(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 26 July 2015)
Desires and dreams are the spices that flavor our lives. However, in order for those dreams to come true, we might have to give up or let go of certain other things.
For example, – If a man wants to be a good husband then he must let go of his bachelorhood and be willing to provide for and lead a family. Or if we want to get a graduation degree then we must give up our laziness and be willing to work hard.
The willingness to let go or give up or surrender is called sacrifice.
As followers of Jesus we need to be obedient to God’s calling in our lives. This might involve numerous sacrifices. Let’s look at what a life of sacrifice entails.
ALIGNING WITH HEAVENLY VISION
Acts 26 narrates Paul’s trial before King Agrippa. There sat a man who had the power to do as he pleased with Paul. Fearlessly, the apostle shared his life’s story. He told King Agrippa that he was an erstwhile zealous Jew who used to revel in hunting down and persecuting Christians. He thought that he had found his life’s calling! But then one fine day, Jesus dramatically intervened and spun his life out of control. He revealed Himself to be the true and living God. Paul’s life was never the same again. In verse 19, Paul says that, ‘Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision’. He quickly realized that his life was in ruins. He immediately set his life in alignment with God’s Heavenly vision.
We all have ambitions in life. But do they revolve only around cars, bungalows, big bucks and drinks? If that is the case, then our lives will be riddled with anger, disillusionment and frustration. It’s important for us to test our dreams and desires by seeing if it aligns with God’s plan for His church. Here are a couple of questions that we can ask ourselves in this regard:-
- Does it fill me with love for God’s church? Are we part of God’s plan or are we living for ourselves?
- Does it align with the clear and complete teaching of the Bible?
- Does it turn me toward righteousness and holy living?
- Does it turn me away from the lust of the eye, mind and flesh, and lead me to purity and a life pleasing to God?
- Does it lead me to work in unity with the Christian world or does my independence make me work in isolation?
- Does it build the body of Christ by equipping the believers in their ministry?
A brutally honest analysis of our lives with these questions will help us rectify and realign our dream with God’s vision.
I became a follower of Jesus when I was 18 years old. At my baptism, the pastor who was fully aware of my past life, made me promise that I wouldn’t look at a woman until it was time to get married. Boy! Was it hard?! When I expressed a desire to start a ministry in Madras Christian College, my pastor sent me to ‘Erikaraiperalathur’! Over the next few years, there were a couple of times when I got upset with my Pastor for enforcing such a rule. But, I am glad that he did so!!
Often our fleshly instincts lead us to seemingly good things. As we ask God whether those dreams are really from Him or not, we must also be willing to give up or sacrifice things that are not appropriate. Our lives become powerful and take on a whole new dimension when sacrifice becomes the culture of our kingdoms.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This verse is the epitome of sacrifice! God the Father sacrificed His Son for us. That was part of His plan and purpose in order to ensure that we could become part of His family!
There might be attitudes and thoughts in our little kingdoms that need to be torn down. Maybe God is asking us to bend down and let Him have His way in our lives. Often our heart is fortressed by selfishness and self-centeredness. The moment God blesses us with a job, marriage or children we block Him off.
In the early 20th century, diphtheria was a common illness. Many children died of this disease. Scientists tried to find a cure for it by conducting experiments on animals like the rats and monkeys but to no avail. Finally, they experimented on a strong horse. The horse collapsed and was on the verge of dying. But then suddenly the horse took a turn for the better. It revived itself and got back to its feet. From the blood of the horse, the medicine for diphtheria was found.
Our sickness, disease, sins and curses were injected on to Jesus. The devil and the whole world thought that Jesus was dead. But on the third day, He rose again and destroyed the dominion of Satan. The blood of Jesus had won the day. We are born out of that sacrifice and are called to imitate God. Paul says in Philippians that when he goes through sufferings, he knows Jesus more. Can we give ourselves to be a sacrifice unto the Lord?
Sacrifice involves endurance. Sometimes, we speak as if our life has changed for the worse because of our Christian faith. Or that if we weren’t a Christian then we wouldn’t have hesitated to doing something terrible! That kind of an attitude does not reflect endurance. The Bible says that we must endure with joy and celebration knowing that Jesus is the Lord of our lives.
In the early years of our marriage, my wife and I hardly had any money to spare. So much so that if we managed to cough up Rs. 20/- then we would decide to celebrate. We’d get ready and drive up to the airport, park our vehicle and share a small cup of lemon tea at a stall there. We’d sit and look at the flights taking off and landing, and spend some precious time together. Once we even ran into some acquaintances who suggested that we go to some restaurant to spend time with each other. Well, we couldn’t tell them about our not-so-good financial condition then, could we?! Thankfully, over the years, God has built us up.
It’s easy to murmur and grumble in such a situation. Endurance is not about complaining but about thanking God with whatever little we have and trusting that He is able to provide for us. It’s not about wondering or being anxious. It’s about standing on the promises of God knowing that He will bring to pass what He has promised. Meanwhile, we need to be obedient and willing to sacrifice what God calls us to.
PRESENCE OF GOD
Having said that, let me also remind us that we can’t lead a life of sacrifice unless we experience God’s presence. At Ziklag, David was blamed and accused by his followers when the enemy slayed the people and looted their wealth. But the Bible says that David strengthened himself in the Lord first. Then he went about pursuing the enemy. Similarly, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knelt in the presence of God and sought for strength to endure the Cross. The Bible says that God’s angels strengthened Him. In the Garden of Eden, the first Adam refused to pay the price; in the Garden of Gethsemane, the last Adam paid the price and delivered us.
Men and women around us may fail us. But God’s presence strengthens us. When everything around us fails, let us stand in the presence of God and believe in Him for a breakthrough.
It’s pretty easy to blame everything around us for our miseries. Instead, let’s be contrite and ask God to straighten out our lives. Let’s ask Him to realign our lives with His vision. Let’s inculcate a kingdom culture of sacrifice and giving even when the giving pinches us. Let’s endure and live our lives joyfully.
On losing the battle to England, Napoleon cried out, ‘Oh! Greenland! If not for you, I would have ruled over Europe.’ The devil cries out similarly, ‘Oh Calvary! If not for you, I would have taken all these people’. Let us who have been bought by the blood shed at Calvary, sacrificially give back to God a life of discipline.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.