The life of sacrifice can war against our natural desires and proclivities for a life of comfort, gratification, and security. It can be painful sometimes when you’re dying daily, as Paul so well put it, when you’re burning your life out on the altar of sacrifice. Sometimes you might get to the point where you say to yourself, “What in the world am I doing? This hurts!”
It really is important that we ask ourselves why it is that we’re willing to make the kind of sacrifices the Lord asks of us.
Facing this question also serves as a reminder about some of the great men and women of God, our forefathers in the faith, and what they endured and gave during their lifetime.
King David said, “Neither will I offer offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.”1 It could be interpreted that he was saying that it was his expectation that what he gave to the Lord would cost him.
Where does that kind of strength to sacrifice come from? The apostle Paul summed it up pretty succinctly when he said, “The love of Christ constraineth me.”2 The love of Christ compels me.
Our love for Jesus, and His love for us, are what can motivate us to live a life for Him. Nothing else is strong enough or compelling enough to justify the sacrifices. Only a deep and abiding love for Jesus will inspire us to want to be like Him and follow in His footsteps in living a life of love and service for others, which ultimately means living a life of sacrifice.
If we try to live a sacrificial life for any other reason, or if our motivation is anything other than a simple but solid love for Jesus, then it’s probably not going to last.
At times, being asked by the Lord to make a sacrifice will test our values, our convictions, and our faith, and what will make us strong enough to withstand such a test is our love for the Lord. As we seek to fulfill the Lord’s will for our lives and to pattern our lives after His example and Word, our motivation to give our lives in service for Him and others will grow and be strengthened.
It’s also important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we love Him because He first loved us. We’re living our lives for Jesus because we love Him, but we also live for Him out of gratitude for what He gave us—His life. The Bible calls our sacrifices our “reasonable duty.” We’re actually trying to pay back a debt we owe the Lord, which of course we know we can never do. But we’re grateful to try.
This quote from David Livingstone sums it up very well:
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, forgoing the common conveniences of this life—these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.—David Livingstone
Another good reminder of why we live this life of service is, as the apostle Peter put it: “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”3 That might not be the most comforting reason for making sacrifices for the Lord and others—because we feel we have no alternative—but for the dedicated, active Christian who understands God’s Word and what it is calling us to do, we can’t deny that compulsion we feel inside to serve, to keep going, to keep giving, to keep denying ourselves and living the life of service, as difficult and as uncomfortable as it may be at times.
We have a purpose in life which we feel very passionate about fulfilling, and although sacrifice doesn’t always feel good and at times we might wish there was some way to squirm out of it, we can’t really, because we love the Lord. So what’s the alternative? To whom shall we go?
This doesn’t mean that we’re resigning ourselves to a life of continual sacrifice. We might go through cycles, where at times the Lord asks more of us and at times less. He understands that this life is not easy and continual sacrifice, without times of reprieve, would likely wear us out. No one can keep pouring out and giving of themselves, day in and day out, year after year, without some periods of rest and reprieve, which the Lord is happy to give us. But overall we have made a conscious decision to “endure hardness.”4
There are no easy paths and no simple, casual, risk-free ways to unusual accomplishment. Everything in life that is really worth something is going to cost us—a lot! This is why it’s so important that we truly believe in what we’re trying to accomplish here in this life, because without the heavenly vision, none of this would make sense. For someone who is not a Christian or who doesn’t have their eyes fixed on the life to come, the earth life is the sum total of their existence. They sacrifice for the temporal and they reap the temporal.
We know that everyone has to make sacrifices in life. Whether adult or child, male or female, young or old, religious or nonreligious, wealthy or poor, the concept of sacrifice—of giving something to gain something—is the same the world over. People make all kinds of sacrifices for what they believe in.
As Christians who understand the greater purpose and meaning of life, we realize that our existence spans beyond the earth life. Therefore, we’re wisely sacrificing here and now in love and gratefulness to the one who gave His life for us so that we can live in His presence for all eternity and reap eternal rewards there and then.
The Bible tells us that “every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands [or anything you’ve had to or will yet give up for the Lord], for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”5 So there is payback. There are returns for our sacrifices, which means that the definition of sacrifice, applicable to Christians, is not “loss” but rather, we’re “giving up something valuable (our lives), for something we consider to be of more value or importance.” That seems to be the more accurate depiction of the faith life.
Knowing this is how David Livingstone was able to say, “I never made a sacrifice.” Because not only are we trying to give back to the Lord all that He has given us with eternal life, but on top of it, He’s going to repay us for our sacrifices a hundredfold.
The life of an active Christian may not always be comfortable in lifestyle, but it is solid and stable in spirit, more stable than anything else, because it has the Lord as its foundation, and He’s the only one strong enough, stable enough, and reliable enough to give the promise of, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,”6 and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”7
No one else can promise that. There is no other guarantee like that in the universe. That is the guarantee of a Christian. That is the “God Factor” that you can believe in, trust in, and even stake your life on.
For more articles from the Roadmap series, visit Anchor.
1 2 Samuel 24:24.
2 2 Corinthians 5:14.
3 John 6:68.
4 2 Timothy 2:3.
5 Matthew 19:29.
6 Matthew 28:20.
7 Hebrews 13:5.