Those missionaries, martyrs, men and women who walked faithfully with God long before I was even born are my heroes.
So often, they didn’t have the freedoms, or fellowship, or even simple conveniences that I have to help me in my walk with Jesus.
They didn’t have a church on every corner.
They didn’t have extra bibles just lying around the house.
They didn’t have unfettered access to ladies studies and children’s ministries.
And do you know what? They still thrived in their relationship with the Lord. They still grew closer to Him through prayer. They still found ways to serve others in order to show the love of Christ. They still enjoyed sweet fellowship, even if that fellowship was infrequent or via letter or telegram.
They didn’t need all of the “stuff” that I find so essential in order to worship the Lord with a vibrant growing faith.
One of the things that always strikes me as I read about those saints of old was their willingness… (No, their eagerness)… to deny their flesh in order to hear the voice of the Lord more clearly. Whether they fasted, or stayed silent for a time, or isolated themselves in order to pray, they had a concentrated devotion to denying the flesh in order to feed the spirit.
They understood that for a sacrifice to be a sacrifice… It had to be a sacrifice!
I’m afraid we’ve lost that focus.
In our concentration on making our worship experience fun, and exciting, and inspiring, and creative, we’ve lost the necessity of sacrifice. We’ve stopped denying ourselves in order to hear the voice of God more clearly and replaced sacrifice with self-gratification.
I don’t think for a second that the saints of old denied their flesh because they thought it gave them a higher standing with God. They didn’t deny their flesh so that the other Christians would admire their dedication. They didn’t deny their flesh in order to gain position, or power, or the praise of man.
They just didn’t want anything to stand between their heart and God’s direction.
Recently, I had several moms ask me about beginning to take their pre-school children to worship. Although they wanted their children to begin to enjoy worshipping as a family, they were nervous.
They were afraid their children Just.Couldn’t.Do.It.
As we talked about the logistics involved in training their children to attend the worship service, they all asked the same question. They all wondered if they should load a bag with toys and bring a snack for their children to eat during the worship service.
I told them no.
I encouraged them that their children could go without food for an hour. They could learn to wait and practice self-control for an hour. And, they could enjoy worship without the distraction of snacks and toys.
I know those moms can be successful. I’m confident of their success because I’ve walked that path with my own children. I’m assured that it’s possible because I’ve watched so many other moms successfully train their own children.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’re making the job harder for this new crop of young moms. I’m afraid we’re making their job harder than it needs to be by our own self-centered choices.
May I tell you what I mean?
The worship service has changed. Now, men and women walk into worship with their coffee firmly in hand. Nobody thinks twice about nibbling a muffin or sipping a soda. The sanctuary has become an extension of the church café or the nearby Starbucks. We’re as intent on quenching our thirst or satisfying our hunger as we are on hearing the Word of God and joining the Body in worship.
And our kids are watching…
Instead of quietly and wordlessly teaching spiritual lessons of self-control and self-sacrifice as we model patience, our actions are screaming loudly that the hunger or thirst of the moment is of equal importance to focusing on God.
We’ve lost something precious as we’ve turned our attention from spiritual sacrifice to personal satisfaction.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, (probably that’s true) but I can’t help but wonder if our “new” attitude toward worship is part of the reason our kids find worship optional. Could our lack of sacrifice be teaching a lesson of expedience and convenience, rather than commitment and discipline? Could our lack of spiritual sacrifice be tearing down the spiritual walls we’re trying to build into our children’s lives?
No, skipping your Starbucks won’t give you a higher standing with God.
No one may ever notice your empty “cup” hand.
Forgoing your snack will never gain you position, or power, or the praise of man.
It just might help you focus and hear more clearly from God.
It just might help you build some spiritual muscle.
It just might encourage that young mom who desperately wants her child to learn to focus, learn to sacrifice, and learn to clearly hear the voice of God.
That alone makes it worth the sacrifice!
Remember, for a sacrifice to be a sacrifice… it has to be a sacrifice. And, after what Christ sacrificed for us is anything too much to sacrifice for Him?