I stared at the words on my screen, horrified by what I was reading. Suddenly, I snapped back into reality, closing out the screen. I felt like I needed a scrub brush for the inside of my brain.
Bookbub sends me emails about free e-books, and I had opened a sample of one of those books to check it out before I downloaded it. I really love fantasy stories – particularly ones that take a new twist on fairy tales or legends, and this book was supposed to be a new take on Alice in Wonderland. Based on the obvious romance cover and word descriptions, I thought I better check out the sample before downloading it just to be on the safe side. After all, I didn’t want anything too racy in my reading queue. Unfortunately, I could never unsee what I had just read. Bleck!
A Little Compromise
During my college years and into my early 20s, I used to read romance novels. You know, the ones with that guy from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter on the cover. I jokingly referred to them as brain candy because, after reading the difficult books required in my college classes, being able to read something that required no thought was a relief. But like any candy, what I was reading wasn’t really good for me.
A few years after I graduated from college, God challenged me to read only Christian fiction for a year. Like a cleanse or detox, not reading those books for a year opened my eyes to just how much was in them that, as a believer, I shouldn’t be reading.
For the most part, I’ve avoided racy romances since then, recognizing that wasn’t what I should be putting in my mind and heart. So, when this yucky stuff came up in that sample, I found myself whining to God about it. I pointed out I was trying to be careful with what I was reading and I definitely hadn’t gone looking for that type of book!
In the midst of my whine-fest, God gently pointed out that if I was being wholehearted in my obedience, I wouldn’t have even checked out that sample.
See, I love a good story, and there are still a few romance authors who tell a great story with an intriguing plot and intelligent, funny heroines. I told myself that I would just skip over the racy parts. I was an adult. I could handle it. But by allowing compromise in this one area, I had opened myself up to the absolute garbage that had popped up on my sample screen.
When We Don’t Start With a Whole Heart
In the Bible, during the time of the kings, this not following God with a whole heart was also a problem. It led to all kinds of unhappy endings.
We talked about Joash and his inability to follow God when he no longer had his mentor with him. (You can read about him HERE). His son Amaziah also started out well, but in 2 Chronicles 25:2, it says, “He did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.”
That lack of wholehearted devotion to God got Amaziah in a whole heap of trouble. He started out doing well. While he put to death the assassins who killed his father, he did NOT kill their children. This was actually following the Law of Moses. Score one for Amaziah.
He then went out and battled Edom and won very convincingly. Score 2 for Amaziah.
However, in the process of defeating Edom and taking the spoils of war, Amaziah also brought home a few idols. Maybe he thought they were worth something, or maybe he convinced himself they demonstrated fine craftsmanship. Whatever the reason, he brought the idols into his home and ended up bowing down to them.
After his big victory and then turning his eyes from God to powerless idols, Amaziah started to get a bit full of himself. He set his sights on Israel this time. During this time, the Israelites had split into two kingdoms: Judah and Israel. The king of Israel at that time, King Jehoash, told Amaziah to be happy with the victories over Edom, enjoy his glory, and go home.
In 2 Kings 14:11, it says, “But Amaziah would not listen.”
Not Being Wholehearted Leads To Unhappy Endings
Because Amaziah had started worshiping false idols, God allowed him to be defeated. He ended up getting captured and the temple was ransacked.
Amaziah lived 15 years after this stunning defeat. He ended up losing his life just as his father did – by assassins who chased him down.
“From the time that Amaziah turned away from following the Lord, they conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there.” 2 Chronicles 25:27
A Lesson We Can Learn
I find the stories of the kings to be fascinating and frustrating. Why in the world would you turn to a false god (ones that often required horrible things like child sacrifice) when you had the power of the Almighty God on your side? It seems so silly.
But then I look at my own life. I see the areas where I am not wholehearted. I see the areas where I allow other things to become more important than God in my life.
Idols are not just statues made of precious metals or wood or stone. Idols are anything that push God from the number one place in our hearts.
When I am not wholehearted, it opens me up to things I wouldn’t have even encountered if my obedience had been complete and not compromised.
Are there areas of your life where you aren’t wholehearted? The story of Amaziah shows us that it’s worth checking the state of our hearts.