The story of Abraham is one of the earliest examples in the Bible of God’s graciousness. Despite the fact that Abraham was around 100 years old, and his wife Sarah close to 90, the couple was blessed with a miracle child – Isaac. This kid was the carrying out of God’s promise to make Abraham “the father of many nations”. Yet, God asked Abraham to do something seemingly troubling in Genesis 22:
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’” – Genesis 22:1-2
God, who had made a covenant with Abraham to bless him with descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17), seemed to be contradicting Himself – which Abraham knew was impossible. Despite not fully understanding what was being asked of him, Abraham set off the next day with Isaac to the place God had set apart for the sacrifice.
Every time I read this passage and try to grasp the full scope of the situation, my mind is blown by Abraham’s faith. He’s a fantastic example of denying himself and following God’s commandments, no matter the cost involved. And we’re commanded to do the same thing every single day.
“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” – Luke 9:23 (NIV)
Sacrifice can and absolutely should be a part of all things we do as Christians. And in my experience, the initial work and time that these sacrifices require in my life have repeatedly been trumped by the joy I feel after the fact. I’ve had the great opportunity to be able to teach some of the youth/tweens in our church, and we’ve been going through the stories of biblical heroes and how their responses are powerful examples for us today. While we were going through the lessons of the Apostle John, the curriculum talked about how that, even though John (and Christians in general) faced severe persecution at that time, Jesus promised in the Gospels that God will take care of all of our needs, and that our eyes should be focused on what is above.
“But seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
When talking about things given to us by God, we’re probably thinking more along the lines of the material. While this is certainly the case, God is the one who also provides us with opportunities to communicate with certain people and form relationships with them. And because these relational opportunities are from God, all of the relationships in our lives should correspondingly be based on this concept of continuous sacrifice. One of the most famous principles in the Bible is based on this exact thing:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
Sacrificing your time for another person/other people and just being willing to put the effort in in our relationships is both vital and (see above) a biblical commandment. Sacrifice should be at the center of all we do; sacrifice should be who we are, our identity.
To summarize, if God is the one who provides us with all we have, we can take solace in the fact that the things we surrender were never really our own to begin with. While that might seem kind of disheartening at first, it’s so freeing to think that we’re just giving back to God what was and is God’s, rather than thinking that we’re giving to God things that we earned independently/we deserve. This line of thinking allows us to give openly and to fully shape our spiritual identities around daily surrender.
Live It Out!
How do we apply all of this, though? Practically, I’ve examined my own life recently and found several instances where I was doing the least I possibly could in both my schoolwork and in my relationships. As a representative of the Most High God, I realized that what I was doing just wasn’t near the best I could give. You have to be honest with yourself and truly evaluate how much you’re giving in each area of your life. It’s definitely not easy and it can be pretty revealing. But to be living on such a self-denying level is not easy or normal; it’s a lifestyle with far-reaching implications. And that’s exactly why we need to live it out. If we are willing to surrender our time and resources again and again, even when it isn’t beneficial to us in any sense (or possibly even costly), it demonstrates that we’re ready to follow Christ’s example on the cross and that we’re honestly basing our identity in Him.