“How much do you sacrifice for the Kingdom of God?” It was a profound question asked by the pastor during the Sunday morning message. The challenge was to live with a Kingdom mindset, passionately putting others’ interests above our own. It caused me to examine my life.
I began to wonder if there is any area that I truly sacrifice. Certainly I try to live in obedience to the Lord and have an open heart to the needs of others. But most of the time it doesn’t feel inconvenient or like a burden. I tithe ten percent of my income and give extra as the Lord leads, but it is a blessing for me. Is that sacrifice? Can sacrifice be sacrifice if it doesn’t hurt? I spent some time prayerfully searching the Scriptures for answers.
This is what I believe: Sacrifice doesn’t have to hurt.
Of course I agree with the concept of sacrifice. After all, sacrifice is a recurring theme in the Bible. Sometimes we get the idea that sacrifice must be painful, or, at the very least, uncomfortable. There is no doubt that the Old Testament sacrifices involving animals were painful for the animals. However, for those who believe that Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice given once for all, sacrifice takes on a different flavor.
Romans 12:2 says, “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.”
To interpret the passage, it’s important to know that “bodies” refer to the whole person—spirit, soul, mind, will, and emotions—as embodied individuals.
Because of the final blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike belong together as the people of God. In response, we offer our entire selves in an attitude of thanksgiving as people spiritually alive, in active relationship with Him.
As I look at the responses of the early Church leaders to sacrifice and suffering, they mirror thanksgiving and joy.
The Apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name (Acts 5:41, NIV).
Wait a minute, they had just been flogged for preaching the Gospel.
At about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and signing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).
Really?! They had just been attacked, flogged, and unjustly thrown into prison.
If it were me, I’m afraid my response might be something like this.
“Oh, Lord, look at me Your humble servant. Do you see how much I am sacrificing for Your Name? Gloom, despair, and agony on me. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all (insert dramatic moaning). I think I’ve sacrificed enough for a life time. Would you please give me a place to live on Easy Street?”
Thankfully my responses haven’t been recorded for everyone to read.
I believe that we can pay so much attention to the acts of sacrifice that we lose sight of what it means to live a surrendered life. Sacrifice by itself is empty. Sacrifice can look impressive, but if it does not flow from surrender the motivation is selfish and the results fleeting.
Surrender is the root; sacrifice is the fruit.
When we surrender ourselves to the Lord, we give the control and use of our lives to Him. All of our time and resources belong to Him. We live with a constant realization that everything we are is a gift from Him, and we offer it all back in worship to Him.
When we are surrendered to Jesus, sacrifice is not drudgery. Not always easy, not always comfortable, but never drudgery. There is freedom and joy to sacrifice—to give up something, because something else is more important. What is more important than loving and serving people, so that they experience the love of God?
When sacrifice feels painful or when resentments begin to surface, it’s time to examine our hearts again. We thrive when we are fully surrendered to Jesus. Sacrifice is a glorious by-product.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:16).
Heavenly Father, I give my life to you anew. Help me by Your Holy Spirit to live a surrendered life before you. As I surrender, may sacrifice flow with love and joy. Use me to sacrifice so that people are touched by Your love. Let me be Your hands, feet, and heart to others, so that Your Kingdom is built. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.