Everyone has some kind of obsession. We call them by other names like “hobbies,” “passions,” “preoccupations,” “preferences,” “peculiarities,” “proclivities,” “infatuations,” “distractions,” “pet-peeves,” “eccentricities,” and “intense focus.” Now these terms sound much more innocent & harmless than the term “obsession” and in themselves, I suppose, they could be. But when they cross the line into that practice or object upon which we continually fix our minds to the detriment of the “big stuff” of life and the biblical requirements of life… we are now controlled by our obsessions and not by our Lord.
I have a question. When do we cross the line with our “obsessions”? Well, there was a homemaker named Martha who was obsessed with the kitchen and as a result lost her opportunity to spend quality time with Jesus who was in her home (Luke 10:40-41). There was the most beautiful woman ever created named Eve who became obsessed with the fruit of one tree when she was told it would make her smarter and more beautiful. Her obsession began to control her to the point that she became blinded to all the other great fruit trees God had given her and her husband to enjoy. We all know the result of that obsession (introduced by Satan, by the way…troubling thought as we think about obsessions). That obsession crossed the line to sin (Gen. 3). Then there was this fisherman named Peter who was obsessed with fishing. We know this because when Jesus gave he and his partners a miraculous catch of fish, he counted them… all 153 of them. (John 21:11). This obsession turned into a flood when the going got rough in the ministry. Peter said he was going back to his fishing business…and he did…at least for awhile (John 21:3). Of course there was that business man who was obsessed with making money, so much so, he had to tear down his storage facilities to make bigger ones to accommodate his wealth. Eventually, he discovered that his earthly life was going to end and his soul was not ready for death because he had obsessed about wealth to the exclusion of his spiritual well-being. He left behind all that stuff he was so preoccupied with and lost his soul. (Luke 12:13-21).
So how do we handle our obsessions? There is nothing wrong with loving to cook, or being passionate about fishing, or auto racing, or baseball, basketball, football (ok, for those of you who know me – books!). But obsessions can cross the line.
Here are some suggestions that have helped me handle my own obsessions. And, just so you know, I am a work in progress on this matter.
# 1 – Pray over your obsessions. Isn’t this strategy the very one that God has given us to handle all those temptations and struggles that would pull us off course? Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:18)…If any man lacks wisdom let him ask of God (James 1:5). I have found that something we are not willing to pray about and bring before the Lord is probably something that should be deleted from our lives.
# 2 – Make sure CHRIST is your strongest obsession. What did Paul tell the Philippians? For to me living is Christ and dying is gain (1:21). I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (3:14). Christ should be the one person and the one “thing” that lights up the rooms of my existence down here. He is someone you should never grow tired or weary of. He is the light of the world, the water of life, the bread of life…all those things I look to my obsessions to provide for me.
# 3 – Test your “obsessions” to determine if they are drawing you toward the will of God or pushing you away from the will of God. Is engaging in your passions making it more difficult for you to serve God, sacrifice for His service, and love others for Jesus’ sake? Do these passions reduce your energy and desire to serve the Lord with joy? Or do your “obsessions” refresh you and renew your your spirit so you can continue with joy to offer yourself to Christ? Is your “obsession” a biblically acceptable practice or does God’s word identify it as sin? Remember John’s admonition in his epistle of I John? Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (I John 2:15-17).
# 4 – If your “obsession” has crossed the line to sin, confess it, forsake it, and let the LORD fill that spot you reserved for your “obsession.” Jesus is the one that really gives us the freedom and zest to live life to the full here. We do not need to be under the control of our obsessions to live well, live happily, nor live at peace down here. When our “obsessions” diminish our love for the Lord and his cause, we have crossed the line to sin. Moses was right when he told us to “...love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:5).
# 5 – Enjoy your “obsession” as a gift from God if you can do so under the control of the Spirit of God and with a ready willingness to lay it aside at any moment so your relationships remain God-pleasing and your service remains Christ-centered. Go fishing, enjoy cooking, play that baseball game, get that book (yeh!) but do so in submission to the control of God’s Spirit in the process. Be on guard with your “obsessions” as a potential enemy if not handled by the power of God. God has given us all “things richly to enjoy (I Tim. 6:17), but not to become a preoccupying and dominating power over us. Just remember that Jeremiah warned us that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked and only the Lord can really know them (Jer. 17:9-10). Think it thru