I don’t get to go fishing as much as I would like. I love to get away from the city, especially in the Fall, when the weather is cooler, and listen to the sound of the wind, water, and leaves. It is very refreshing. I am not a great fisherman, but I still love it. Most of the time, the bait we buy is not the best. The worms have probably been in the container for quite a while. When you pull them out of the dirt, they don’t put up much of a fight.
However, on those rare occasions when the worms are lively, it can be a challenge to get those things on the hook. And once the hook goes through the first time, they really start to fight, thrashing wildly. In these cases, it is not uncommon for the hook to end up in my finger instead of the worm.
When we decide to follow Jesus Christ, we embark on a journey where we will experience victories and defeats. As we grow in our faith, we find new freedom and strength. However, we also find struggle and conflict. In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul implores us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, this being our spiritual worship. The problem with living sacrifices is that they are not dead. We can squirm around and fight back, much like a worm trying to be put on a hook. Pain is not pleasant. We don’t like it and we often resist it. But Paul is not just talking about pain here. I think he is talking about dying. This refers to the dying that takes place when we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God.
The writers of Scripture speak about death, but many times they are not referring to physical death. They are speaking of sacrifice and death to self. Think of Jesus, on the night He was betrayed. The brutality and suffering that awaited Him were immense. He was sitting at a table with His closest earthly friends. Every single one of them would abandon Him. One of them would betray Him. He knew this and, yet, He served them. He washed their feet. He continued to teach them. He prayed for them. He prayed for us. He showed us the way of true worship.
True worship is the abandoning of ourselves to God, giving our lives to Him as a living sacrifice. It means living in the manner that Jesus lived. Jesus was willing to endure suffering for the sake of others and the glory of God. Jesus was willing to be wronged for the sake of others and the glory of God. Jesus was willing to give up His rights for the sake of others and the glory of God. How quickly do we rush to our own defense, standing up for our own rights, harboring the bitterness of wrongs done to us? How often do we pick up our toys and go home when we don’t get our own way or when others don’t do things exactly the way we think they should be done?
Jesus died to His desires. Jesus died to His rights. Jesus died that we might live. Jesus embraced the will of the Father, despite the knowledge that He would bear the full weight of God’s wrath for our sin. Even when He knew He would be abandoned, betrayed, and sacrificed, He continued to love and serve those who would dish out the rejection and send Him to the cross.
How different would our marriages, families, friendships, churches, and communities be if we would simply be willing to suffer rather than take offense and tenaciously hold onto our desire for our preferences and rights to be fully acknowledged and satisfied? Even more, to realize that these afflictions and “thorns” could very well be God’s discipline in our lives, to bring transformation in our lives and make us more like Christ (Hebrews 12:3-17).
What relationships would be transformed and reconciled if I was willing to die to my preferences? I am not talking about denying our convictions that are grounded in the Word of God. I am referring to those things, not essential, that divide us in our relationships. What if I was willing to die to my pride and serve, even if I am rejected or humiliated? What if I humbled myself instead of trying to be vindicated or acknowledged? What if I loved and served those people who drive me crazy and just get under my skin? What if I saw irritating circumstances and people as one of God’s means to make me more like Jesus?
So many people just view worship as an experience or something that we participate in. However, true worship is lived every moment. True is worship is a complete giving of our lives to God. It is living life in the trenches, pressing on to be transformed into the image of Christ in midst of life, not in spite of it. The life of worship is not a cakewalk. It can be filled with many difficulties and struggles, victories and failures. I know I have a long way to go. But God has promised that these struggles are momentary and light, in view of eternity and the glory that awaits and the joy we find in Him. Jesus died so that reconciliation could take place. We are called to follow in His steps. Are we following, or are we seeking an easier way through?
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:10
Together for His glory…