American Idle
By Karen Ehman

“These men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?” Ezekiel 14:3 (NIV)

I have a confession to make. Our family loves to watch American Idol. While I do have some trouble with the name—I’d much prefer American Star or something of the sort—I love seeing these unknown singers compete over the weeks, improving their performance skills and attempting to fulfill their lifelong dreams. It makes me smile.

However, in the Bible, idols are nothing to smile about. Over and over again we are warned to have nothing to do with them. We are neither to make them with our hands nor to form them in our hearts. While the children of Israel may have had trouble with the former, being tempted to fashion golden calves and such, more often we modern day believers struggle with the latter. We set up secret, hidden idols. Idols in our hearts.

An idol is anything that we put in the place of God in our lives. It may be the attention of others, or money or material possessions. For some it is their career or their athletic ability. Others are addicted to television, romance novels or the Internet. With me it was food.

I was idle for too many years about my idol. I sported too much weight on my female frame. I consumed too many calories and burned too few to boot! The result? I was sick and tired. Weak and miserable. But for years I refused to take action. I sat idly by and it was killing me. Literally. When my cholesterol level skyrocketed over 300 and the chest pains became more frequent, I finally took action. God was ready and willing, as He had always been, to meet my every need. He supplied daily strength and lifted me up when I failed. Over 10 months and 100 pounds later, food was finally put back into proper perspective in my life.

It wasn’t hard for others to see that I had an issue with gluttony, but other secret idols of the heart can be more evasive. While handmade idols of world religions are easy to spot, these secret idols of the heart are not always so. Sometimes only we know they exist, so we procrastinate. We say, “Perhaps I’ll quit tomorrow.” Or next Monday. Or next month. Before we know it, we can count the years we have devoted to our idols. Idle, wasted time.

Just as we are sometimes the only ones who know our idols exist, we are the only ones that, by God’s grace and through His power, can tear them down. We must stop being idle. Action is required. Just as a marathon runner takes one step at a time, so must we.
Are you ready to begin? The sound of an idol breaking is a beautiful sound to God’s ears.

Dear Lord, You know the idols I have set up in my heart. I need to stop making excuses and sitting idly by. Please grant me the courage to get rid of any other gods in my heart. Only You and You alone should be on the throne of my life. I’m ready to make that a reality. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
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Visit Karen Ehman’s blog

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Application Steps:
What other idols of the heart can you think of?

In what ways do these take the proper place of God in our lives?

Rather than remain idle, what are some practical action steps that you could take in order to tear down the idol(s) in your life? Remember, baby steps!

Do your homework to locate Christian resources that can help you in your endeavors. Are there books, websites or support groups that can assist you with your particular struggle? Knowing that others share your same temptations can give you a needed boost of encouragement as you strive for change in your life.

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 10:13-14 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” (NIV)

Leviticus 19:4, "Do not turn to idols or make gods… for yourselves. I am the LORD your God.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.


What a timely reminder, Karen. I've struggled with a few "idols" for a long season. A year ago, I saw the need to cut back on television. I did, and I can honestly say I don't miss it one bit. I also struggle with food and exercise. I've exercised my entire life, but with age, I can't seem to compensate my eating with enough exercise. Consequently...

well, you know what the consequence has been.

Lastly, I struggle with selfishness. I carefully guard the time that is mine...the things that are mine, when sometimes God is asking me to give of them both to others.

Thank you for your gentle prod. I needed it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Karen: WOW what a power-packed devotional. God has been dealing w/me in this area for quite some time. I'm sometimes a little slow to understand...and then stubborn to give up! For me, my idol has been exercise. It releases stress from many a rough day at work. I've taken comfort in it & sought it first rather than Jesus. He is making it plain that He wants to be my first source of comfort. It's a hard habit to break, but I know w/ God's grace, it can be done. Thanks for sharing your testimony!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to know what resources (books, websites, support groups) helped you with your food struggle. I, too, struggle with food and lack of exercise. I haven't thought of it as an idol. I will need to think and pray on this. Thanks for the thoughts to point ourselves toward devoting all to God.

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