Hey there, Team!
Let’s begin today’s practice with a common scene from households everywhere…
Dad: Before you can go out with your friends, clean your room and the cat’s litter box.
Teen (who despises cleaning the litter box): Ok.
Teen spends hours cleaning the room AND bathroom from top to bottom.
Teen: Ok, Dad. All done! And look! I even cleaned the bathroom. Look at the tub now! You can see your reflection in the faucets. Check behind the toilet – I got everything! Can I go now?
Dad: How’s the litter box?
Now. Insert yourself as the teen and God as the Dad. How’s your litter box task?
More often than not, the assignments God gives us are far from our first or second choice. To be honest, we’re often chosen for “growth opportunities” in which there is great discomfort, risk, frustration, rejection, and pain.
When faced with the reality of inconvenient obedience, have you ever played the “S” card – SACRIFICE?
You know, the card the children of Israel would play while their hearts turned to idols, yet they kept the rituals of burnt offerings – many times offering sacrifices God never asked for (1 Samuel 15:21).
Can you see the teenager above in us now?
Have you ever answered God’s call to GO with a sacrificial offering in the opposite direction?
The Mask of Sacrifice
Here’s the problem: God is not impressed with our sacrifices over obedience. Nor will our sacrifices distract God from His expectations for our lives.
Sure, sacrifice is a big deal. It comes with its own set of discomforts, agony, and high costs. For example, we can deplete our bank accounts, our time, and our energy to the point of exhaustion to help those in need. A noble sacrifice? Yes. But, what did God say?
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
When we know God and love Him with all our heart, that love compels us to comply with His commandments. We may have moments of weakness, fear, or resistance. But, our love for a Father we know and trust eventually drives us to say, “I’ll do it, I’ll go” – no matter how high the costs of inconvenience. And, just like Jonah and Elijah, God will graciously provide what we need to see a task through to the end.
Beneath the Surface of Sacrifice
So, how do we know when we’re opting for convenient sacrifice versus complete obedience to God’s voice? Here’s how to unmask sacrifice and identify areas for greater submission to God, when:
1. Our response to God is more complex than, “Yes.”
Whenever God gives you an assignment – and reasons, excuses, and justifications ring louder in your heart than a simple, “Yes, Lord”, this opens the door to place sacrifice above obedience.
Resistance is complex and shrewd. Obedience and truth is simple. Resistance begins a full-blown analysis of the assignment and searches for every hidden Excuse Exit. And, if that doesn’t work, it devises a Plan B – Z to cover all bases – including a deflection of “good” deeds proudly sacrificed unto the Lord.
Love gives a naked, transparent yes. Everything else…
2. Our sacrifices become our identity.
Who are you outside of your sacrifices and good deeds? How long will we feast on the good deeds of the past? Sure, you greatly sacrificed ______, but do you love your neighbor?
As we nurture a steadfast love for God, reliance on our resume of good works done “in the name of Jesus” will diminish. Let your heart’s desire strive to be known by your love for God and your neighbor.
3. The assignment God gave is started, but incomplete (or never started).
Is there an unfinished or yet-to-start call on your life? Did sacrificing or giving up things and people sidetrack you from actually doing what God told you to do a long time ago?
There are times when our hearts mean well, but we have to yield to God’s meaning and context of a “well” heart. Even when it comes to sacrifices of praise – if our hearts are far from loving and knowing the God we praise with our lips – we praise in vain (Matthew 15:8).
We must not let the business of sacrifice distract us from pursuing God’s business.
So, What’s the Play Call?
Say “yes” to God’s will, and train yourself to do it early! Don’t leave your litter box task undone.
Avoid getting sidetracked with perceived “good” that’s actually bad for you. Anything, within or without, that hinders your love and knowledge of God – let it go.
As we love and know God through acts of obedience to His will, we will never have to worry about God knowing us (Matthew 7:21-23).