You’d think that I could remember who said that to us one evening while we sat studying the Bible in his home. You’d think I could remember where he drew the line that kept him from serving the Lord. It isn’t often you find someone that honest. Most people offer excuses instead. They understand that they are telling God they are not willing to sacrifice for him. In fact, they will usually make a list of everything they have done before adding, “But that’s just asking too much.” What they fail to see is that if they are willing to give it up, it isn’t a sacrifice. The sacrifice comes when you don’t want to give it up; the sacrifice comes when it hurts. Serving God is not supposed to be “painless.”
Too many of us believe that just because we got up, dressed up, and drove to another location instead of sitting there watching some sort of “Painless Sunday School” on television that we are sacrificing for the Lord. We will sit in the meetinghouse on Sunday morning. We will even sit for the full two or three hours, whatever our group has chosen. Just exactly what have we given up? Sleep? Another day of fishing? A little more yard work? Doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice.
Many will alter their lifestyles a bit. What have they given up? Hangovers? Gambling debts? STDs? If you aren’t stupid, that’s another easy sacrifice to make. It only becomes difficult when the dependency has developed.
What we steadfastly refuse to give up is ourselves.
Can we admit wrong? Can we yield to others? Can we toe the line, even when the thing in question affects us individually? It’s much easier for the non-music lover to give up instrumental music in the worship. Trust me. I know. It’s much easier to abide by the Lord’s words concerning marriage when you have a solid relationship, and when your children have also chosen well. It’s much easier to serve when you actually like the people you are serving. Yet ease is the very thing that makes it not much of a sacrifice. The true sacrifice comes when, instead of twisting scriptures to suit ourselves and frantically searching for loopholes, we do what hurts.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise, Psalm 51:17. Pain is what makes a sacrifice sincere. Humble repentance that involves giving up selfish desires and yielding to others who do not deserve it are the most difficult sacrifices to give, and therefore, the ones that God wants most to see in us. Until we manage that, anything else we do in service to God is a sham, no matter how beautifully we sing, how generously we donate, or how knowledgeably we teach.
When Jeroboam became king of the northern 10 tribes of Israel, in spite of God’s promise to him of a lasting dynasty if he only obeyed, he looked at those fickle people and said, “I know exactly how to keep them here.” He made it easy to serve God.
And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now will the kingdom return to the house of David: if this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, then will the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me, and return to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 1 Kings 12:26-28.
“It’s asking too much,” he told them. “Let me make it easy for you.” And just like that, the people in the north left the God who had delivered them from slavery, defeated their enemies, and provided all their needs.
What is it that Jeroboam would offer you?
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, Philippians 3:7-8.