The term, “A sacrifice of praise” was etched in the pages of a book I was reading last night. This morning as I woke up I decided not to publish a post I had already drafted but rather follow the burden of writing on “sacrifice” instead. And since then, posts with the word ‘sacrifice’ seem to be popping up all over in my FB newsfeed.
We live in a world where we strive and sacrifice to meet our goals… whether it’s in regards to our education, career, family welfare, health, social standing, comfort… We will bend over backwards so that we achieve what we want or to cross the obstacles that threaten to topple our lives. Often, if it’s our spouse or our own biological family members, we go the extra mile to make sacrifices to help them. But would we go to that same extent for a friend or a member of the family of God?
Yes, “a strong relationship starts with two people who are ready to sacrifice anything for one another” (anon). We recognise the importance of that for marriage and also for our nuclear families – but do we recognise that for the most important family – that of God? Remember Jesus defines ‘family’ as those who hear God’s Word and puts it into practice.
Even moreso, we encourage people and give them a pat on the back when they make sacrifices for themselves or for their own. On the other hand, we often condemn those who make sacrifices for the sake of others as being foolish or being irresponsible – that we need to first help ourselves and be in a place of stability and that we should reach out to others from that place of stability.
“Many make sacrifices for themselves, so that they can be better. But a Hero sacrifices for others. Make your life count by being a true Hero”- Just ThinkAMinute (Dishan Wickramaratne).
Jesus came to earth. In order to do so, He left His place of stability – of comfort, of abounding peace and joy. Why are we so ungrateful that we greedily embrace what He has to offer us thanks to His sacrifices yet be so selfish and look to our own interests?
Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others – Philippians 2:4
Yes, it’s ok to look to our own interests but it’s not ok if we are stopping just there. Remember that selfish ambition is an act of the fleshly nature, not a fruit of the Spirit. Paul continues in verses 5-7 to write to the Philippians (which is also directly applicable to us)..
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
A few verses later Paul encourages us…
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (v 12,13).
Just meditate on those verses for a minute. How does God desire us to will and act? In accordance to His good purpose! Not your good purpose not mine either. Not only that it is God who works in us to will and to act in that manner. If we are not willing let alone acting according to His good purpose and instead we are doing it for our own good purpose, could it be possible that our ears are not in tune with God, that we are not indeed listening to Him?
Sacrifice and service will surely spring out of faith, of genuine faith. Paul commends Timothy for taking a genuine interest in the welfare of the Philippians and then he writes,
For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (v.21).
Often we are happy to do a work of charity and convince ourselves that we have done good. However that’s just a starting point. It’s easy to do charity, a one off act of good as it’s not a sacrifice. As we grow in our walk with God, we will increasingly will and to act according to HIS GOOD PURPOSE. It will become more of Him and less of us. As it becomes more of Him, we increasingly are able to love our neighbour as ourselves.
In order to do that, we need to begin to be a people of gratitude for His love, for all that He has done for us to redeem and restore us. If we truly have that gratitude we will be able to praise Him no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name – Hebrews 13:15
It often takes a sacrifice, a sacrifice of looking at ourselves to look to Him to be able to give Him heartfelt sincere praise despite the storms and struggles around us. As we do that, our eyes increasingly get lifted away from “ME” to the things of the Lord and thus His Kingdom and His glory.