The older I get in ministry, the less work it is, and the more of a privilege it becomes. I remember my biggest dread when I started church ministry in 1985.
That’s partly because on my first visit I walked into the wrong room.
And, I still have to keep my eyes off the fluids to not faint. God made fluids to be contained.
But in the last couple years I have been at a lot of bedsides – and a lot where someone is dying. It is a huge privilege to be able to be there crying and praying and reading with the family. It isn’t something I wanted to do that day, but there is no place I’d rather be that day. It’s an honor to be asked to be there.
Even preaching has gone from sick, scary, relieved when it is over – to honored God would trust me to speak, and sick, scary, relieved when it is over
I still hate conflict. However, I’m not so sure that is a sacrifice for God as much as a part of life.
A few weeks ago John Piper wrote a blog with the title: “I Never Made a Sacrifice.” It was a great blog, but it typical Piper fashion it was complete and thorough. So, here is the jest of it in simplified Cooley format.
March 19, 1813 was David Livingstone’s birthday. The David of “David Livingstone, I presume?” was the first European to cross Africa. After seeing the slave trade from the perspective of Africa, he devoted himself to ending it. He was a missionary that caught grief because he was also an explorer.
A year before he died, on March 19 1872 he wrote, “My birthday! My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All. I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.”
When addressing Cambridge University in 1857 he said, “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Is that a sacrifice, which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.” (Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 1981, 259)
Before Livingston, Paul said, Php 3:8 (NIV2011) “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
In his typical “say what everyone else is thinking but is too wise to say” fashion, Peter at one point brags “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). Or maybe he wasn’t bragging, maybe he was rather sad about what he felt he had sacrificed? Either way Jesus had an answer.
“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:27–30)
Here is what Piper had to say about what Jesus said. “I cannot escape the impression that this is a rebuke. ‘Peter, you speak of what you have left behind in order to follow me! Really? No, Peter, what you have left behind is as nothing compared to what you gain in following me! Don’t you see, Peter, that if you think of Christian obedience in terms of loss, rather than gain, you dishonor me. I did not call you to me because I am poor and need your sacrifices. I called you to me because I am all-powerful, and all-wise, and own everything in the universe. I have called you into my family as fellow heirs of all I have (1 Corinthians 3:21–23), and I am giving you eternal life — eternal joy with me in the presence of my Father. No, Peter, you have not made a sacrifice to follow me. Not any more than if you sold your house to buy a field of hidden gold, or sold your fishing boat to buy the finest hidden pearl.’ In the bright shadow of David Livingstone’s suffering, I could see the point of Jesus’s words more readily — “Following me, you do not make a sacrifice.”
Piper than leaves us with the piercing question: “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”
For Piper’s complete blog, click here. Or, you can cut and paste in the below mess if the link doesn’t work.