The story is told about the pig and the hen who were out for a walk and happened to pass a restaurant advertising a sumptuous breakfast of ham and eggs. The hen looked at the sign and proudly said, “I’m helping to make that breakfast possible!” To which the pig soberly replied, “Yeah, for you it’s a contribution, for me it’s a total sacrifice.”
We live in an age where people seem increasingly reluctant to make sacrifices. People enter into marriage – also known as holy wedlock – only to deny their vows and bail out when they decide the union is no longer meeting their needs.
We used to hear about climbing the corporate ladder, investing many years of hard work to earn promotions. Today, many young people graduate from college with degrees in hand, intending to start at the top and work up from there.
Couples used to scrimp and save for many months, even years, before making major purchases. These days they simply pull out the plastic, swipe or scan it, and happily leave with their desired items, ignoring the fact they’ll soon be singing, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go….”
But if the word SUCCESS were an acronym, one of the S’s would have to be Sacrifice.
* An athlete, for instance, rising hours before his or her peers, working out, running, lifting weights and doing whatever is necessary to excel at their chosen sport.
* A parent deferring hobbies, excursions and other favorite things to focus on the important mission of raising a child.
* A dedicated teacher not only arriving at school early and staying long after her students have left, but sometimes even spending her own money to provide needed classroom supplies.
* A physician going beyond the call to track the progress of a patient and make sure the recovery process goes as smoothly as possible.
The list could go on. But nowhere is the necessity for sacrifice more pronounced than in the pursuit we call “the Christian life.” It starts with our perfect example, Jesus Christ, “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…He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
We often talk about someone making the “ultimate sacrifice” – a soldier, law enforcement officer, firefighter who died in the line of duty. But neither before nor after has there been a greater, more profound ultimate sacrifice than the one offered by Jesus, dying to pay the price for sins that we could never atone for ourselves.
This idea of sacrifice did not end with Christ’s singular, once-and-for-all crucifixion to achieve victory over sin and death. The apostle Peter pointed out, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
To be a follower of Christ means to accept the mantle of sacrifice whenever it’s extended. It may not mean asceticism, living in complete self-denial, but it does mean taking “self” off the throne of our lives. As the apostle Paul wrote to believers in Rome, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).
We have been set free, as Paul asserted in Galatians 5:1, but in the greatest sense this means being free to become everything God desires for us to be, unshackled by sin and self-absorption. As Jesus said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it” Matthew 10:39).
In our humanness, it’s tempting to want to straddle the fence, living with one foot in Jesus’ kingdom and the other in the material world in which we live. But that’s not what the Lord expects of us. “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
This isn’t easy. In fact, writing to believers in ancient Corinth, Paul stated, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31), referring to the self-sacrificing ministry to which God had called him, as well as recommitting day after day to deny the desires of the flesh and resist temptation.
For some this hardly sounds like the “abundant life” Jesus described in John 10:10, but as many people have painfully discovered, the secret to happiness is not self-indulgence. As author Philip Yancey observes in his book, Grace Notes, “true fulfillment comes not through ego satisfaction, but through service to others.”
It truly is “more blessed to give than to receive,” as Jesus declared in Acts 20:35, because in the giving – especially sacrificially – we receive many times over.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.