Recently I was on a video conference call with a group of folks who work at different charities and non-profits in our church neighborhood. There was a young woman on the conference call who was new to the group, and so she was asked to tell the group a little bit about herself. She gave us a few statistical pieces of information about where she was from, and where she went to school. Then she made a fairly dramatic statement, 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!” The comment left me a little confused because it sounded like she really enjoyed her life before coming to Christ, and therefore, was regretting giving up so much to follow Him. At the same time, I know this woman is very happy in the non-profit work she's doing in the neighborhood, because she’s said so in other encounters. So why does she seem to regret giving up her former life?
As I pondered that, it occurred to me that her comments reflect an attitude that we can all fall into, and that is, thinking we've been the ones who’ve sacrificed in order to follow God. Here’s what I mean by that: 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. So we can feel like we’ve had to hand over things to follow God that we’d really rather hang onto. 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 is saying here is that the stuff that used to be important to him - the stuff he valued before knowing Christ - is not only useless now, but undesirable. And so he gladly gives it up because of what He gains from knowing Christ. In other words, when it comes to following God, there is absolutely nothing in this life that is more valuable than what He offers us.
Not only is this a challenge to our attitudes towards serving God, but it's also a challenge to keep our priorities in check. It’s a reminder that we need to regularly ask ourselves, “Is this thing that I'm doing or pursing slowing me down, or speeding me up in my walk with God?” Because if there's anything 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.