I have four different apps on my phone that are designed to help me get healthy and fit and lose weight.
One of them is a weekly meal plan full of healthy, high protein, low calorie dinner options. It comes complete with a grocery store list and nutritional information for each meal.
One of them connects with a wristband to track my steps and even monitors my sleeping habits.
One is designed to track my calories eaten and burned each day. It is like a social network to connect me with others who are working on the same thing.
The last, I use when hiking or running to track my speed and distance.
I have all the tools I need. I have a goal in mind. And yet, somehow I have gained five or six pounds since I moved to Des Moines.
Fundamentally, my lack of success has nothing to do with the tools at my disposal and everything to do with the fact that this goal is not a priority in my life. I am not willing to put it above all else. I’m not willing to let this goal change other aspects of my life. I know that to succeed, this priority is going to affect the amount of sleep I get and it will mean spending more money for healthier food options. It will reduce the time I spend watching my favorite t.v. shows and even require that I cook more meals at home instead of enjoying my husband’s super delicious, fatty, carb-filled dinners.
The truth is, you can have all the tools in the world and all the best intention, but until you lay out a plan, build in some accountability, and actually make the commitment to do whatever it takes to reach that goal… then nothing about your habits or lifestyle or physical body will change.
In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus shares with us an extraordinarily difficult challenge. “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters – yes, even one’s own life – cannot be my disciple.” He asks us to “give up all of your possessions” in order to follow him.
Jesus isn’t asking you to turn right now to your loved one and treat them badly. He’s not asking you to leave home. He’s asking each one of us to take seriously the call to be his disciple and helping us to see that our intentions don’t really matter. Until we lay out a plan, build in some accountability and actually make the commitment to do whatever it takes to follow him, then our habits and lifestyle will never change.
Last week, we were reminded that the things of this world are impermanent and shaky at best. We heard the call to place our belief and our trust firmly on God and I’m sure a whole lot of us left worship last week thinking, YES! That’s what I need to do! That’s the kind of faith I want to have.
“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness”
“Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Yes Lord!”
And yet, just like all of my good intentions about exercise and health, we have to be willing to let those words move from intentions and goals into an actual concrete plan that demonstrates commitment and sacrifice.
In your bulletins each week during this series, you will find a green insert that highlight some of the lessons we cover each week in the “Enough” study. I want to invite you to take that sheet out right now.
Today’s insert invites you to think about what God is calling you to be and to do. I want us to look at the side that talks about goals.
If God is our rock and foundation…
If God is the creator of our lives…
If Jesus Christ is calling us to follow…
Then, what are you supposed to be doing with your life? What is your purpose?
For very few of us, that calling involves some sort of professional ministry. And to answer that call took planning and commitment, money and time.
Most of us here in this room today, however, have a much higher and more difficult calling. You have been called to be lay persons in the church. You have been called to live out your discipleship where you are. At the office, on the soccer field, on the production line and in the classroom.
Sometimes, the work you give yourself to matches up with that call to live out your discipleship. Some of you could share how the act of caring for patients or helping someone plan for their financial future is your ministry.
Sometimes, however, our work simply provides the resources that allow us to live out our discipleship in other ways. We spend our retirement caring for neighbors and loved ones. We teach lessons and music to our little ones at the church. We volunteer with community agencies.
What gifts has God given you?
What is your purpose?
What is God calling you to do?
And once you have figured that out…
are you willing to sit down and count the cost?
Are you willing to give whatever it takes to get there?
Will you let God’s plans trump your plans?
One of the greatest adventures of my life was to engage in the work of Imagine No Malaria over the past two years.
Answering that call was extraordinarily difficult. After all… I already had a calling – to be a pastor, serving in a church. But I also began to see how my gifts tied in with what we needed here in Iowa… what we needed to accomplish what God was calling us to do.
I also discovered that God had some lessons for me along the way: the primary lesson being that when we have a mission and a calling, we have to do whatever it takes to get there.
Henri Nouwen writes that the work of “fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission… We are declaring, ‘We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources God has given you – your energy, your prayers, and your money – in this work to which God has called us.’”
And all along the way, I witnessed people who caught that vision and heard the calling from God to end this preventable, beatable disease. And they made sacrifices to help other people live. Some families gave up cable t.v. to make a monthly gift. A nurse quit her job to work on our grassroots campaign. Lots of people made a significant three-year commitment to give to this work. One little girl gave all of her birthday money to help save the lives of kids just like her.
And we did that, because we counted the cost and we were willing to give whatever it took to make the goal of saving 200,000 lives a reality.
What is your purpose?
What is God calling you to do?
Once we answer that question, then we think about those things that are going to help us get there. Then we can think about the spiritual goals and the financial goals and the steps along the way that will help us to say “Yes” to God and set our own plans aside.
On the other side of this green insert is a budgeting worksheet. It helps us to gain an accurate picture of the priorities in our lives based on our spending and helps us reorient our financial priorities based on those goals and that purpose that is on the other side.
I have a friend and a colleague who recently shared that he used a budget just like this to help him make some big changes in his family. As he and his wife started plugging in the numbers, they were shocked by how much they were spending on transportation. My friend had just bought a new truck and while it was beautiful, the payments were hefty and it was a gas guzzler. And he hardly ever used it as a truck. When compared with the amount of money they were giving to the church and using to help prepare for the new baby on the way, they realized that if they were going to truly give to God and set a good example for their new child, the truck had to go. They sold it and bought a more affordable car. They allowed their spiritual priorities guide their financial decisions.
But I also want to emphasize that this accounting we do in our lives needs to cover more than just our finances.
What would happen if we did this same accounting of our time?
Where are you spending your time and energy?
Does it reflect your calling?
What do you need to let go of in order to give more time to God’s purpose for your life?
Jesus knows that discipleship isn’t easy. He knows that to follow him requires sacrifice… a giving of ourselves and a letting go of our wants and desires.
Jesus knows, because he has been there.
He counted the costs. He weighed the options. And he knew what it would take.
And today, he asks you to do the same.
He’s asking each one of us to take seriously the call to be his disciple. He is asking us to count the cost, lay out a plan, and actually make the commitment to do whatever it takes to follow him. When we do so and when we hold one another accountable to the choices we have made, then our lives will truly be transformed.