Most of you know that I am a Youth Pastor. If you’ve ever heard me speak, the following post is probably very characteristic of the message God’s given me during my time serving in leadership at my church, (two years this month). Probably the most central theme that I’ve tried to encapsulate in my many hours of preparation for our weekly youth services is sacrifice.
If you know me and if you’ve followed this blog for any period of time, you know that much of what I post is un-apologetically mine. Meaning, of course, that I post from my heart what I feel and think without apology or regret. (Hence my transparency in previous posts.)
That being said, I want to examine for a moment what this word sacrifice means.
Imagine you are running a race. Now imagine you had a backpack filled with stones (big, small, it doesn’t matter). And you’re trying to run this race and make it to the finish line, but those stones… they’re just so… heavy. They weigh you down. You’re weary and you feel like you don’t have the strength to carry on. The backpack seems to grow heavier and heavier with each step, until you can’t run anymore. You’re on the ground, collapsed, buried beneath scattered stones.
But still, God calls you onward in this race. He’s cheering you on. And He sees those stones you hold onto and is calling you to throw them away because He wants to see you win the race.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
In every great revival* throughout the ages (The first Pentecost, Azusa Street, The First and Second Great Awakenings, Brownsville, etc…) there was issued a call to repentance. I was born in 1996, the year after the breakout of the Brownsville Revival, and I grew up watching recordings of the many, many revival services that took place there. One commonality that I noticed was that in each service there was issued a call to repentance, a call to return to the Lord, to “re-enter the race”, so to speak.
Let’s look for a moment at the definition of repentance – “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.”
To change one’s life for the better. As contestants in this race is there any disadvantage to throwing away every stone? Too many Christians are short-sighted. They see only what they might lose by throwing away their stones. We as Christians should remember the reward we will receive when we cross the finished line and enter heaven.
Our focus should not be on trying to justify the things that weigh on us; depression, sin, regret, unforgiveness, bitterness, disobedience to the Word of God. These are stones that weigh on us and prevent us from running the race with endurance. Too many people are short-sighted and see only what they have and not what they might gain when they cross the finish line. The writer of Hebrews reminds us to: “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured…”
As believers, we are called to fix our eyes on Jesus and throw away anything that would try to draw your attention from Him.
“Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?” – Ezekiel 18:31
For what will you die? For that sin? That hurt? That bitterness That desire? That lust of the flesh? That temporary thing, which shall soon “dissolve like snow”?
God calls us to run with endurance, but those stones you hold onto are weighing you down. It’s time to throw away our stones and realize that all that we have is not all that we could have.
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:21
“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” – Psalm 55:22
“I said to them, ‘Cast away, each of you, the detestable things of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.’ But they rebelled against Me and were not willing to listen to Me; they did not cast away the detestable things of their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.” – Ezekiel 20:7-8
For what will you die? What worth is there in the things that fade? What worth is there in that broken relationship? What worth is there in unforgiveness? What worth is there in sin?
We have got to be willing to sacrifice the things which hinder us and prevent us from running the race with endurance.
If we want to live a lifestyle of revival, we will have to cast away the things that hinder. Sacrifice is inevitable if there is to be reward. Revival is not a joke. It is a serious thing. As believers we must make room for the fire that never sleeps.
*Revival – The raw, unfiltered, unequivocal presence and divine activity of God through Holy Spirit as in the days of the First Church of Acts.