Some Recent Thoughts on Life, Eternity, Sacrifice, and Giving

From time to time I find it personally helpful to type out a variety of thoughts that seem worth recording at least for my own personal benefit.  Usually they are fairly disconnected except for the fact that every element of life is intertwined when related to God and His purposes.  I record them together because there’s no time to write a dozen separate posts, and sometimes the thoughts are small anyway.  But after typing a lot of things down tonight, it seems that God has ordained a theme.  I realize that I speak a bit strongly at points, but I hope it’s not offensive.  We have a high calling and are promised grace to fulfill it.  I personally am not interested in the sugar-coated versions of that calling.  I need to be challenged.  Here are the thoughts:

  1. You get one shot at life — one opportunity to give your vaporous few decades for a King whose glory is worth ten thousand.  I thought about this recently as I pondered how many children the Lord might want us to adopt and how tired and incapable I would be trying to be a father to a lot of kids.  It hit me, as it often does, that I only get one shot at this thing called life, and if I live an average American life-span, one-third of it is already gone.  Who cares if my millisecond on earth is a bit laborious?  The pitifully little things that I think of as difficulties evaporate in the blazing sun of eternity.  The weariness of service, the difficulty of sanctification, the discouragements that attend life, and the opposition of the world are instantly smothered by the refreshing thought that I will spend forever in happy, restful fellowship with Jesus.  Somehow the frequency of this realization never nullifies its potency.  It’s simply good and necessary to remember that life is short and eternity is long.  And if you trust God’s promises for your eternity, it makes it a lot easier to give your life away here and now (and to give it away in ways that neither you nor your culture nor the church might think of as normal).
     
  2. At the end of Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler breaks down in front of his grateful factory workers who were saved from Auschwitz by his extreme, creative, sacrificial efforts.  Oskar weeps as he stands beside his luxurious car because he realizes that he could’ve sold it and purchased the escape of many more Jews.  He then looks at his ring and realizes with equal distress that it too could’ve bought another life.  I haven’t seen this movie for a long time but I remember this scene distinctly.  It strikes me not just because of its application to the Holocaust but because I fear that I will feel the exact same way when I come to the end of my life.  And I sense a grave responsibility to do something about it now while I have time and opportunity.  “Could’ve but didn’t” is not something I want ringing in my ears at the judgment.  Not when God’s glory is the goal and people’s souls are on the line.  I’m not talking about earning my way into heaven by doing a bit extra.  I’m not talking about trying to impress God.  I’m not talking about being a Christian hero.  I’m talking about living the grace-empowered life of a normal Christian as described by Jesus — a life worthy of the character of God and the gospel of Christ — which means giving away everything.
     
  3. I think that one of the most profound statements of commitment ever made came from Nathan Hale right before he was hanged as a spy:  “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  When I apply it outside of its Revolutionary War context, I find that it speaks perfectly to the mentality of the Christian who lives and dies for the glory of God.  I hope that when I come to die, this would be my one regret.  You’re telling me the nations need to hear about the glory and forgiveness of Jesus and I get one chance?  I acknowledge the immortality and omnipotence of God; I acknowledge the fact that I am not meant to be a lasting or significant character in God’s redemptive plan; I acknowledge that I am not important or indispensable but in fact small and instantly replaceable; I acknowledge that life on this earth is wearisome and that I would gladly be with Christ sooner than later.  But I still wish that I had more than one life to give to Christ, because He is not yet worshiped as He deserves.  I only realized tonight that Nathan Hale was twenty-one years old when he died.
     
  4. I don’t know that we in America have even begun to scratch the surface of what “sacrifice” means.  Part of the problem is that as soon as I exaggerate my sacrifices, I lower the bar.  Trials become things like traffic, computer problems, and head colds.  But Jesus takes the same bar and chucks it up into the sky where we can barely see it.  It is only when we look up into the life and words of Jesus that we find what it really means to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  What would happen if we allowed Christ to define “sacrifice” for us and then lived accordingly?
     
  5. Bob Somerville preached at our church on Sunday night.  He preached on giving from 2 Corinthians 8 & 9.  These two chapters are tremendous, the sermon was excellent, and a few things he said are worth repeating (see 6-8).
     
  6. What if you gave financially according to how God has blessed you?  What if we all gave according to how God has blessed us?  I wonder how many needs could be met and how many people could be reached and how many missionaries could be sent?  Here’s a reverse way of asking the question:  What if God blessed you according to your giving?  Actually, He does.  Or at least He will.  If that’s not a comforting thought, you’re not giving enough.
     
  7. A Christian businessman from America was visiting South Korea.  As he was driving along with the pastor of a local church, he saw a father and his son plowing their field without an animal.  The businessman remarked that they must be very poor.  The pastor replied, “Actually, they attend our church.  They had an ox for plowing but they sold it and gave the money to help build a church building.”  The businessman said, “Wow — that’s quite a sacrifice.”  “That’s not what the father said,” the pastor replied.  “What did he say?” asked the businessman.  “He said that he was glad they had an ox they could sell.”
     
  8. What might Jesus think if He were standing at the end of your row of seats at church as the offering was being collected?  Because that’s exactly what He was doing when He commented on the widow who put her two pents into the offering receptacle at the temple (Mark 12:41-44).  She gave more than everyone else not because she gave more but because she gave everything.  That story is no less striking for its familiarity.  If it doesn’t move you, you have a problem.
     
  9. I am so thankful for God’s patience.  I have never yet begun to live the life of Godward devotion and heavenly-minded sacrifice that I’ve described above, yet I am secure in the mercy of God.  He loves me no less for my wandering.  I know that He is for me and that His grace covers the abundance of sin that permeates my mind, will, and affections every day.  Last night at church I recognized thoughts of pride while confessing my sin with the communion cup in my hand.  What an amazing thing — that I can sin (1) while confessing sin (2) during the celebration of Christ’s forgiveness and that God still embraces me with the arms of a father.  Surely we can never get beyond the gospel or build the superstructure of our Christianity so big that the gospel becomes the unseen and neglected foundation.  The gospel must saturate our lives and fuel our obedience.

But if the gospel does saturate our lives and fuel our obedience, it will not lead to lethargy and spiritual contentment.  Abundant grace is not meant to produce abounding sin.  The gospel frees me to choose sacrifice in the service of love, not to choose comfort in the service of self.  I have been forgiven once and for all for my worship of worldly interests and my avoidance of gospel devotion.  But this forgiveness does not make me want to coast.  It makes me want to walk the narrow road where life is Godward, eternity is treasured, sacrifice is normal, and giving overflows — and where my only regret is that I only had one life to lose for my Savior.


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