I’ve chosen words of the year before, but this is the first year when I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, exactly what the word was supposed to be. This is one of the benefits I am discovering to journaling my prayers– as I write, I often discover the answers I am seeking. And this year’s word has been no mystery.
Originally, I thought my word was going to be praise. God has been teaching me a lot about praise– the importance of praise in the life of the believer. I believe that praise is one of our most powerful weapons against the enemy of our souls, who tempts us and lies to us and accuses us and discourages us. I have struggled and failed through many (mostly food-related) temptations, and I can certainly say that it is pretty much impossible to stuff a brownie into your mouth when you’re praising God for His sufficiency and for being your portion.
So I expected that was going to be my word, because all these lessons were coming so late in the year that it just seemed like clear direction. But then as I prayed I began to feel less confident about that word. The phrases sacrifice of praise and sacrifice of thanksgiving kept coming to mind, along with many reminders that I have been crucified with Christ– that I died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God– that I am to present my body a living sacrifice– and it all clicked into place.
This word encompasses so much of what I have been learning over the past year– mostly what I’ve been learning about myself and my God. I am selfish, ungrateful, prideful, and seeking of immediate gratification. God is generous, gracious, merciful, and patient, demonstrating His character through His Son, who “made Himself of no reputation, but took on Himself the form of a servant and came in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself (as if He weren’t humbled enough?) and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” I am called to be Christlike, but I am so extraordinarily far from that.
I have fought against the concept of sacrifice for a long time. I had a very legalistic view of salvation when I was younger, and then as I started to grasp the concept of grace I started to feel like I shouldn’t have to deny myself of anything– because God would forgive me, right? And isn’t self-denial, and obedience, and living a life that is pleasing to God just another form of legalism? In 2014, God began to open my eyes to the foolishness of my heart. He began to teach me who He is, which made me love Him more, which makes me desire to serve Him. He showed me (keeps showing me!) that whenever I start to feel like I deserve to have my own way, it is a sign that I am moving out of alignment with His heart.
And I want to be near to His heart. The more time I spend with Him, praising His name, reading about His amazing character and His beautiful attributes, the more I desire to be near Him– the more I am willing to do whatever it takes to get closer to Him– and that includes sacrifice.
And so this year, I will sacrifice.
I will sacrifice my freedom to eat whatever I want whenever I want, and in exchange I will receive the satisfaction that God my Portion gives.
I will sacrifice my time and my selfish pursuits in order to love and train my children, and in exchange I will see God working in them and in me as our relationships grow.
I will sacrifice my rest so that I may spend time with my God, and in exchange I will receive strength, peace, joy, help, grace, forgiveness– whatever I need.
I will sacrifice my pride and serve God as He leads, expecting no recognition or reward, and in exchange He will be my sure reward.
I will present my whole self as a living sacrifice. I will draw near to God and experience His holy fire, and it will hurt, and I will cry out against it, but in the end I will be closer to Him, filled with Him, more like Him, able to be used by Him.
It’s scary, you know? To name a year one of sacrifice when you can’t see the 365 days ahead– when you have no idea what God might ask you to do. I do not have great faith, but I have small faith in a great and faithful God, and I believe this: He is Enough for me, in every sacrifice and in every failure, for there will be many. His grace is always sufficient; His life is in me, and His life is worth it.
Every sacrifice worth it, if it draws me nearer to the heart of my God.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.