Archive | May 2013

What is God really asking for?

Everyone loves making a sacrifice, right?  Right?

You’re still here?

Well, most believing Christians would admit that God is asking us to sacrificially give to Him. And we can do so with all of our resources. That includes our money, time, talents, and our testimony. Throughout scripture we see examples of this time and time again. When Adam’s son Abel gave a sacrifice to God, it was from the firstborn of his flock. In a sense, that was the best of his livelihood that he gave to God. King David sacrificed his dignity when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem and he danced foolishly in celebration. Many of Jesus’ disciples laid down their jobs completely so that they might further the good news about the Messiah.

So what are we sacrificing? I must confess, I find it difficult at times to give to God when I feel like I have little to give. When your reservoir of financial resources run dangerously low (you know, when you get hit with a massive car repair bill or a triple-cavity diagnosis at the dentist’s office). When I come home from work and I’m tired, I don’t always feel like playing an intense game of wiffle ball with my kids, let alone doing ministry. Would God really ask us to give out of a place of weakness? And if even if He did, wouldn’t that be cruel? I mean, what would the point be?

When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to him, he wasn’t just asking him to give him his son’s life. He was demanding something from Abraham that he didn’t even have yet. In Isaac was the manifestation of God’s promise to Abraham and his future inheritance, and the inheritance of his children’s children’s children.

Abraham and IsaacLaurent de La Hire, 1650

In Genesis 17:3-8, God appeared to Abraham.  Here is the account:

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

First, I find it fascinating that prior to this in verse 4, God says, “You WILL be the father of many nations.” Then in verse 5 the Lord says to Him, “I HAVE made you a father of many nations.” Even though it has not happened yet, God is basically saying that because he promised it (in verse 4) that it is as good as done and a certainty. When God makes a promise, we are safe within that promise.

Consider also the sacrifice made by Ruth. When she decided to stay and support her mother-in-law, who was a widow, there is something about this story that we often forget. Ruth had just recently (MORE recently than Naomi) become a widow herself. So, as she served Naomi, she was not doing so out of a place or season of her life where the flowers were in bloom and the fruit was so ripe they were falling from the trees. Her own world was a barren wasteland. Her husband had just died, and her first thought was to serve someone else. She had every right to leave Naomi and return to her own land and family. And even Naomi would not have begrudged her. In fact, Naomi recommended to Ruth that she leave!

Are we waiting to sacrifice to God when our world is full of overflowing abundance? Or can we be like Ruth and Abraham, and give to God out of our weakness and out of a place of faith?

Imagine, if you will, that the span of your life is a road.  I sometimes wish that I had access to a security camera at traffic lights five, ten, or twenty years from now.  I wish I could see the fender benders, the pot holes, and the traffic violations that are coming my way.  Why?  So I could prepare myself now to avoid them in the future!  But knowing the future is not just about avoiding the accidents and pitfalls.  It is also about knowing that good times are on their way.  And they are!  We are promised as much from God throughout scripture.

Of course Jesus was the prime example of this principle.  He sacrificed his very life, not out of a place of great strength, but, For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:2)

May God, who holds our future, give us an eternal perspective so that we are quick to trust, and therefore confident to sacrifice.