Yesterday, I knew that Hugh and I would not make it to our regular 6:00 church service, so I attempted to take the girls to the 11:00. Technically, the girls nap around then, and they eat at noon, so I knew that this was going to be a stretch. Keep in mind that a seemingly single mom walking into church with a stroller equivalent to a double wide might as well be a three man circus. Lots of sympathetic smiles, rushing to open the door as if the president is coming in, and oohs and aahs. I knew we wouldn’t make it through the whole service, but I wanted to be able to participate at least for a while. Since we would leave early, I kept the girls with me and we sat in the back. When we are at home, Ally and Bailey Grace tend to be interactive, smiling, and content. For reasons that I don’t know (maybe extra stimulation and new things) they often seem to be frozen when we are out in public. It is like a light switch has turned off at times, and to be honest, it frustrates me at points because I want people to be able to engage with our sweet girls and see them as they truly are. When the service began and the first praise song began playing, I glanced over and saw Ally kicking her legs to the music. God spoke to my heart in this moment with such clarity: This is the kind of praise I desire. She is bringing all she has without reservation. In that moment, Ally wasn’t worried about whether her gift to God was silly, whether she could kick hard enough or to the beat, what her gift was compared to those around her; she just brought what she could. Obviously, movement is a challenge for our girls in the first place; how sweet it was that it was the very thing she chose to offer.
The Gospels give a beautiful account of a widow contributing to the offering plate. Mark 12:41-44 recounts it as follows:
“And He (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (emphasis mine)
Because of the cross and what Jesus did for those of us who have faith to believe, we no longer have to sacrifice animals for our sins. While God does not need anything from us, for He is ruler over all, He gives us the privilege of showing Him our love in different ways. Time, money, and the talents He has given us are some of those ways. Romans 14:7 reminds us that we are not our own masters, therefore how we spend our time is not up to us once we have made Christ our Lord. Matthew 6:24 exhorts us that we cannot love God and money; so the way we spend the money God has entrusted to us is up to Him. Romans 12:6-8 states that we have all been given different gifts and talents, and that God desires us to use those for good. Ultimately, we are called to offer the Gospel to all, as 1 Peter 3:15 commands us. These are all great things to offer, but how often do we find ourselves offering up the easiest thing? We have plenty of money, so we give out of our abundance so that someone else can go spend their time in another country. We enjoy serving, so we offer our time and trust that someone who “lives more comfortably than us” will give financially. We find it easy to teach the preschool class, so we do that but feel no need to share the Gospel because “evangelism doesn’t come easily to me”. These are just a few examples, and I would like to encourage us all to give where it is uncomfortable. Do the very thing that doesn’t seem to come naturally to you; because it is there God will meet you and your dependence on Him to show up will grow. This is where faith is stretched and molded.
Beyond that, I believe that the New Testament reminds us that it is the very things of the heart that He is most pleased with. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name”. Don’t miss the first part. Through Him. When tragedy strikes, whatever that looks like in your life, He gives you the ability to praise Him in the midst. It is Him who turns despair and darkness into light and hope. Praise IS a sacrifice sometimes. When things are all going as we planned, saying, “God is good” is not that difficult and does not require much faith. When everything around appears to be crumbling, when we are absolutely stripped of the comforts of this world, He is most pleased when we choose to praise Him instead of shaking our fists at the sky and asking, “Why”. We offer a sacrifice of praise because we know He can be trusted. Because as we look at generations past, and look at the ways He has loved us and those around us, we know that He is most worthy of our affections and our worship. Sometimes, the sacrifice of our praise, of our trust, of our contentment in the season He has placed us in, is our way of offering up everything we have in that moment. It is not easy. It can be most painful, in fact. But, isn’t that what a sacrifice is? Offering something precious to us for the sake of something greater? How fitting it is to honor the soldiers both living and not that have risked or given their lives for us as Americans. Even greater, let’s look at the example of our Savior who sacrificed not just His life but gave everything so our imperfect slate could be forever wiped clean and we could have the chance to spend eternity with Him. Why? Because it was worth it to Him. Pleasing His Father in heaven was worth it. You were worth it. Let that sink in today. And, whatever your sacrifice looks like today, whether it is the tiny kicks of your legs to the music or your very life… bring it.
“…And the bread that I will give for the life of this world is my flesh.”- John 6: 51b