My last time on the mission field 4 years ago, I used to talk to people from back home and they would say ‘thank you for your sacrifice’ or ‘I could never do what you’re doing’. The general sentiment I got and came to believe was that there were some (pastors and missionaries) called to sacrifice and the rest of the church was called to support them. I didn’t really know what to respond to that so I said thank you and moved on. However, I started to believe I was sacrificing a lot and looking at the things I gave up. I began to get bitter. God had called some of my friends to have great jobs and good ministries while I was sweating constantly and was living on beans and rice most of the time. The bitterness increased at God until I felt like a common vessel in 2 Timothy 2:20; God had chosen many for amazing ministries but someone had to live in poverty and take out the trash and that was me.
Several years later, I’ve totally worked through this mindset and realized how dangerous it was. The truth about sacrifice is much more freeing:
Sacrifice points to priorities
You can say that Christ is first in your life, but it’s only the sacrifices you make that will truly reveal your priorities. Likewise, you can say you love others, but if you’re not sacrificing anything for them, it’s empty words. In a world that despises giving things up, sacrifice is a clarion call that you are not of the world.
If your eyes are on the sacrifice and what you’ve given up, you’ve missed the reason behind the sacrifice. Sacrifice should point to something greater. Jesus demonstrated this clearly on the cross, and it was because of the joy set before Him that He went through its shame and mockery (Heb 12:2). If He sacrificed for us, shouldn’t we sacrifice for Him?
Sacrifice is necessary for Fruit
If you want fruit in your walk with Jesus, you are going to have to sacrifice. Jesus talked about that in John 15 with the vines that are trimmed and pruned. Sacrifice itself doesn’t produce fruit but it makes room for it in your life. If you’ve ever wondered why the western church is so sloth-like compared to its peers in the 3rd world, this is the biggest reason. While the church in the West spends most of its time wondering how much of the world they can still hang on to and get to heaven, much of the church in the Rest pays a high price even to enter set foot in a church.
Who ever heard of a star athlete who never practiced and ate fast food for every meal? While sacrifice doesn’t make star athletes, it is certainly a necessary part of the process. It’s equally ludicrous to believe that Christians can change the world without changing their own lives first.
Sacrifice Brings Freedom
God’s way brings unparalleled freedom, but it’s going to cost you something. Anyone who has been in debt and was able to get out will tell you that. If you want out of debt, you’re going to have to change your lifestyle somehow. It can be so easy to get into bondage but can be a long slog back out. If you want out of an addiction, you often have to change the places you frequent and sometimes even your friends. It’s totally possible, but only if you keep your eyes fixed on the freedom ahead and not the things you are sacrificing.
Yes, we go for many hours without power, the places we stay aren’t always safe, we rarely know where our finances will come from, and there are few of the comforts of home here. But that’s not the point – the point is that those things pale in comparison to what we’ve chosen instead. The point is that, regardless of what the commercials say, I was made for something greater than living comfortably and drinking the best coffee. When someone says to me that they could never do what we are doing, I want to ask them what price they would pay for a life full of purpose. The next time you see someone who has sacrificed greatly, don’t thank them for their sacrifice but look at what they’ve sacrificed and know that there is something in their world that is more important.