You probably have heard the true statistic that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. This is true for both men and women. And there are signs and symptoms that indicate a heart attack is happening, like chest or neck discomfort, pain in the jaws, or arms or even the stomach. Others are shortness of breath and nausea or light-headedness. These and more are warning signals that really act as gifts of mercy because if we respond right, we can often avert the killer heart attack.
So am I writing a blog for physical well-being? So far it sounds like it. But really, it reminds me of a far more serious condition that we can all have. And too many of us are ignoring the warning signals (me included) and not getting heart check-ups. That strange, but incredible book of Ezekiel provides the examination, the warning, and the prescription that we all need to hear and respond to. Here is what the ‘Great Physician’, God, tells Ezekiel to say to us as we sit on his examining table: “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces” (Ezekiel 14:3).
No disrespect meant here, but set aside Israel for a moment and let’s apply the Doctor’s prognosis to our own hearts. Have we taken idols into our hearts? What does that even mean?! It sounds so alien to our modern, sophisticated language. If anyone unused to Christianeze is reading this, you are probably really confused. The destructive potency of an idol isn’t actually seen in potato chips on eBay that look like the face of Jesus (who really knows what Jesus looks like?). There are far more powerful idols that plague Christians and non-Christians alike. An idol is something or someone that we center our lives around that becomes to any degree a replacement for God. This can be a lover, an accomplishment, children, beauty, money, etc. Idolatry is similar to adultery. “I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols” (Ezekiel 6:9). We are drawn away from our relationship with God to pursue someone or something else. This is how both of them occur.
Replacing God with god-substitutes happens as our hearts go after our eyes.
Scripture makes it clear that our hearts follow our eyes (Job 31:7). This is not hard to understand. It’s the second look that hooks. It’s the endless cycle of research, justifying, planning and finally purchasing that fills our garages with so much stuff that our cars no longer fit in it. Consumer Reports often imports idols to our hearts. Idols are on the shelves of all of our hearts! Unfortunately, I speak from experience. This is spiritual heart disease. And it ruins living. Jonah, speaking from experience admitted, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (2:8).
Are we ready to get serious about our spiritual health? If so, then maybe it’s time to take the Heart Disease Checklist and step into the examination room of the Great Physician. How do you answer the following questions?
1-Are you exercising your faith regularly to serve others rather than yourselves?
2-Have you experienced symptoms of spiritual problems, like: guilt, anxiety, greed, busyness, hurriedness, depression, chronic joylessness?
3-How is your nutritional intake for your soul?
-Are you daily watching what you take into your mind through TV, Internet, magazines, etc.
-Do you have a well-balanced diet of studying God’s Word, prayer, and fellowship?
-Are you listening to the right advice?
4-When was the last time you had an examination from someone who knows the signs of spiritual heart disease?
5-How easily can you admit you have a problem (confession) and make the changes necessary (repentance)?
6- In the past month have you experienced any shortness of patience with those who have tried to confront you?
7-Are you easily able to recognize the signs of pride: irritation, anger, criticism, defensiveness, blame shifting, arguing, relational conflict?
8-Are you regularly taking one day a week for rest and recuperation and worship with your church?
Get your heart checked today. Make an appointment with a wise counselor who will lead you to the Savior Who loves you. And whatever Jesus recommends, my encouragement is to act on it immediately. Spiritual heart health will give you a better life!