Christian, what are you willing to sacrifice for God? Most of us would immediately respond to that question with a resounding “everything!” But is that really true?
Maybe you think that question is theoretical and unlikely to ever happen. Maybe you believe that if you are ever put in a position where you have to make a difficult sacrifice for God, then you will make whatever sacrifice is required. But will you? The way you live your life currently gives a pretty good indication of how that scenario will play out when theory becomes reality. If you aren’t willing to make a small sacrifice now, then in all likelihood you won’t be willing to make a bigger sacrifice later.
As New Testament believers we are under grace and not under law. But what does that mean? Does it mean that because we have experienced the grace of God that now we can live any way that we want? I’ll use the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:15: God forbid! In no way did grace pave the way for a life of ease and self-fulfillment. In fact, it is just the opposite. The life of grace by definition is a life of sacrifice.
The only reason we can receive and live in the grace of God is because of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made. Romans 3:23-24 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Without the sacrifice that Jesus made, we would not be able to be justified by His free gift of grace. We would not be able to, as author Ashley Danielle expresses it, swim in God’s ocean of grace.
Was sacrifice required of Jesus but not of His followers? In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” In our modern culture, the cross is a thing of beauty because an empty one symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, in the culture in which Luke 9 was written, the cross was a symbol of death. Jesus was saying that two things would be required of ALL of His followers: self-denial and daily death.
When you deny yourself and pick up your cross, your personal agenda is laid down. The road you carry that cross on is God’s will for your life – which, by the way, is so much bigger and better than anything you could dream up yourself. Your puny plans pail in comparison to the God-sized plans He has in mind. If we truly believe what the Bible teaches, then we cannot deny that we must be willing to give up anything and everything for the sake of the kingdom – including our hopes, dreams, and expectations.
I believe our unwillingness to sacrifice all for Him is clearly demonstrated in our actions in a key area: our children. We will give up anything He asks of us except our plans for them. What makes me say this? Because I see the parents who are utterly dedicated to getting their child to every single practice for sports or dance are the same parents who consider Sunday school and youth Bible study as optional. Regular attendance at weekly worship services is less important than gymnastic and swim meets, ball games, and dance recitals. Commitment to activities and practices outside of church are kept with much more religious fervor than those within the church.
In the past, coaches would never have dreamed of scheduling practice, games, or meets during regular worship services because they knew that no one would show up. So why can they schedule them now? Because they know that parents will not take a stand nor limit their child’s participation for fear that their child will be penalized. Excelling in activities that will eventually become a distant memory and not a life’s calling for most kids has superseded the importance of corporate worship and spiritual training.
Do I believe that sports and extracurricular activites are completely pointless? Of course not. I understand the benefits these activities provide such as teaching teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, coordination, and cooperation as well as many other positive qualities. However, none of those benefits trumps the principle found in Deuteronomy 6:5-7:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Theses words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
Even with all of our modern conveniences, we live in a culture where we are busier than ever. We have to work hard at prioritizing our time for maximum benefit. We say yes to this and no to that because we cannot say yes to everything. There simply isn’t enough time (or energy!) in our lives to do it all. As a Christian, you have an additional filter through which all activities and efforts must pass. That filter is “does God want me to do this?”
I confess that I am struggling with that right now. Not with the truth of it but with the practice of it. I am WAY too busy. Since I know that God will not give me more to do in 24 hours than I can possibly do in 24 hours, then I am doing something that He does not want or expect me to do. The hard part is figuring out what that is!
I cannot tell you what should stay and what should go in your schedule or in your children’s schedules. (I’m pretty busy working on that for myself!) However, I do know this: we spend an inordinate amount of time on things that have no eternal value. When we exchange eternal benefits for temporal ones, the cost is high.
It is okay to say no to a good thing in order to say yes to a better thing. Parents, you are in control of your children’s schedules. As difficult as it may be, you may have to tell them no to participating in a sport or activity so that they can faithfully attend church, Bible study, or AWANA. Go before the Lord as a family, and ask Him to direct your schedules. He will help you.
At some point, we must take seriously the mandate of Deuteronomy 6 – and many other Scriptures – and make God’s agenda our agenda. It is counter-cultural and unpopular. The question is, is it worth it? Is God’s agenda too high a price to pay? It is a question worth contemplating.