We hear word threat used daily in different ways and with varying degrees of importance. There is the global threat climate. There are regular announcements regarding threat assessment and then there is the very important Threat level that cities and nations come under more now than ever. It may well be that the greatest threat to mankind is not found without but within.
A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God writes, “There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets `things’ with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns `my’ and `mine’ look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.” The dangers we face are often subtle, unobserved and unseen… issues of the heart.
Today there are before us many challenges. A host of many God options for example. There is a church, a belief system, a new book on who God is and what he’s like to fit every need and circumstance. Problem is, all but one God is false! Then there are the many tangible tangles that can slip their arms around our hearts in such a way that before we know it, we are hooked. From Pickers to Pawn Stars and from Hoarders to Storage Wars as the race to accumulate is fast paced and popular beyond belief. The problem here is twofold, first stuff can become more important than God and secondly, you can’t take it with you! Bottom line, the threat of allowing anything to become an idol in our lives and separating us from the God that created us is perhaps the most dangerous of scenarios.
I’ll never forget the story of Jenny, a bright-eyed, five-year-old girl. One day when she and her wonderful mother were out shopping, Jenny saw an imitation pearl necklace priced at $9.99. How she wanted that necklace, and when she asked her mother if she would buy it for her, her mother said, “It is a pretty necklace, but it costs an awful lot of money. I’ll buy you the necklace, and when we get home we can make up a list of chores that you can do to pay for the necklace.” Jenny agreed, and worked on her chores very hard every day, and soon she had paid off the pearls. How Jenny loved those pearls! She wore them everywhere, to kindergarten, to bed and especially when she went out with her mother to run errands. The only time she didn’t wear them was in the shower-her mother had told her that they would turn her neck green!
Jenny also had a very loving daddy. Upon returning from a long trip he said, “Jenny, do you love me?” “Oh yes, Daddy, you know I love you,” the little girl said. “Well, then, give me your pearls.” “Oh! Daddy, not my pearls!” Jenny said. “Oh no, darling, that’s okay.” Her father brushed her cheek with a kiss. “Good night, little one.” The next morning her father once again asked Jenny, “Do you love me?” “Oh yes, Daddy, you know I love you.” “Well, then, give me your pearls.” “Oh, Daddy, not my pearls!
Later, when Jenny’s father came in to read her a story, Jenny was sitting on her bed and her lip was trembling. “Here, Daddy,” she said, and held out her hand. She opened it and her beloved pearl necklace was inside. She let it slip into her father’s hand. With one hand her father held the plastic pearls and with the other he pulled out of his pocket a blue velvet box. Inside of the box were real, genuine, beautiful pearls. He had them all along. He was simply waiting for Jenny to give up the cheap imitation so that he could give her the real thing.
Perhaps God is waiting for us today; he’s waiting for us to give up the cheap stuff for a real relationship with Him. I’ll let A.W Tozer close us in prayer… Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but 1 do come. Please root from my heart all those things which 1 have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter avid dwell there without a rival… In Jesus’ Name, Amen. May we never allow an idol to threaten our genuine relationship with God!
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.