The last few times I have been to small group, this idea of obedience over sacrifice keeps coming to my mind. I know why it did the first day, because that verse (1 Samuel 15:22) and concept was one of the focal points of the lesson. The second time, however, it had nothing to do with what we were discussing but I just kept thinking about it. In fact, I was thinking about it so much yesterday during small group that I might not have been paying as much attention as I otherwise should have been.
I bring this up today because over the next couple of weeks I have a couple of opportunities to share GOD’s Word with some churches and small groups. In both instances I have been asked to talk about missions and how GOD calls us to sacrifice certain things, and really our own lives to Him (Romans 12).
The problem is that I am really bad at it.
The truth is that the more I get involved in missions the more I realize how difficult it is and the more I think about what a sacrifice should look like the more I realize that I have no idea. I understand in the Old Testament that the verse is very specifically talking about the sacrificial system and how obedience to GOD is more important than simply slaughtering an animal on an altar. But the more I think about sacrifices in our era and culture, the more I realize that most of us have no idea what a sacrifice really is…I certainly don’t.
Then I realize the reason that I don’t really understand sacrifice is because I cannot even get the first thing right…Obedience. Our obedience is the first thing that GOD wants, and He wants it immediately. When Jesus called His disciples, did they ask him to wait for a second while they prayed? When Abram was called by GOD to leave his home and people, did he hesitate? GOD wants our obedience and our obedience leads us to true sacrifice. Here are some things that are not a sacrifice and should not be considered one:
- Eating out only 2 times per week.
- Purchasing a Honda instead of a BMW.
- Tithing to your local church.
- Giving to the ministries that GOD lays on your heart.
- Going on a short term mission trip instead of your yearly vacation.
We really begin to understand sacrifice once we are obedient to GOD on the small things that are clear in scripture. Here are a few examples of small things that we are absolutely called to:
- Sharing the Gospel.
- Taking care of orphans and widows (the helpless in our world).
- Being involved in a local church (emphasis on involved).
I understand why people want Jess and I to speak on sacrifice and what it looks like. From our limited perspective, moving and ministering in Haiti, adopting children, living without comforts, taking a large pay cut, etc. seem like sacrifices. But they are not, they are simply acts of obedience, and they are just pretty noticeable and “showy” acts of obedience that we get credit for just because people know about them. The real obedience comes in the small, everyday relationship that we have with Christ, and when we start to get that right then we can start talking about what real sacrifice looks like.
The good thing about leading Bible Studies and preaching on things that you struggle with is that oftentimes you can speak better from a position of weakness and learning than you can from a position of strength. It is from these positions that GOD can more easily set us aside and speak through us. Trust me when I say that is a good thing, because I know right now I am still learning the simple act of obedience and I hope one day to begin to understand what true sacrifice looks like. In the mean time, I can rest in the knowledge that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough and while I cannot really understand the term, I can live in the shadow of the cross…The ultimate sacrifice.