"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Joyful Sacrifice

How often have you said to someone, "it's not so much what you say as how you say it"? Somehow, a critical or offensive attitude comes through in the words spoken. Words otherwise received as constructive or even helpful result in defensivenes and are rejected. Attitudes of the speaker and of the listener change everything. Similarly, when we do things begrudgingly or with an attitude of being put out, it comes through somehow.

Possibly this is why Paul has gone to such great lengths to admonish the Philippians to have the same giving, self-sacrificial, submissive and obedient attitude that Jesus demonstrated when he left heaven to die on the cross for us (Philippians 2:1-11). More specifically, he has commanded them to do their acts of service without grumbling or complaining. and shares with them that this is one of the fruits that will determine the validity of his own ministry to them (Philippians 2:14-16). Now he turns the mirror around and asserts that even if he should give his life in their service, he will rejoice.

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. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17-18)

The possibility of his own death is on his mind here. Earlier he has mentioned the options of his release and of his death, saying that he is torn between loyalty to them and his own desire to be face to face with the Lord (Philippians 2:19-24.  He then expressed his belief that it is probably God's will that he remain to serve them. Now he looks at the opposite possibility and sees it, too, as reason for rejoicing.

How often our prayers are directed toward our own comfort and what we see as a positive outcome?When we send out missionaries, do we ever pray that if they are die in service that we and other believers will rejoice? The concept of death as a joyful outcome rarely crosses our minds, much less our lips. We want to remain together on this earth, at best to serve the Kingdom of God. Paul's remarkable perspective is that even if he should die, he will rejoice for the priveledge of being poured out on the sacrifice of their service. Paul used the same word for sacrifice in Romans 12:1 when he encouraged them to present their lives as living sacrifices (being no longer conformed to the image of this world).

From our perspective, it usually seems as if there is more to be done here. We want to remain, if we are kingdom minded, to continue in the good works of the Kingdom. If we are still self-orientated, we long to experience the remaining pleasures this life has to offer. In either case, we tend to ignore, rather purposefully, the possibility that our departure may actually bless others. For example, as we grow older, generally our sphere of influence shrinks. The number of lives brought face to face with the gospel by our departure diminishes. Bottom line, I would gladly sacrifice some years to touch some lives.

Jesus taught that if we want to follow him, we must be willing to give up anything (including our own lives) for his sake. If this raises anxiety in us, it is because we have not yet come to trust that he has our backs and that he has our (eternal) best interest at heart at all times. He will never slip up or drop the ball where we are concerned. He is not indifferent to any detail of our lives, but his priorities are eternal ones. As we are renewed, so will ours be. Then we will say, as Paul did, even if we die in his service, we will rejoice. Let's rejoice together in any and every circumstance, trusting Jesus to redeem everything in season. He is trustworthy and soveriegn. In him is joy, no matter what.

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