Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Sacrifice - and Song?"

      Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ involves the sacrifice and the satisfaction of delayed gratification.  The Apostle Paul referenced both sensibilities in his prayer for the Colossian believers, for whom he made request that God would strengthen "unto all patience and longsuffering, with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11).

    We must make accommodation in our hearts and minds for this frequently declared Biblical truth.  First, we trust that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Roman 8:18).  Biblical delayed gratification, while involving discipline, begins and is empowered by God's grace, as known by faith.  As Paul wrote, "joyfulness" accompanies the present moment's sacrifice, if it results from the Holy Spirit's working within us His "patience and longsuffering."  In his description of the fruit of Spirit, the Apostle references both joy and temperance, or self control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Thus, a grudging, "grit your teeth" life of self sacrifice bears no resemblance to the path of righteousness whereupon the born again believer makes his way in a challenging world.  We rather experience spiritual gratification - joy - even as we delay other forms of gratification - temperance.

    Again, we must believe in the Christ-enabled possibility of "patience and longsuffering, with joyfulness."  Very real sacrifices in this and in every day await us as we walk with God.  The Bible calls us to view our voluntary foregoing of present pleasures in the confidence of another and greater present pleasure.  Can our Heavenly Father fill and fulfill our hearts even as we travel to Mt. Moriah for the offering of our particular Isaac?  Do we know Him well enough to consistently answer in the affirmative?  If so, let us seek to know Him even better for the purpose of more honoring Him along the path that offers both joy and sacrifice.  If not, we must confess our sin of failure to seek the Lord well enough so that the knowledge of God fills our hearts with the confidence that delighted gratitude accompanies delayed gratification.

    Paul and Silas lost everything in Phillipi for the glory of the Lord Jesus.  They sacrificed the flesh of their backs, their personal freedom, and seemingly, their very ministry.  Nevertheless, "at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25).  The praying, of course, seems understandable.  But the singing?  How did battered, bound, and imprisoned men find within themselves melody and verse in such a place and such a condition?  We know the answer.  The Lord Jesus for whom they sacrificed met them in their sacrifice.  "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43:2).  Delayed gratification?  Certainly, in a life such as this present sojourn through a fallen world.  But gratification nonetheless - "I will be with thee."  Indeed, the Lord who dwells always with His trusting children promises to be even more with us in our challenges - "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  This we must expect, first, because it is true, and then, because such confidence empowers us to make our Spirit-led sacrifices with prayers, and even with song.

"That day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy."
(Nehemiah 12:43)
"Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord."
(Psalm 4:5)

No comments: