I don’t know about you, but the word “sacrifice” makes me uncomfortable. Deep down, I know making sacrifices often brings rewards, but I still find it difficult to embrace them. Yet, the challenge is that life operates in such a way that nothing great is achieved without sacrifice. For instance, no one makes it to the Olympics by mistake, let alone stand on the rostrum. Olympians make deliberate decisions, sometimes daily, which directly increase their chances of competing at the Olympics. Those choices are riddled with sacrifices. The same is true of anyone who excels in any area of life. Essentially, there is a price for success, and that price is often paid with the currency of sacrifice.
This phenomenon is also true for Christians. In God’s kingdom, some blessings are a gift and, some blessings are a reward. Salvation, for example, is a gift [Ephesians 2:1-10]. We did nothing to earn it. Jesus paid the price in full. However, there are people who entered into a covenant with God because of their sacrifices [Psalm 50:5]. It seems they gave up something or made an offering that drew God’s attention, which compelled Him to enter into a covenant with them. God calls them His faithful ones, and their covenant with God is a reward for their sacrifice.
A personal covenant with God isn’t something many understand, and without that understanding, it’s difficult to grasp its implication properly. So, it’s worth looking at the life of Abraham, a man who entered a covenant with God by sacrifice. Abraham’s journey starts with an instruction from God to leave his country and his family for an unknown destination [Genesis 12:1]. Abraham was a 75-year-old, asked to walk away from all he knew for an uncertain future. Obeying this instruction was an incredible sacrifice, bearing in mind that Abraham was a pagan with no previous experience of God’s faithfulness. For years, Abraham roamed the East as a nomad, but he entered into a covenant with God because of his obedience [Genesis 15].
In that covenant, God promised Abraham an heir [Genesis 15:4], innumerable descendants [Genesis 15:5-6] and a country of their own [Genesis 15:18-21]. Millions have since benefitted from this covenant, but where would they be if Abraham didn’t make the initial sacrifice? Decades later, God would ask Abraham to make another sacrifice. Though by now Abraham had evidence of God’s faithfulness, it still wasn’t easy. You could reason that a man without an heir can give up his inheritance because there’s no child to inherit it after his death. You could even argue that a man could give up a son he sired out of wedlock because his wife wouldn’t accept the child, as was the situation with Abraham’s firstborn, Ishmael [Genesis 21:9-10]. But can you imagine what it took for Abraham to willingly give up Isaac, the heir he’d waited 100 years to receive? Isaac was his posterity. He’d already given up his past, and now he was about to give up his future!
When God saw that there was nothing Abraham wouldn’t give Him, God made him an oath. I love how the King James Bible puts it: “…in blessing, I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thee…” [Genesis 22:15-18]. It’s worth noting that God makes it clear twice that this pledge is a reward [Genesis 22:16,18]. Abraham was a truly blessed man. He lived to sire more sons [Genesis 25:1-2] and see Isaac’s children [Genesis 25:7,26]. The Bible says he died satisfied with life [Genesis 25:8]. Most of us would like God to make a similar pledge to bless and multiply us. God is certainly capable of making such a pledge, but are we prepared to make Abraham’s sacrifice?
Have you ever wondered why God calls on anyone to make a sacrifice? He doesn’t need anything from us, so our sacrifice adds nothing to God. However, as Abraham’s story and others like David demonstrate, such sacrifices are conduits to God’s blessings. Often, those blessings are trans-generational, and they also tend to elevate the recipient to a new level in their walk with God. For instance, Jesus is called Son of David because of God’s covenant with David. Think about it, the Maker of the universe named Himself after a human being because of a covenant, that’s unfathomable! Jesus would later teach that whoever gives up houses, siblings, parents, spouse or children for His sake will receive a disproportionately greater reward along with eternal life in return [Matthew 19:29]. Without a doubt, when God calls us to make a sacrifice, it’s because He wants to bless and elevate us.
Has God ever asked you to make a sacrifice? If not, could it be that your heart is hardened to His voice [Hebrews 3:13] or, you can’t fathom giving up anything of value in your life for His sake? It might even be that you’re willing to give God Ishmael, but are you prepared to give Him Isaac too? Isaac is anything that could potentially take the place of God in your life. Isaac may be a career, money, children, fame, ego, time or even sleep. Is there anything in your life you couldn’t let go of if God asked for it? Maybe that’s a question to dwell on this week.
Whatever your Isaac is could be standing between you and God’s blessings. It could be the difference between living a blessed life and dying a precious death [Psalm 116:15] or living a mediocre life and dying without ever being consciously involved in God’s agenda. In God’s kingdom, the cross precedes the crown [Hebrews 12:2]. So, you can stay where you are, but I can guarantee you that it won’t be as good as where God could have taken you. The choice is ours [Matthew 16:24-25].