ELDER: Be as enthusiastic at church as you are at the game

Last Sunday following the morning worship service I was talking with some of the parishioners when my 4-year-old grandson went zooming past like a rocket. In spite of his having been told not to run in church, a few minutes later he came flying by again. I suppose he was letting out energy after having been cooped up in the nursery for an hour. As several of us commented about our desire to have such vigor, my mind went back to the previous day.

That same grandson is playing soccer for the first time this spring. Although his team is doing quite well, Joshua hasn't fully gotten into the game yet. He is improving, getting in a few kicks during the last contest. He runs around and follows the action for the most part, but he doesn't move very fast. He seems to shuffle around on the field, especially compared to the way he was zipping through the church building after our service. Maybe the next time he's out on the soccer field I should holler out, "Joshua, run like you were in church!"

I wonder if God sometimes views our actions similarly, albeit in the opposite direction. He sees how much zeal we express as we cheer for our favorite basketball team in the Final Four or as we urge the Braves to have a banner year. But then we get to church and are afraid to say "Amen" or to sing loudly enough to be heard. Maybe God wants to holler out at us, "Be enthusiastic, as if you were at a ballgame!"

If we would listen, maybe we would hear several such admonitions from the Lord. "Exercise your soul to health and godliness, like you regularly exercise your body." "Give time and energy to serve Me in some way, like you do when involved in your hobby!" "Be as quick and consistent to talk to Me as you are in calling up your best friend." Or "make sure to read My Word each day as faithfully as you watch your favorite TV show."

The prophet Haggai had a similar word from the Lord for the people of Israel. After they returned from their captivity in Babylon, the temple lay in ruins. Original intentions to rebuild it had been forsaken and neglected for various reasons over time. In the meantime the people were busy rebuilding their own homes, sometimes extravagantly. Finally God spoke through Haggai about the need to get back to the important project of reconstructing the temple. He said, more or less, "Rebuild My house, like you were rebuilding your houses! Use that same time, energy, and resources to do My work!" Fortunately the people listened and renewed their work on God's house.

Is God trying to get across a similar message to us today? If so, we should realize that it goes deeper than our actions. Our actions reflect what's in our hearts. It's about what we consider important, what we desire, and whom we love. What's more important to us - the winning of a ballgame or the winning of souls into the kingdom of God? What do we want more - to try to know as much as we can about our favorite celebrity or to try to know all we can about God and His will for us? And whom do we love most? Do we love the Lord with all our heart and soul?

When it comes to our relationship with God, let's love Him like we love our spouse. Let's worship Him with more zeal than we have for anything else in this world. Let's serve Him with the best of our time and energy, not with our leftovers.

As we walk with God, let's run as if we were an energetic little boy in church.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Rockdale Evangelical Methodist Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.