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                One Sunday morning many years ago, I was riding with my Mom to church. I was a teenager, so by that time we did not have many deep discussions. This particular Sunday, however, we were running a little behind and the cars in front of us kept getting slower and slower. I think I made some comment like, “Somedays it just isn’t easy to get to church.” I joked probably about us going home (it was a joke because I loved going to church.) My mom took this as a teaching moment. She told me that church isn’t supposed to be easy, there is supposed to be a sacrifice, a giving of something, in worshipping God and attending His house. If we are really serving Him, it will cost us something. Our salvation is bought and paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus, but our sanctification is built on us giving up some of the things we most want to keep.

                My mom knew about sacrifice. She grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father, who would also probably be identified as bi-polar (the alcohol and the bi-polar were two different things.) When she was a little girl, she went to live with an older brother and his new wife. Their marriage did not last, but my mom stayed with her former sister-in-law. No one really went to church from her family, and they were ok with that. She then met my dad and fell madly in love with him. As they dated and then married, my dad took my mom to the church his family attended. The church, especially the ladies, took my mom in and taught her about Jesus, about how to be a wife and how to be a mother. It was not easy for my mom. She did not grow up this way. The way she had seen others live, while not the best way, was much easier than what Jesus expected of her.

                My mom loved what the church had to offer. She listened as the ladies poured their lives into her’s. She learned to sacrifice for her husband and for her children. It was not easy, but it was worth it. I have no doubts that she was the greatest influence on my life for at least the first 25 years of it. Any struggles that I have, and any time that I think about quitting anything because it gets too hard, I remember her words about sacrifice, “If it’s worth it, it will cost us something.” I remember that her words meant something because I saw them in action.

                Most of us today want ease and convenience. Christianity Today recently published an article about the vice of ease. For the last 100 years, the American household has gotten a lot easier because of technology. In fact, everything seems to have gotten easier. We like the ease, but unfortunately, it has not made us happier or more satisfied. Why? Because Our souls do not crave ease. Our souls crave work, adventure, excitement, and accomplishment. Our physical bodies may want ease, but our spirits want effort and the sense of a job well done. We actually do want sacrifice. If it costs us something, it means more to us.

                King David understood the cost of sacrifice. In 1 Chronicles 21, David made a mistake. Following Satan and not God, David orders a census to count his fighting men. This, combined with God already be angry with Israel for its many sins (2 Samuel 24), caused a great plague to sweep through the land. Thousands of people were dying. David repented of his sins and begged God to relent. The angel of the Lord had his sword drawn over Jerusalem ready to attack when God stopped him. The exact place was the threshing floor of a man named Ornan. Ornan and his sons saw the angel just as David had seen him. They were rightly afraid. God ordered David to build him an alter right there. Ornan was perfectly happy to give the land to David (remember, he had just seen the angel with a sword.) David would not take the land for free. King David said to him, “No, I insist on paying the full price, for I will not take for the Lord what belongs to you or offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” David understood that in order to please God and do what He told him to do, it would cost him something. David would have to sacrifice.

                David bought the land, paying 15 pounds of gold, and built an alter to God there. He offered both burnt and fellowship offerings on that alter. The Lord sent fire to consume the offerings. The angel of the Lord put away his sword and the plague ended. The alter would stay for a little while longer. Its location would become the temple that David’s son Solomon would build for God. What David gave up, in both buying the land and offering a bull, would become the most holy place in all of Israel. It is possible, and likely fitting, that the spot the alter was built was where the most holy of holies would be situated in the temple. God used David’s sacrifice to bring about the building of the Jewish temple where God would reside. Many years later, after having been rebuilt twice, Jesus would also enter this temple.

                A true follower of Jesus understands that following Him requires sacrifice. He does not promise that our life will become easy. He does tell us that his yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30), but the word easy is best thought of as manageable. Following Jesus requires sacrifice. Sacrifice is not always what we want, but in the end, it is what we need. The great thing about it is that God will use our sacrifice to do some pretty amazing things.

MJ

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