Keep Swimming Upstream

Dan Lovaglia, Camp Pastor, Camp Paradise | September 7, 2023

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1  


“This time, it’s going to stick.” I’ve declared this to myself more times than I can count. I’ve prayed it. I’ve journaled it. I’ve even said it out loud, hoping that will make it true. It doesn’t matter if I’m turning the dial up on reading or working out more regularly, or committing to loving, forgiving, and celebrating regularly in response to God’s favor. The fact is, on my own, I have a strong track record for starting on a new path and ending in the same old pattern.

We’ve been digging into Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son for five weeks now. Part of me is excited about what I’ve discovered about the heavenly Father’s love and eager to respond with gratitude. After all, the younger son turned completely around and was welcomed home with wide open arms. And the older brother wasn’t scolded for being bitter, rather, he was invited inside to forgive and party.

This picture of life in God’s family and the reality of heaven is worthy of constant, daily, lifelong praise. Both sons had the opportunity, and reasons, to honor the heavenly Father fully with their lives moving forward. But, as hard as it is to admit, I know that without someone challenging me to think, feel, and respond differently, I’ll naturally drift downstream more focused on myself instead of who God is, what He’s done, and how worthy He is of my worship. I need someone to tell me, “Keep swimming upstream,” and I bet you do too.

In Romans 12:1, Paul calls us all out, not with a command but with a challenge. He starts by urging us—exhorting, beseeching, strongly encouraging us—to keep swimming upstream from the way of the world. Our worship is intended to be a full-on way of life moving forward as followers of Jesus. Because we’ve been forgiven and renewed by God, how can we help but honor Him with our whole being? We don’t worship to get the Lord’s favor; it’s already given freely. Way beyond showing up on Sunday, singing a few songs, hearing Scripture taught, and going out for brunch, we’re charged by Paul to be living sacrifices all week long, week after week, year after year, until the Lord returns.

Next Steps 

If we want worship as a way of life to stick, you and I need consistent encouragement to avoid staying stuck in a rut. Talk with a friend about how to live out worship of God daily, not just on Sunday.