(Continued from Part 1)
If we want to build Christian character, we will sacrifice.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is that the losers are the winners, provided that they sacrifice their own will and desires in order to obey the Lord. There can be no character without sacrifice and no true Christian character without sacrifice for Jesus Christ. Believers who become most like Christ are people who lovingly sacrfice the most for Christ. They don’t love themselves, love money or love pleasure; they love God (2 Tim. 3:1-5). They don’t insist on their rights but “put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:12). “Though I am free and belong to no man,” wrote Paul, “I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Cor. 9:19). Sacrifice builds character; selfishness destroys character. A famous Hollywood actress admitted, “Deep down, I’m pretty superficial.” At least she had enough honesty left to admit it!
Christian character isn’t built in a day. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) requires a heart with plowed soil that receives the seed, and the branches must be pruned at the right time and in the right way or the fruit will be immature. For us to be so concerned about our popularity that we sacrifice our characters to achieve it is to sacrifice the permanent for the passing. I have a coffee mug that has on it: “Reputation is made in a moment, character in a lifetime.”
As we grow older and continue to serve, we realize that the “outer person” has its limitations. But even this is a part of character development! “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:17).
If we love other people, we will sacrifice.
Two of the congregations I pastored celebrated an annual “Anniversary Sunday” just to remind everyone of the pioneers in the past who sacrificed and served that we might have all the blessings of the church today. After all, we didn’t translate or print our own Bibles, nor write our own hymns and gospel songs, or foudn the schools and trained our pastors, and we didn’t do the work or share the wealth that kept the churches going. Hwo many times I’ve given thanks for the people who sacrificed so that I could come into this world, be cared for and educated, hear the gospel and be saved, be trained to minister and be privileged to serve. I was supposed to die at the age of two, but my great grandfather prayed that there would be a preacher of the gospel in every generation of our family, and there has been! That’s why I lived.
“Nobobdy should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Cor. 10:24). The church doesn’t exist for itself but for others, and when it ceases to live for others, it ceases to live and becomes only a dead institution. The institutional church has property and people, programs, and budgets, and perhaps even a glwoing reputation, but when God examines it, He says, “You are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
Along with the burnt offering of Romans 12:1-2 is the drink offering Paul wrote about in Philippians 2:17, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” The drink offering was a cup of wine and olive oil poured on the altar with the sacrifice and offered to God (Ex. 29:38-41). A prisoner in Rome, Paul saw himself as a drink offering, sharing in the sacrifice and service of the believers in Philippi. What a privilege it is not only to sacrifice for others but to sacrifice with others to the glory of God!
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2. (The “law of Christ” is that we love one another.) But in verse five, Paul said, “for each one should carry his own load”! Contradiction? No, because the word “burdens” means “burdens in general that others can share,” while “load” refers to a soldier’s pack which only he could carry. There are some responsibilities that we cannot delegate to others, and if we try, we are shirking our own God-given responsibilities and not fulfilling the work He gave us to do.
If we anticipate heaven, we will sacrifice.
If we suffer as we serve the Lord, we should be like the first disicples and rejoice “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). If we share in His sufferings, we will also share in His glory (Rom. 8:17). If we look upon suffering as the world does, it will discourage us; but if we look at suffering as Jesus did, we will take heart and keep on going.
Should we be surprised by opposition and suffering? Not according to Peter! (See 1 Peter 4:12ff). Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them and oppose them and that they should depend on the Holy Spirit to enable them to keep going (John 15:18-16:4). Jesus even saw glory in His death on the cross: “The hour is come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Johan 12:23). We would have said “crucified,” but Jesus looked beyond the cross to His glorification in heaven. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). First the cross and then the crown; first the tree and then the throne.
Jesus compared His death to the planting of a seed (John 12:23-26). The seed must “die” before the life can be revealed, the plant grow, and the beauty and fruitfulness be seen. Paul may have had this in mind when he wrote: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Paul reminded Timothy of a line from a Christian hymn sung by the apostolic church:
If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
No matter how bad the news is or how painful the suffering might be–emotional as well as physical–we must remind ourselves that the best is yet to come and that Jesus saves the “best wine” until the end (John 2:1-11). As James M. Gray wrote in one of his songs, “Who could mind the journey when the road leads home!” When we get to heaven, the burdens will become blessings, the scars and blemishes will be transformed int omedals, and the crowns He gives us will more than compensate for the battles we fought.
When C. T. Studd was fifty-two years old, he felt called to leave England and go to Africa to establish a mission work. He had to start his own mission board because the existing boards rejected him because of his age and health. He had already served in China and India and had challenged students on many British and American campuses, but the burden of Africa was too heavy to ignore. The evening before his departure, he was sitting with a young friend how asked, “Is it a fact that at fifty-two you mean to leave your country, your home, your wife and your children?”
“What?” Studd replied, “Have you been talking of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ tonight? If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
He had scribbled on a piece of paper: Take my life and let it be, a hidden dross revealing Thee.
The central letter in the word “sacrifice” is I. It is also the greatest obstacle to sacrifice. Paul’s answer is Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ.”
It wil be worth it all, when we see Jesus!
Copyright, Warren W. Wiersbe
May not be transcribed, reprinted, or published in any form without permission of the author.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).