A Matter of Perspective

(Read Romans 1)

A Matter of PerspectiveJim Elliot was an American Christian missionary and martyr. He was born on October 8, 1927, and died on January 8, 1956 along with four other missionaries. Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Nate Saint were killed while attempting to make contact with the Huaorani people in the Ecuadorian jungle.

Answering calls to serve God, Jim Elliot and the four other missionaries were killed deep in the jungles of Ecuador while aiming to share the gospel with the unreached Huaorani people. They were aware of the dangers inherent with this mission, but their passion sought to bring the love and teachings of Jesus Christ to those who had not yet heard about Him. Elliot’s wife, Elisabeth, and Rachel, a sister of one of the missionaries, were introduced to the Waodani two years after the missionaries’ murder and were invited to live among the tribe. They did so for several years, along with Elliot’s daughter. One of the Huaroni people, Dayuma, became a Christian and helped share the message of Christ among her people, even assisting Rachel in translating the New Testament into their complex language. Many more also came to faith, and the world watched in shock as the Waodani community was transformed.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

Plain and simple, it’s our responsibility to worship God. This verse teaches that God has revealed Himself to all people through His creation. Our natural world is full of evidence of God’s power and design, from the intricate workings of the human body to the sun-drenched glow of an ocean sunrise, to the quiet calm of a baby deer, to the vastness of the universe. Paul says this evidence is so clear that no one can honestly claim to be ignorant of God.

The problem is that not everyone believes in Him. People worship the sun, nature, fame, success, and even family before they worship God. When we see the evidence of God’s existence all around us and still choose to ignore it, we are guilty of rejecting God. Romans 1:20 reminds us that God is real and has revealed Himself to us. Max Lucado wrote, “The mark of a saint is that he or she is growing in the knowledge of God. Our highest pursuit is the pursuit of our Maker.”

How many athletes and celebrities once perched on top of the world only to discover that nothing on Earth lasts forever? Bruce Jenner was a childhood hero of mine. Heck, anyone on the front of an electric orange Wheaties box was a big deal to kids in those days! Gold medal winner of the 1976 Decathlon, he was the hottest thing in America. Yet, he wasn’t happy. Fast forward to 2007 when a new soon-to-be hit TV series, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, aired. I probably watched about 15 minutes of the entire 20 seasons,  but even with that glimpse, I saw that Jenner was a shell of the person he used to be. In 2015, he underwent gender transition surgery to become Caitlyn Jenner. All the accolades, money, and fame couldn’t buy happiness.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Romans 1:25

About a mile-and-a-half into my run on Monday morning, I heard the sing-song chirps of a happy bird hopping along the grass. It was a familiar song. It was the most brilliantly bright bluebird I have ever seen. The blue of his feathers was so vivid, so colorful, I looked up to the sky and said, “God, you are amazing! Wow!” I was in awe of His creation. Twenty steps further past the bluebird lay a plastic water bottle top. It was just as blue as the bird I was still amazed at. The cap was probably even a brighter blue in terms of the Kelvin scale. I puzzled over this as I continued my run down the hill. How could the bottle cap, which was even shinier, leave me unmoved while the bluebird left me with a story to tell? The bluebird pointed me to God. I felt in place, one with God. The bottle cap was trash.

Since Adam and Eve, we have exchanged the truth about God for a lie. This lie is the belief that we are our own gods and can find fulfillment and happiness in created things rather than in the Creator. This lie is at the root of all sin and leads to all sorts of other sinful behaviors — idolatry, immorality, and violence.

Great danger and consequences stem from idolatry. We tend to replace the worship of our one true God with worshiping created objects, whether physical idols or various other worldly pursuits. It distorts truth. Paul emphasized that God alone deserves our worship and praise. Where God is eternal, created things are fleeting. (Yes, the plastic bottle cap will be around longer than the bluebird, but even plastic won’t be around forever — God will.)

British writer G. K. Chesterton wrote, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.” This also applies to people who don’t believe in God in the first place. They believe in science, nature, health, and family as their gods. While all good things, they are created gifts from God for us to enjoy, not for us to worship. They are substitute gods. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all struggle with them.

I see a few specialists and have annual physicals with my primary care provider. I try to stay physically active, eat reasonably well, and feel secure when my blood test results are normal. But it’s false security. My health will fail just like every other living and created thing.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Matthew 4:8-10

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13 when fending off Satan’s temptations. Satan knows Scripture and will always skew it for his own twisted gain. Like most deceivers, he misquotes or takes it out of context, thereby changing the true meaning and impact of God’s word. Jesus knows the truth. Worship God only; enjoy His creation but don’t exalt and praise it.

Jesus showed His unwavering commitment to honoring God and His refusal to compromise His devotion to worship and serve the Lord exclusively. By doing so, Jesus provides an example for all believers to resist temptation and prioritize the worship and service of God above all else.

In Philippians 3:8, Paul wrote, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In our lives, everything might matter, but only one thing counts. My little epiphany the other day on my run highlighted God’s awesomeness and creations. As said in an old hymn, “All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.” When we see the world’s beauty, we should pause to thank God for creating it. He created all these wonderful things for our pleasure as long as we comprehend their rightful place. It’s a dark and still wonderful world we live in. There are so many blessings to enjoy, cherish, and share. We need to remember where our gratitude should go. Do we look left to right or up? It’s a matter of perspective.

Jim Elliot’s life exhibited his commitment to putting God’s purposes and the proclamation of the Gospel above his personal fame or security. His life and martyrdom have a lasting impact and continue to challenge Christians around the world.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Jim Elliot

Key Applications:

  1. Take time each day to reflect on the many blessings in our lives and to thank God for them. This can help us to keep our focus on God and His goodness rather than on the things of this world.
  2. We commit idolatry when we worship created things instead of the Creator. This is a serious sin that can have devastating consequences. Romans 1:25 reminds us to be careful not to fall into the trap of idolatry and worship God alone.
  3. Read Romans 1:20-25. Pray. Remember that we need God and that He is the only one who can truly satisfy our deepest needs.

Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.

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