The Call of Sacrifice

I remember, a decade or so ago, a faithful parishioner saying to me, "Pastor London, thank you for the sacrifices you make for your flock." To be honest with you, I don't think I had ever thought of my pastoral call as a sacrifice. Oh, there were those times when I grew weary in well doing, when my family needed me, but I was not available to them. I can remember vividly being falsely criticized or berated by a church member who either didn't understand my motives or know the whole story. At other times, my best efforts seemed futile and foolish to the point that I once begged God to release me from my call. But sacrifice?

At the Easter season we are all reminded of One who knew sacrifice. The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). The Old Testament tells us that we are healed by his wounds (Isaiah 53:5). Now that is sacrifice.

During Easter, there is great focus on the Resurrection — and rightly so — but, before that great celebration morning, there was suffering. On Easter, we are tempted to avoid the stark reality of the cross and concentrate on the miracles.

I read somewhere that our Lord was not crucified in a cathedral between two candelabras. He was nailed to a rugged cross, despised by people He loved, mocked by His enemies, and suffered real physical pain caused by nails, thirst, swords, thorns and suffocation. Sometimes, in the pageantry, we lose the significance of Jesus' ordeal. We dare not.

Paul warns us to boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14). Jesus said, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20b) and, when He spoke to His followers, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

I don't mean to belabor the fact, but our call is not for the faint of heart. In many ways, it is an invitation to carry a cross — to sacrifice. The emphasis on financial packages, megachurches, celebrity pastors, and comfortable surroundings can be a distraction if we are not careful. David would say, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24).

Oh, by the way, have you read Hebrews 11 lately? One line from that great chapter stands out, "... the world was not worthy of them" (Heb. 11:38). Keep that in mind, too.

So, I challenge you, at this most wonderful time of the year, to offer yourself in a new way as "living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1).

Don't give up, my colleague! Happy Easter!

Article copyright © 2003, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Dr. H.B. London is the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family and the author of numerous books on and for pastors. He served as a Nazarene pastor for over 30 years in several churches in Oregon and California. He and his wife, Beverley, live primarily in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have two sons and four grandchildren.