gods before me.”
When God says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” he is also saying, “Don’t cheat on me. Don’t place anything in front of me. Vow to remain faithful to me.” You get the idea?
God is jealous (Exodus 20:4-5). He relentlessly pursues you because he infinitely loves you. And when anything other than God sits at the apex of your desires, values, worth, and identity, destruction is certain. You place a weight on something only God can bear.
So, I want to ask you again…Are you cheating on God? The following 8 questions will reveal the ultimate desire of your heart.
1.) What thoughts occupy your mind when you have nothing else to think about?
If you realized how powerful your thoughts were, you would never think a negative thought.Peace Pilgrim
What we think about most determines what we value. And what we think about most is eventually who we become. Thoughts are powerful. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian pathologist, wrote a fascinating book (The book is titled Switch On Your Brain) about the power of thoughts. In the book, she says this: “Nothing happens until you first build the thought…the thought produces words, actions, and behavior.”
Your thoughts expose the desires of your mind and heart. So, where does your mind wander when you are alone? Is your mind turned towards God? If God is the love of your life, the ultimate desire of your heart, your mind will gravitate towards him. You will set your mind on the things above. Your desire to know him and grow towards him will increase.
2.) If everything was taken from you and only God was left, would he be enough?
Really, take a moment to consider this question. If you are a follower of Jesus, this is the end goal. You are on a one-way trip to dwell with God. Forever. That’s weighty stuff. And if God is most important, the thought of dwelling with God forever should excite you.
Is God enough? Just being honest, many days I don’t believe he is. I love my stuff. I love my family. I love golf. If all of these were taken from me, I am not sure God would be enough. Unlike Job, I would probably want to curse God and die.
The story of Job is a crazy, powerful example of a man whose ultimate desire is God. Satan comes in and takes everything. Family. Possessions (and Job wasn’t a middle-class man…he had stupid wealth). Livestock. Health. Everything. How does Job respond? Faithfully. He never curses God. This is only possible when God is ultimate desire of your heart.
Could you honestly say you would respond like Job if everything you own was taken? It would be hard for me. I have some work to do in my own life with this question.
Is God enough for you?
3.) Who or what triggers worry, anxiety, and/or depression?
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.1 Peter 5:7
As I wrestled with this question, God revealed several areas that spark worry, anxiety, and depression. Speaking publicly. Grades in school. Negativity towards my family or ministry.
Even though I enjoy public speaking, I usually worry about my effectiveness. Did I prepare enough? Will the audience be receptive? In school, I made decent grades, but I always had anxiety before tests and exams. Did I study enough? What if I bomb the test? The only seasons of depression in my life were preceded by a vicious attack on my family and ministry. Are their words true? Am I not good enough for this?
What does this reveal about me? I value acceptance and affirmation from others more than God. I want people to like me. I also have a tendency to elevate performance to an unhealthy level, mostly due to my desire to be accepted and affirmed.
Here’s the point. The “gods” I am tempted to pursue are acceptance, affirmation, and fame. When I place these in front of the true God, I am cheating on him. Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient, and he forgives me. But I must destroy these “gods” for my relationship with God to reach deeper levels of intimacy.
So, what triggers worry, anxiety, and depression in your life?
4.) Who in your life can you not forgive and why?
Some of you have experienced unimaginable pain. I remember talking with a young man when I lived in Mississippi. He explained, in graphic detail, being sexually abused from the time he was a small child. As I listened to him, my heart overflowed with sadness and anger. How could someone do this to a child? How?
Even though I can’t empathize with his particular pain, I empathize with his general pain (if that makes sense). The world is broken. People will hurt you. Many times these people are the ones we love, trust, and respect most. And when you are hurt, you have to make a decision. Will you forgive or harbor animosity and bitterness?
And forgiveness isn’t words. Anyone can say, “I forgive you.” Forgiveness is letting go. Letting go of the false power that comes with refusing to forgive. Letting go of the bitterness and animosity. This is essential for those who love God. He is the author of forgiveness. And if he is the most important relationship in your life, you must be able to look at someone who hurt you and say (as Jesus did), “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
It might take weeks, months, or years, but if God is first, you must come to a place where you release the power of revenge, bitterness, and anger towards someone else.
5.) When you are stressed, where do you turn for relief?
Americans are overcome with stress. And, while some stress is normal (this is called stage 1 stress), other types of stress are incredibly toxic.
What is your medication for stress? Where do you turn to relieve stress?
Alcohol? Shopping? Medication? Sex? Drugs? Video games? Notice some of these “medications” are obviously dangerous (alcohol and drugs). Others seem harmless (shopping and video games). But anytime your “medication” isn’t God, you are corroding your heart. You are hardwiring it to rely on something that can’t fill the void.
To say it another way, the “what” of where you turn to relieve stress isn’t as important as the “why.”
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” is a declaration from Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30). Ironically, this is often the same message we hear from other “gods.”
“I am really stressed, let’s go enjoy some retail therapy.”
“It’s been a long week, let’s grab a case of beer and forget about our worries.”
“Do you still have some drugs? My girl just left me. I need something to ease the pain.”
Some “medications” we take to relieve stress are illegal. Others are amoral in nature. The question is whether you rely on these things to fill a void only God can fill. If so, you are cheating on God.
If God is most important, he will be our source of relief from stress. He will be our “medication.” And his “medication” never needs a refill.
6.) What have you sacrificed most for?
Who or what receives the largest majority of your time, money, energy, and resources? Here’s what I found. If God is not the one thing you sacrifice most for, you will sacrifice God when your “one thing” is threatened.
In high school, I devoted hours every day to football. I wanted to play in the NFL. Seriously. Football received the largest majority of my time, money, energy, and resources. And I would do anything to prevent my dream from slipping away.
I skipped church on Sunday to practice. I neglect time alone with God to workout. I participated in immoral and illegal activities because I thought the activities would move me closer to my goal. Toxic stuff, right?
I am now in full-time ministry, but the same principle is in play. In Christian circles, people don’t necessarily participate in immoral activities (some do, of course, but this isn’t the norm). But many Christians cheat on God every day. They refuse to accept a new truth about God because it goes against what they preached for thirty years. Even if the new truth leads them to deeper intimacy with God.
If you sacrifice more for status, fame, and knowledge than you do for an intimate relationship with God, you will do anything to protect the status, fame, and knowledge…including an intimate relationship with God.
What have you sacrificed most for?
7.) Where do you spend your time and money?
Time is the most valuable resource on earth. It can’t be renewed or recycled. It is not for sell. So, it would make sense to look at your most valuable resource to determine your heart’s greatest desire.
Money is similar to time. So similar that metaphors for currency are often used to describe time.
“Time is money. Invest your time well. Don’t waste my time.”
Money and time are intertwined because they are both extremely valuable. They are also extremely dangerous. And they compete for our allegiance to God daily, hourly. Mark Twain says it this way,
Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and over these ideals they dispute and cannot unite – but they all worship money.
My youngest son is awkwardly in love with the words “my” and “mine.” Tiffani and I try to correct him, but if we corrected him every time he said “my” or “mine,” we would do nothing else. Seriously. Nothing.
What about you? Do you have a “my” and “mine” attitude towards money and possessions? If so, a red flag should pop up in your head.
Here’s a nugget of truth: nothing you have is yours. Everything you have is from God. Every dollar in your bank account and every possession you own will either be thrown into a garbage dump or be given to someone else.
If God is your heart’s true desire, your time and money will reflect it.
8.) Is your relationship with God burdensome?
Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.1 John 5:3
“Most Christians give just enough of their lives to God to make them miserable.” I heard a preacher make that statement one time. It’s convicting. It’s also true.
A relationship with God should never be burdensome. But when God isn’t the ultimate desire of your heart, a relationship with him will be burdensome. Just like a marital relationship.
If I am committing adultery against my wife, our marriage is going to crumble. Marriage is designed to be pure, having desires for only one person. When we cheat on God with anything, a relationship with God feels burdensome.
Is following God a burden for you? If so, why?
Maybe you need to break-up with some “gods” in your life. Things cripple your relationship with God. Only the true God can fill the longings of our heart. Only God completely satisfies.
How might your life be different if God wasn’t just number one in your hierarchy, but the only one?
WHAT QUESTIONS REVEAL OUR HEART’S ULTIMATE DESIRE? LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW. LET’S CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!