At the start of the new year, my co-workers initiated an eight-week weight loss challenge. I was interested in it right away because I had already decided that I wanted to lose weight and get back to exercising. The plan made me nervous. There was a $20 entry fee. If the weekly challenge wasn’t met, or you gained weight at the weekly weigh-in, there was a $5 fine. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place would receive a portion of the bank. I had mixed emotions. I was nervous to try it, fail, and owe a lot of money. I was also excited because I knew that it might just be what motivated me. I took the plunge and signed up.
It was good. It brought companionship and accountability. I entered not expecting to lose a ton of weight, or to win. Losing weight can be difficult and it is interesting how you can lose weight on days you are not trying as hard and gain weight on days that you are trying. It is an emotional roller coaster. As I look back on it, I really liked the eating plan I chose. I felt great and I had extra energy. I thought I could continue to drink 64+ fluid ounces of water every day and stay on my exercise plan forever. In the end, I got 3rd place. I should have been “wooo-hoooing” but I was disappointed it was the end. Now, I was on my own to eat healthy and exercise. Enter Spring Break: a lot of good food, not enough exercise and a real bad sunburn that laid me up for a few days – what a way to break momentum.
As I was recovering from my sunburn, I considered all that I had gone through and I compared it to how it feels going to church. Being a Christian can be like a roller coaster. It has its highs and lows. Going to church can be like my weight loss challenge. It brings accountability and companionship. The only difference is with church, there is no end date unless you choose it.
I have been going to church my whole life. I have missed very few Sundays. Even on the days that I am dragging to get to church for whatever reason, I am always blessed after I get there. It could be that going to church is such a habit for me that if I am not there, I feel bad. I have met many people who love the Lord but going to church isn’t a habit to them. It is like my weight loss challenge. They want to stay on the plan, they feel good when they are doing it, it brings companionship and accountability, but something happens and they stop. After they stop….it is soooo hard to get started again.
This post isn’t a judgement on those who stop going to church. It is me saying, “I get that the struggle for some is real.” I also want to say: just like your health is important, so is going to church. My parents took me to church every Sunday. I am pretty for sure that their parents took them to church every Sunday. But somewhere down the family line, I am not sure where, some of my ancestors had to make the choice to go to church on a regular basis. Going to church isn’t about having to wear certain clothes or making it a big deal. Going to church isn’t about the show you see when you get there or about being entertained. It isn’t about the money they ask for at offering time. It is about worshipping the Creator of the world through songs, teaching, helping and fellowship. It is remembering the love Jesus showed for you because He died in your place, for your sin. It is where complete strangers are not strangers because you have commonality: Jesus. When you get in the groove, it can be a high. It can be joyous. It is righteous. I love that feeling, but after going to church for 40+ years, I know it is just a feeling. Feelings come and feelings go and then going to church might not feel good anymore. It is so, so important that we don’t listen to our feelings. Hebrews 10: 24 - 25 says: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
For those who are struggling, I wish I could give you a list of ways to make going to church easier. There is really no easy way. I do know that God wants you at church. He wants us to sharpen each other. You might think no one misses you, but your presence is missed. What you could give, what you could get. You will never know. Your presence is a ripple in the water. You may never see it on this side of heaven, but something is always happening. If you just sit back and watch, you can see God working. Echoes of the message that He is teaching you. This Sunday and every Sunday after, remember the important part you play at church. It is not only an important part of your Spiritual health, but the collective Spiritual health of the other members of your church. What I can say is: pray about it. Ask the Lord for help and I hope to see you Sunday.“Happy Easter!” or as I like to say it, “Happy Resurrection Day!”