As Christians, sometimes we will need to give up things for the sake of our faith. Sometimes these things will be easy to give up. Sometimes, the act of giving up these things will clearly benefit us right here on earth, like if for instance we decided to give up smoking. Other times however, God through His Word or through other means might ask us to make seemingly impossible sacrifices with no obvious benefits for us down here on earth. Many Christians have given up their actual lives and died for their faith. Many other Christians have given up everything that might make life seem happy and bearable, like their families, their financial security, their friends, their health, their social standing. They may also have given up everyday material comforts, like running water, reliable electricity, warm and well-ventilated homes, good food.
Sometimes these sacrifices are demanded of Christians at gunpoint – they are forced to make these sacrifices by other people. Sometimes, Christians voluntarily take on these sacrifices, for instance by leaving everything to go to remote parts of the world to preach the Gospel to others who have never heard about Jesus, often risking their lives in the process. Sometimes it is the very act of becoming a Christian itself that means that we may have to face rejection by our families or society at large.
Some Christians – especially prosperity preachers, preach a faith that is empty of sacrifice (except financial sacrifice – directed to their own ministries, of course – resulting in supposed larger financial blessing here on earth). A life where no sacrifice is necessary is tempting and attractive to believe in. However, it is not biblical at all. Jesus says in Matthew 16v24: “If anyone will follow Me, let him pick up his cross and follow Me”. It is worth remembering of course that the cross was an instrument of execution. To me, this verse means that at any time as we follow Jesus we are to be ready to give up absolutely anything – or even to die. This same verse occurs also in Mark 8v34, Luke 9v23.
Some Christians are called to make huge sacrifices while still very new in their faith. In some parts of the world, even becoming a Christian still carries a death sentence; sometimes this is officially reflected in the law, sometimes there is no official legal standing but executions are reliably carried out all the same by previously loving friends and relatives. This particular sacrifice might rarely be demanded of Christians in the West on the whole. However, there are still other sacrifices that are available to all of us. We can choose to grow in our level of voluntary sacrifices. The Bible says in John 15v13 that “Greater love has no-one than this, than to lay down their life for their friends”.
About death by martyrdom
I personally don’t believe that there is any value in dying for its own sake. If death by martyrdom is demanded of us and there is no option – then so be it!
(Some Christians and other faiths seem to glorify death by martyrdom – but I personally believe that a dead Christian can’t pray or work in God’s kingdom – I personally believe that as Christians we are more useful to the work of God alive than dead).
Sometimes as Christians we want to make flamboyant gestures and passionate declarations about our faith and about the depth of our commitment – but I believe that we should let common sense and wisdom direct our zeal. What is the point of just throwing away your life to a careless death by running out onto the mission field, ill-prepared and ill-informed? I believe that one way in which we could lay down our lives for our friends – and still keep breathing – is by spending our lives praying for our friends, or working to share the Gospel of Christ with them. This is a voluntary sacrifice, and one which we can carry out from our own homes, in quiet, in peace. Where we do go out onto the mission field, I believe that our sacrifices can go so much further if we take the time to be carefully informed about each assignment, by studying the locale and the environment beforehand, if we understand the depth of the spiritual battle that we are facing, and properly enlist adequate ongoing prayer support, and also take the time to pray intensively beforehand.
Yes, we are fighting a vicious war, but I believe that as Christians we have been equipped to win – however we need to undertake this as carefully and strategically as any military campaign. (Must learn to listen to my own advice….)
Photo of cross and crown by reverendole on Pixabay