Sunday, January 16, 2005

What About Sacrifice?

This past week I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice. Last Sunday evening, I heard a great lesson about the importance of sacrifice, and I suppose that I heard that lesson for a reason because it's stuck with me all week.

"Sacrifice", by and large, is not some warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely word. It's hard, painful, difficult to comprehend and even more difficult, at times, to carry out. And yet it's something we should do.

Paul says in Romans 12:1, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."

It's a somewhat sobering verse. I usually think of "worship" as singing, praising God, prayer, etc. Very rarely do I consider sacrficing myself as a means of worshiping God. But isn't laying aside your own desires for someone else the ultimate act of worship? Perhaps it's such a meaningful act because it's so hard to do. Long ago I heard a saying that went something like this: "The problem with a living sacrifice is that the sacrifice keeps getting up off the altar." How true.

This week as I pondered the implications of sacrifice, I thought about some of the desires of my heart. While they are not necessarily bad or wrong or sinful desires, in many ways they occupy my mind and take my mind off of God. Some of these unfulfilled desires I've prayed about for a long time, years in some cases, and for whatever reasons they have yet to be fulfilled. Many times I've asked God--pleaded with Him--to take away these desires, in part to relieve the suffering over dreams that are not coming true, but also because sometimes I feel like I am wasting too much time and energy wishing for them to come true.

For the most part, though, God has not removed or even reduced these desires. It occurred to me after hearing about sacrfice that, maybe, instead of God removing these desires from me, He is waiting for me to give them up to Him. Truth be told, I'd rather God just quietly and painlessly remove my desires while I'm sleeping, so that when I wake up I'm desire-free and have nothing to distract me from Him. But that wouldn't be much of a sacrifice, would it?

I decided last week that I'd make a conscious effort to set aside those dreams that my mind can wander toward too often, and to turn my mind toward God. It hasn't been easy. I have a tendency to daydream, and this past week my mind was especially tested as I had to sit through some excruciatingly boring meetings at my conference. But I'm finding that the more attention I turn towards God, the less pain there is in those unfulfilled dreams.

I want to be at the point of being able to freely hand over the reins of my heart to God and be willing to sacrifice all of my life's dreams and desires for whatever He wants for me. I wish I could say I'm there--I'm not yet.

Anyone else struggling with sacrifice? What practical steps have you taken/are you taking? What have you learned through sacrifice?

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