I am a father of four kids, but our kids have never played sports. By most people’s definition of parenting, that makes me a bad father. I know. But, when I was in high school, I played football for two years. Not consecutively. And by played football, I really mean I practiced football with a team but never got to play.
Which is crazy when you think about it. There’s the conditioning that you start toward the end of the school year and carry on throughout the summer. The weight training. Then the first practices then two-a-day practices. Then practice every evening during the season. Plus games and traveling. All that to stand on the sidelines and watch. There’s a word for that. But that’s not the word.
Do you know what would have happened if, even though I never got to play in the game, I stopped coming to practices? We can’t really even imagine it because it’s unthinkable. If you don’t come to practice, you’re off the team. Pretty simple. Even if you’re a third-stringer, you have to come to practice. If you’re injured, you still come to practice and stand on the sidelines during the game.
Can you imagine if you were playing a truly competitive sport but you showed up for that sport the same way you show up in your walk with God? If you showed up for practice the way you show up for church, what would happen? Would you be kicked off the team or put in the game?
A lot of families are ridiculously committed to youth sports programs for their kids. Can you imagine if you showed up for those sports the same way you showed up for your relationship with God? Without getting on my soapbox about the youth sports billion dollar machine, I think it’s pretty safe to say many Christians are more committed to their kids’ youth sports programs than they are their churches.
And that’s the scary word. Commitment.
I know you’re probably thinking, “I’m glad I don’t go to this guy’s church!” That may be true. But I can guarantee your pastor feels the same frustration even if he doesn’t express it. And I’m not just talking about youth sports. I’m talking about our general over-commitment to everything in life save for the one most important thing that requires complete dedication.
I know the excuses. As a pastor, I’ve heard them all. Jesus knew the excuses, too. You can read His response to excuses in Luke 14:15-24.
Our lives are spinning out of control, most of us running at an unsustainable pace. And we’re minimizing the one thing that is the only thing able to hold our lives together. The enemy is smart, and right now, he’s winning. He doesn’t need us to turn our backs on God. He just needs to keep us distracted from becoming like Him. And it’s working.
In fact, there is a lot of research on something called “ego depletion” and more specifically “decision fatigue” (Read more here. Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making.
Decision fatigue is a tactic employed by all media outlets and corporations to get us overwhelmed so that we make irresponsible decisions. One study suggests that people spend between 3-4 hours a day resisting desires that are stirred up by their environments. We spend so much energy resisting temptations of all kinds because of our over-connected society that we have no ability to make good decisions.
What does this have to do with commitment? Willpower. It seems that willpower is a finite resource. We can only resist so much throughout the day. We can only use willpower to do the right things for so long on any given day.
So we find ourselves committing to things that get to us first instead of the things we need the most. And because we’re over-committed in every area of life, when God asks us to be committed to Him, we don’t have the bandwidth to make the right decision.
This field of study has also uncovered the idea that 100% commitment is easier than 98% commitment. It’s actually easier on your brain (and doesn’t tax your willpower or decision making resources) to be 100% committed than it is to be 98% committed. That 2% kills you. It wears you down.
There are plenty of areas of our lives where we would 98% commitment is unacceptable. If your spouse was only faithful 98% of the time, you’d have a problem. If your TV was only in English 98% of the time and was in Latin 2% of the time, you probably wouldn’t be too happy. If a plane only landed 98% of the time, you wouldn’t ride it.
If you’re 98% committed to being at church on Sunday, when you wake up on Sunday morning, you still have to decide if you’re going to be there. And if you get on social media or watch TV, you start depleting your willpower reserves, and before you know it, you’ve spent the day watching reruns of The Office.
But, if you’re 100% committed to being at church on Sunday, when you wake up on Sunday morning, all of your energy is spent getting ready for what you’ve already decided to do.
What if, in every aspect of our walk with God, from going to church to reading our Bibles, praying, fellowship and so one, we just became 100% committed to God’s best for our lives? And what if we started making our decisions around our commitment to God instead of trying to cram God into our lives around our other commitments?
Because whatever we’re most committed to is actually lord of our lives. So who is Lord of your life? Jesus or your boss? Jesus or your job? Jesus or your kids’ soccer coach?
Featured Image by Adrià Crehuet Cano