Sacrificial Obedience

Written by Rachel Denison

Obedience to God always brings blessing, always. But often with that blessing comes a bit of sacrifice. I'm in the middle of that right now.

I am so thankful we have a God who guides us from glory to glory. He lays out a beautiful inheritance for us if we'll choose to walk in his ways. He is a really good Father. Oftentimes he will calls us to say no to the good in order to say yes to the great-- the truly God things. 

Recently God has called me to make some changes in my life, and this was one of those very clear calls. If I had not made the recent decisions I'd made, it would have been disobedience. So, swiftly I made the choices and changes he was asking of me. Little did I anticipate the repercussions of my changes. 

It's insane how quickly fear can come in and steal our confidence, steal our faith. A few hold ups here and there cause my feet to fumble and my heart to waver. It's bizarre. I immediately second guess not only God's direction, but God's decision and intentions. I think to myself, "Maybe he doesn't know what's best?"

I am having to choose between being a brat who believes she knows what's best and being a child of faith who trusts the intentions and leading of her Father. The more desirable choice is obvious, but my heart is prone to choose what's safe. Being a know-it-all, bratty child is "safer" for me.

But since when did obedience have to look pretty to the world's standards? I mean, come on. Since when did obedience not include some suffering? If we are choosing to live counter-culturally in this world, we will undoubtedly experience some resistance. We will experience some hang ups on the road to obedience. God is not surprised and this doesn't mean he isn't calling us to do something difficult. We can't use hang ups and difficult situations as a cop out in obedience. That is what we signed up for when we said we would take up our cross daily and follow him.

The perfect example is Jesus and the cross. He knew the whole reason he'd come to the earth was to die. Literally. He wasn't here to enjoy the things of the world or have a pretty, fluffy American dream. He came to die. And he's calling us to do the same. We cannot be afraid of suffering for Jesus. We can't avoid the inevitable. We are not alone in our counter-cultural endeavors. We are actually looking more like him. 

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

In my new endeavor I am working with my hands, particularly working with flowers. As I smell the fragrant aroma of the work of my hands, I remember this verse. "Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” Ephesians 5:2 (NIV). My offering and sacrifice is a beautiful fragrance before God, quite literally and figuratively. So as I remember Jesus and the cross, I am reminded that my sacrifice looks the same to God. His delight in my offering stirs my heart towards more. What else can I bring to you my King? This makes any worldly sacrifice I experience well worth it all. 

I love the way Rick Warren describes this shift that happens in our hearts as we gaze upon the cross, "The Holy Spirit presses us toward the realm of grace, where we are transformed into seeing opportunities to love where others see wasteful sacrifice. Instead of the odor of waste, we learn to breathe deeply within God’s bouquet of grace, where, like Jesus, we are prepared for burial, ready to be “crucified with Christ,” so that “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Matthew 26:12; Galatians 2:20 NIV)."

I simply want to encourage you and myself that just because we are experiencing what Jesus calls tribulation in this world, obedience to him is our highest call. He is worthy. He experienced immense suffering and tribulation in being obedient to the Father on our behalf. Literally for us. He did not do it for himself. He faced the cross for our sake. We can face a couple small crosses for him. Know there was joy set before him, just as there is for us. Obedience to him regardless the cost is worth it. He is worth it, and he always will be. He is our joy.