By Nate Champneys
Over this past summer I joined a gym. This was a big step for me, as I have never really been to the gym before. And it’s funny, as I took in the whole gym experience as an outsider who also happens to be a pastor, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Church.
I have been in church my whole life, so I will never be able to experience it as an outsider. Even when I visit a new church, it’s still the Church, and I pretty much know what to expect. I can talk the lingo and I can fit right in at just about any church I walk into. But after my first visit to the gym, I thought to myself, “This must be what people feel like who come to church for the first time in their life.”
I felt like an idiot going into the gym. I had no clue what I was doing. It was rather uncomfortable. I walked up to the front counter and said, “Uh, I’d like to join.” They had me fill out a few papers, and five minutes later I was in. I walked in and I looked out across an ocean of equipment. There was a huge room with adjoining rooms with station after station of free weights and machines, some I mostly recognized and others I had no clue about. Treadmills and stationary bikes. Stair machines and bench presses. Everyone there seemed to know exactly what they were doing. It was completely normal to them and completely abnormal to me.
As I worked out over my first few weeks, it became very clear that, to some people, this was their life and everything revolved around the gym. They were there multiple hours every day, and their bodies looked like they might never leave this place. Some of them looked like they could break me in half. These people were fit! But there were also others like me, people who came whenever they had time. To us, we went to the gym not because we enjoyed it but because we knew we needed some exercise.
And this is perfectly fine right? “Different strokes for different folks,” as they say. Many things in life are like this. One thing for some people can become the object around which everything in life is structured, and for others it is simply another thing further down their list of priorities, if it’s even a priority at all. The differences between people can be funny, and sometimes even frustrating, but this part of human nature was very deliberately created for a specific purpose within the community of faith. Romans 12 makes it clear that we are supposed to be different from each other. Some of us are passionate about teaching. Others of us are not. God created our differences, and no one is more important than the other.
BUT, there is a huge difference between our passionate pursuit of what we are gifted and talented at and a passionate pursuit of a relationship with God. Unlike my relationship with the gym, with God it cannot be a “whenever I get to it” mentality. Jesus said, “Be either hot or cold, but if you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15). In our pursuit of Him, He wants it to be all or nothing. Living in our culture, it’s easy to lose sight of this. For many, the Church seems to be just another membership, much like the gym. Yes, some people make it their life, but many others have this mindset: “If I have time between work, family, camping, and my kids’ sports, then I will fit it into my life.”
Think of your life as a generic power strip. You choose what you are going to plug in; you only have so many spots because you only have so many resources. You may plug in a spouse, family, work, sports, a hobby (e.g., the gym), entertainment, or travel. The reality is that we have limited time, energy, and finances at our disposal, and many times God gets pushed to the last and final spot in the line, or He’s even removed altogether.
Before our lives in Christ, this power strip analogy was perfect. Back then it was our life and we lived it for ourselves, but as Christians this analogy is completely backwards. We like to think that our lives are just that: our lives. However, Paul tells us the opposite in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.” God bought your life. He doesn’t want to simply be another part of your life, just another cord to plug in. You cannot simply “plug in” God next to your spouse, kids, work, or hobby and think that He is simply another cord. God is the source of all power. He IS the power strip. He gave you your life and He has asked you to give it back to Him. So the question is now, what does He desire you to devote HIS resources to? Spouse? Kids? Education? Work? Hobbies? Ministry? These are not bad things. They are actually great things. But just what is your number one priority? Are you living your life as though it is your own, or are you living your life as though it is the life that God purchased? God has said to us, “Love me with all your heart, soul, strength and mind” (Luke 10:27).
What does it mean to have God be number one? What does it mean for Him to be the Sun that your life revolves around? Take a look at your life. Think about what all your time, your physical and mental energy, and your money is devoted to. Whose life are you living?
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:1-4, 17)