I had the privilege of spending the past few days at a workshop for pastors on how the church can be a more effective tool in working for peace in their local communities. It was an interesting topic, and I heard a lot of good information - but I think my favorite part of the workshop was when the speakers took time to share some of their own, personal journey of walking with God.
However, one of the speakers made a comment that really stuck with me, as she opened up her time by saying: “Before I was a Christian, I had an unbelievable life - making lots of money, going to exclusive parties, and traveling the world. But I gave it all up to follow Christ!” To be honest, the comment left me a little confused, as it sounded like she really enjoyed her life before coming to Christ, and therefore, was regretting having to “give up” so much to follow Him. But as she continued to talk, and share her life and her ministry experiences, I could tell that she was very happy in the non-profit work she is doing in a high-poverty community. So that’s where the confusion came in, because I wasn't sure why she would regret giving up her former life.
As I pondered that, it occurred to me that her comments reflect an attitude that we can all easily fall into: thinking that we've sacrificed in order to follow God. Here's what I mean - when we become Christians, there are changes in our lives. And depending on our lifestyle, many of us give up doing many of the things we used to do. But when we stop to think about it, what did we really give up? Sin and selfishness. And what did we give it up for? Forgiveness of sin, freedom from the enemy's hold on us, power to live how God has called us to live, peace with our Creator, and life everlasting. From that perspective, it doesn't seem like we've “sacrificed” anything at all. Instead, we've traded something awful, for something amazing.
The Apostle Paul makes this point in Philippians 3:7-8, where he writes, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” What Paul's saying here is that the stuff that used to be important - the stuff he valued before knowing Christ - seemed worthless once he knew Christ. And he gladly continued to give it up because of what He gained from knowing Christ. In other words, when it comes to following God, there is nothing in this life that is more valuable than what He offers us.
Not only does this challenge our attitudes toward serving God, but it should also help us keep our priorities in check. It's a reminder that we need to regularly ask ourselves, “Is this thing that I'm doing slowing me down, or speeding me up in my walk with God?” Because if there's anything in our lives that's keeping us from an intimate, honest relationship with God, we need to “count it as worthless, and get it out of our lives.
So today, let's ask God to remind us of all that He's given us through the death and resurrection of His Son. And then, let's allow that knowledge to guide us as we consider our priorities - and how those priorities lead to actions. And if there's anything that we need to discard so that we can pursue God more fully, let's ask God to help us do that - knowing that anything we give up is nothing compared to what God graciously gives in return.