The gods of power take control of our lives more easily as we grow. By the time we’re adults in our mid 40’s, we’re expected to be successful, made achievements, and have money. I mean, you need achievements to show that you’re successful, and those help you to receive promotions and raises to have more money. You need money to pay bills, buy food, and keep a house. There’s good in that, but we tend to go overboard with it. We begin to worship those things and let them control our lives. The gods of power don’t just affect us as adults, though. Unlike the gods of pleasure that affect us more immediately and frequently, the gods of power take their time gaining control of us.
1. the god of Success (131-149, gods at War)
Have you ever played the game “King of the Hill”? You either played it as a kid on the playground, or video games now have modes where the player plays “King of the Hill.” The concept is simple. There’s a hill that one person, or team, is trying to control. Whoever controls the hill is trying to keep other people from kicking them off of it. Whoever controls the hill at the end of the day, recess, or match wins the game. They are successful as becoming the king of the hill.
We can often play this game in our daily lives. We try to be successful in our sports teams, jobs, or other extracurricular activities. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, sometimes at the cost of our friends and/or family. Success means a higher social status, and that people will look at us differently either showing more respect or wanting to be us.
In Mark 10:17-31, a rich, young ruler asks Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. It seems like an honest and sincere enough question, but it is not. Look at what he emphasizes, “what must I do to inherit?”. The Greek word for “inherit” can also be translated as “acquires” or “earn” (135, gods at War). He’s a successful man looking for another way to be successful. He’s used to acquiring or earning success from his own actions, now he wants to acquire salvation by his own actions to be successful in one more thing.
Jesus tells him to follow the commandments. He responds that he has, but Jesus says he is lacking in one thing. The rich, young ruler must sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus. He is not willing to do so, and he walks away disheartened. He was not willing to get rid of everything he had, the signs of his success, to follow Jesus. Success in God’s eyes is not owning a lot of things that you have earned, but relying entirely on Him. Are you willing to lay down what the world and the god of power call successful so that you can gain eternal life in Christ?
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? – Mark 8:36
2. the god of Money (151-167, gods at War)
How many of you have any money in your pocket, wallet, purse, or bank account? If you do, no matter how much, then you’re already richer than most people in the world. Do you remember being a kid and not having to worry about money? You could just go outside and rub two sticks together for enjoyment. I remember picking up sticks and pretending they were guns or swords playing Army and Knights with my brother. I didn’t need money for that. The older we get, the more we need money for stuff. We need money to entertain us, to feed us, or to live on. We can often become obsessed with it now. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to being a kid not having to worry about money?
In Luke 12, Jesus tells the people that if they deny Him in front of others, then He would deny them in front of God the Father. He’s trying to get them to focus on eternal life instead of this earthly world consumed with success and money. But one guys misses it and says, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” All he seems to care about is his inheritance, his possessions, his wealth. He misses the point of having eternal life with Jesus, and focuses on his earthly wealth. Jesus says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” What is the point of gaining riches, when we lose our soul and miss out on eternal life with God?
3. the god of Achievement (169-187, gods at War)
Remember when Larry the Cable Guy and his catch phrase “git-r-done” were popular? Yeah, me too. It was all about the can do attitude and making things possible. Got the car washed after going mudding? Git-r-done! Needed food for dinner and shot a deer to eat? Git-r-done! This is how we live our lives, though. We live to make achievements.
Letterman jackets are the epitome of achieving and showing it. A high school student earns a letterman jacket by making an achievement in sports, academics, band, etc…. Every time the student earns another achievement, they add another badge to their jacket. We earn trophies, a sign of our achievements, from competing in sports, academics, and arts. Some people only live to earn trophies. They don’t care about families or friends as long as they have their trophies. Are you picturing those Lebron James and Michael Jordon photos of them showing off their trophies? Or movie stars holding up their Oscars? Not saying that’s all they live for, but we get the picture. We can sometimes become so distracted in achieving, that we miss out on the greater things in life. Especially, our relationship with God.
Luke 10:38-42 tells us about two sisters, Mary and Martha, and Jesus’ visitation to them. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to all that He was saying. Martha, on the other hand, was busy preparing and serving a meal for Him. She becomes annoyed and complains to Jesus that Mary has left her alone in the preparation. Expecting Jesus to back her up, He tells her that Mary is the better one for listening while she was distracted with work instead. She was distracted by trying to achieve something, so she missed out on what Jesus was teaching. Are we so distracted by working towards achievements that we miss out on our relationship with the Lord God?
Idleman, Kyle. Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2013. $15