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Sacrificial Faith

November 1, 2021

But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9: 26b).

 Parents make many sacrifices for their children.  They sacrifice sleep, time, money, career advancement, freedom, social life, and other activities and forms of relaxation.  Parenting has it ups and downs, its joys and sorrows, its fun times and heartaches.  William Bennett said, “Real fatherhood means love and commitment and sacrifice and a willingness to share responsibility and not walking away from one’s children.”   The Scripture texts for next Sunday explain that sacrifice is a necessary element of authentic faith—real faith.[1]

 Love is the element that motivates parents to willingly sacrifice for their children, just as God was motivated by love to sacrifice his Son for us.  God knows what sacrifice is about.  He made the ultimate sacrifice by sending his Son to die for our sins.  And his Son made the ultimate sacrifice by suffering and dying so that we may be absolved of our sins.  Jesus’ sacrifice replaced the animal sacrifices that had gone on before.  He was the perfect sacrifice that did not have to be repeated: “But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to the take away the sins of many . . . ” (Hebrews 9: 26b-28a).  But both the Father and the Son made the sacrifices they made so that humankind could reap eternal benefits.  

Many denominations celebrate All Saints Day on the Sunday following the November 1st date of the festival–which this year falls on next Sunday, November 7th.  Throughout the Bible and the history of the church, those saints who made the greatest sacrifices had the most impact on God’s kingdom on earth.  Martyrs through the ages sacrificed themselves to keep God’s plan of salvation on track.  Many others, including Martin Luther, sacrificed greatly to keep church doctrine and practices in line with the teachings of the Bible.  The saints who have gone before us, including those in our families, are examples of how God wants to use us to further his kingdom.

Paul tells us that God wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices: “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).  The author of Kings gives us an example of how God wants us to sacrifice for others.   Elijah went to Sidon and saw a widow near the town gate and asked her for a piece of bread and water to drink. But she only had a handful of flour and a bit of olive oil to make a last meal for herself and her son.  Elijah told her “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land’” (1 Kings 17: 13-14).  The widow, in faith, sacrificed much of what was to be her family’s last meal to give some to Elijah—and reaped long-lasting benefits.  The jar of flour and jug of oil remained filled.   She was repaid in spades for her faith.  The psalmist sings: “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146: 7).

Jesus compares phony and ostentatious displays of wealth and power to the sacrificial offering of a poor widow who gave “two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.”  Jesus said that the widow’s offering was much more valuable than the offerings made by the wealthy: “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.   They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12: 43-44).

In a few days we will honor those who have sacrificed years of their lives to serve our country in the United States Armed Forces.   Whatever you do—raising children, getting an education, serving your country, helping others, honing your professional skills—requires sacrifice on your part to do it right.  You may be required to give up time spent on hobbies, recreation, and activities you enjoy to care for others, to study, to work, to provide services, and to follow the path that God has laid out for you.  Just as God, the Father, and Jesus made the ultimate sacrifices for us—so we are called to sacrifice if we want to live out an authentic faith.  We are called to give generously of our time, our possessions, our talents and other resources as an outpouring of our love for our families, the church, and fellow man. 

Lent isn’t the only time to give something up.  Christians should offer themselves up daily to God to use for his purposes.  What will you sacrifice this week for your family or for others who are in need of your unique talents and skill set?  What will you give up to spread the Word or to help others?  What do you need to sacrifice so that his kingdom can continue to expand through your church?

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

Prayer: “Show me today, O Lord, the one to whom I am to give a cup of cold water in your name.”  F.B. Meyer

[1] The Scripture texts for next Sunday are 1 Kings 17: 8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9: 24-28; Mark 12: 38-44. 

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