I probably should not admit this, but I, along with millions of other Americans, have become an avid watcher of the TV program, “American Idol.”

It pulled me in last year, and I vowed that I would resist the next time around. But sure enough – there I am wondering what Simon’s next quip will be. What will Randy say? Will Paula cry?

More interesting than the judges, however, are the contestants themselves. Some do not seem to take the contest very seriously, even thanking the judges after being told, “You’re going home.” For others, however, this opportunity seems to carry “life and death” importance. And that is very disturbing.

In last year’s series, Ryan Seacrest turned to Simon in the final episode and said, “And Simon, tell us what the winner will get.”

Simon snidely responded, “What do they get? What they have always wanted – fame, stardom and a ton of money. It’s what it’s all about!”

What is it with our obsession with fame in America? We all feel entitled to what Andy Warhol once described as “our 15 minutes of fame.”

Many will follow every move of their favorite celebrity in gossip magazines and TV shows. If the celebrity dies, it sometimes proves to be the person’s best career move! Take the worship of Elvis Presley, for instance. In recent years, someone paid nearly $1,500 for a billiard ball from Elvis’ pool table. A hanging macrame plant holder from Graceland – complete with a plastic fern – went for $633. Ebay recently sold three tablespoons of water said to have been touched by the king himself for $455!

Elvis. Jackson. Marilyn. Britney. The names change with the passing of time, but we will always have our idols.

Why is it that we want to admire, emulate, or even worship someone or something? The answer is simple: We were made that way. We are “wired” to worship. The insightful writer of Ecclesiastes in the Bible declares, “[God] has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

From the very beginning, God created us to know, worship, and love him. This is the very reason we exist!

The final book of the Bible, Revelation, depicts what worship looks like in heaven. Those surrounding God’s throne say to him, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11, NLT).

Sadly, many of us do not fulfill this purpose for which we were created. We feel this urge to worship, but we turn our affections toward other things. A recent poll revealed that 61 percent of Americans believe that the main purpose of life is “enjoyment and personal fulfillment.” You need only scan the headlines of several magazines in the grocery store aisle to see this mindset: “Love – How to Keep It Alive”; “Twenty Best Body Makeovers”; “Young, Rich and in Love”; “Ten Simple Keys to a Happy Life.”

So why are we so unhappy?

The words thundered from Mount Sinai so many years ago still ring true – perhaps even more so today: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

When God gave that command years ago, he didn’t make it to put us on a guilt trip. He gave us this directive to show us how to live life to the fullest, as he had intended – in heartfelt devotion to him.

I believe the reason so many of us are unhappy is because we are not doing what we were created to do. We prefer worshipping the things that our Creator created rather than the Creator himself. And we come up short.

It’s much like someone who owns an SUV, but has never done any more “off-roading” than visiting the carwash. That person’s vehicle is not being used for the things it was designed to do. He’s getting by living with the bare minimum when he could be doing so much more – exploring the rugged landscape of the mountains, crossing a snow-covered creek, blazing a trail in a breathtaking countryside.

In reality, whatever we worship in this life – whether it is a bank account full of cash, a perfect physique, a coveted spot on “American Idol,” a longed-for dream of the perfect mate, a sought-after position – will always fall short in filling that “God-shaped void” in our lives. It is a cheap substitute for the real thing.

When John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world, someone asked him, “How much money is enough.” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.” The desire for the temporal is never satisfied.

The prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament almost humorously describes the foolishness of those who follow after “idols” in life: “When someone prays to [an idol], there is no answer. It has no power to get anyone out of trouble” (Isaiah 46:6-7, NLT).

As a pastor, I’ve witnessed a number of deathbed reflections. Not one time have I heard someone cry out for money, plead for more time at the gym, or ask for a promotion at work. Instead, their minds turn to relationships – specifically their relationship with the Almighty.

Here’s the contrast the Bible gives for the one who worships God: “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Which would you prefer? Fifteen minutes of fame and fleeting happiness pursuing American idols – or the joy of pursuing God and the pleasure that comes from living in his presence forever? The choice is ours to make.

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