Worth the Effort

I just returned from doing what may be my least favorite thing on earth: submitting my precious blood before an annual exam next week. Whenever we have blood drives here at the church, my public excuse for never signing up is because I lived in England a decade ago and my blood is not welcome (it's true). Good for me-- that way I can hide the reality: I am an absolute wimp when it comes to giving blood. The stuff freaks me out. Particularly when it's mine.

So driving to the doctor's office was accompanied by a profound sense of dread. I tried thinking of excuses to skip it, but knew the wrath from Christy would be severe. Reluctantly, and miraculously, without complaining, I pulled into the parking lot, walked up the stairs, signed in, and was called back. And then it was over. The woman doing the bloodwork was an absolute star. I was out of there in less than a minute. All the wimpiness and stress was for nothing. It probably will still take hold of me next year, but at least I know 2010 was a breeze.

Next week I'll sit down with the doctor to review the results. I can already hear it: exercise more, eat less junk, de-stress my life. Yep. Stuff I know I should be doing anyway I'll be reminded to do again. As I said last week in the message, personal responsibility is the key to good health.

As I drove to the doctor's office, I thought about the other areas of my life in which personal responsibility makes all the difference. It's just about everywhere, right? This being less than 48 hours from Sunday, I considered my spiritual life. My relationship with God is dependent on my own action, my responsibility. It's up to me to make it happen-- or not. So when I feel distant from God and other Christians, the question I need to ask is not "What's wrong with God or them?"; it's "What's going on with me?"

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, charged the early Methodists to "attend to the ordinances of God," meaning keeping in shape by observing certain practices: regular worship; Bible study; taking the Lord's Supper as often as possible; fasting and prayer. We'll hear more about these disciplines of faith in the sermon series for Lent, beginning February 21. But for today, let's ask the question: "What am I doing-- or not doing-- to strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ?"

My annual checkup is not something I look forward to-- especially the blood test. But it turns out, at least for this year, that the smallest amount of effort yielded fairly awesome results! Do you think the same would be true of God? Do you believe that if you observed the minimum God would still give you grace? And what if we did maximum effort for God? What would happen? Would we experience better health? Would we be happier? Would we feel less alone and more connected-- not just with God but with each other? Are we being personally responsible for our relationship with God? If not, this Sunday is a great time to start!