The term sacrifice can have many connotations to many different people. To one person, the word sacrifice brings up the image of a brave soldier, a police officer, or firefighter giving his or her life for our freedom and protection. In a historical context, the term sacrifice may bring up a picture of an animal tied to an altar and killed to appease the wrath of God or gods. Or what about a hard working parent or parents who continually put the needs of their children ahead of their own needs? For Christians, the ultimate picture of sacrifice is the Lord Jesus Christ coming to this earth to die on the cross for our sins and for all of humanity’s sins, past present and future. Thus, for purposes of this article, we can define sacrifice as the voluntary giving up of something valuable for a higher and more worthy cause, whether it be a loved one, a gift, an ideal, or Christ’s reconciliation of humanity with God.
The Book of Hebrews describes Christ’s role as high priest within the context of the Old Testament animal sacrifice:
“But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle. not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14, KJV).
What that Scripture is saying is that there is no amount of sacrifice we can make in order to be reconciled with God and receive forgiveness for our sins. It is only through the blood of Jesus Christ our sins can be forgiven. If there was another way, then Christ died in vain. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in this world. Throughout various points in its history, the Church has gone through periods of persecution and immense suffering. Even today in regions throughout the world, Christian brothers and sisters are being tortured and martyred for their faith. As anyone who follows Christ wholeheartedly can tell you, the Christian life is not for the faint of heart. Just a cursory reading of the Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the Epistles show the rejection, suffering, and persecution endured by Christ and the apostles. When times of great difficulty arise in our Christian walks and they will, we are to soldier on for our heavenly rewards far exceed anything this world can offer.
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9, KJV).
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, KJV).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58, KJV).
The Bible tells us that our troubles are light and momentary, meaning this present situation will not last forever. Just as the bitter cold of winter gives way to the rebirth of spring, and spring gives way to the heat of summer, and the summer transitions to fall, difficult trials will end and we will come into seasons of joy and peace. From my own experiences, with God’s grace, I have endured multiple difficult seasons in my life and I would never belittle or downplay what someone else is enduring at the moment. No matter what it is- a scary diagnosis from the doctor, the sudden death of a loved one, being blindsided by a divorce or job loss, the Word of God teaches we can have peace no matter the circumstances. During the fiery trials of our faith, we must trust and praise God. If God so loved us to send Christ into the world and take care of our eternity, will He not be with us in our everyday circumstances?
If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, but we must battle our sinful nature or flesh, if you will, while we live in these bodies. During difficult times there will be many temptations to lose faith and hope. However, we must not yield to the temptations of bitterness, anger, resentment, rejection, discouragement, depression, and condemnation to control our thoughts, actions, and emotions. If we choose to be led by our emotions and not the Holy Spirit, we will be up and down, never knowing true and lasting joy and peace. In order to allow God to lead us to the path of victory, we must offer what Scripture calls the sacrifice of praise.
“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15-16, KJV).
The sacrifice of praise is a by-product of a life surrendered to God. We can make the sacrifice of praise as a time of thanksgiving for everything the Lord has done for us. Our God is worthy to be praised and must be praised in good times and bad. Praising and exalting God should be a part of our everyday lives as are breathing, eating, and exercise.
Job is a prime example of the sacrifice of praise in action. Job is a righteous man who had to endure the loss of his ten children, the loss of his business, he became ill, he was rejected by his friends and his wife, who encouraged him to “curse God and die.” Even in the midst of such unimaginable and horrid circumstances, Job makes three powerful statements concerning his faith in God. I would consider these statements to be sacrifices of praise.
“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, [signs of mourning] and fell down upon the ground and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return tither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:20-22, KJV, brackets mine).
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain my own ways before him,” (Job 13:15, KJV).
“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27, KJV).
These three statements made by Job are powerful considering the circumstances he is facing. Job has laid out the foundation for the sacrifice of praise and expresses deeply theological truths about God and how we should live in this world:
- Everything we have- our life, our families, our health, our blessings- are all gifts from God and can be temporary in nature.
- God is to be praised in all circumstances.
- We are to trust God no matter the circumstances.
- We are to maintain our walk with God in all circumstances.
- Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is alive and is soon returning to this earth.
- Our earthly bodies will die one day, but we have the hope of heaven, the hope beyond this present world, where we will spent eternity with God.
When outside pressure is applied, what is on the inside of us will rise up to the surface. If I were to squeeze a water bottle, water will come out of it. If I were to squeeze an orange, the juice would come out of the orange. In our everyday and spiritual lives, how we respond to external pressure serves as a gauge as to what is in our hearts and shows where our faith lies.
“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things” For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:34-35, KJV).
“A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” (Proverbs 18:7, KJV).
“If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10, KJV).
The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. Thus, in order to make the sacrifice of praise a part of our lifestyle, we must surrender to the Holy Spirit and determine in our hearts to praise God in all circumstances.
“I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise hall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:1-4, KJV).
When we praise the Lord, we are also expressing our thanks to Him.
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV).
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:15-17, KJV).
Praise is also part of a lifestyle of prayer. Prayer is not simply us reading a “wish list” off to God, but a time of deep personal reflection, seeking God’s direction and forgiveness, dwelling in His presence, and praising Him for all that He has done for us. There is a contentment that comes with a lifestyle of prayer when we know God has our best interest at heart when He answers the prayer with a yes, no, or not yet.
“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes [exceeds, transcends] all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-6, KJV), brackets mine.
As Christians, we must always keep before us the eternal perspective in a temporary world. We must live our lives above the fray, tuning out the noise and the clamor all around us. We must walk as living sacrifices to God, separated from the filth and pollution that so permeates the world around us. We must sacrifice the convenience of worldly Christianity and walk the narrow path that leads to life everlasting.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2, KJV).