What does it mean to follow Jesus? Part 3 – Sacrifice

The path to following Jesus involves sacrifice.

Jesus told his disciples, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:38).” The idea of taking up a cross in many ways is lost to our culture. The days of the gruesome Roman execution on the cross are long gone. Jesus’ disciples probably had vivid images seared into their minds as they had seen people crucified on the side of the road. Death on the cross could take days. The cross was a public display warning people what happened to those who disobeyed the law. This statement of Jesus to his disciples must have been confusing to them. Why would Jesus make following him so hard? Jesus made it very clear that the path to following him involved sacrifice.

Christians are not guaranteed an easy path through life. The exact opposite is true. Paul warned young Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12)” The reason for this persecution is the very essence of following Jesus. Jesus told his disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).’” The fact of the matter is the closer we follow Jesus the more we will sacrifice. Some people will say, “Doesn’t God want me to be happy? How can I be happy if all I do is sacrifice?” The answer to this may surprise you. Yes God does want you to be happy. In fact the place in your life that you will find the greatest happiness is in His perfect will (John 15:11). The path to following Jesus is often strewn with difficulty and struggle yet it is the best place that you could be. Because it is in that place that the sovereign God of the universe protects and carries you. “and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place (Deuteronomy 1:31).” God takes care of and provides for those who follow after Him.

“I never made a sacrifice”

David Livingstone, a man who made incredible sacrifices to bring the gospel to remote tribes in continent of Africa said this of his sacrifice. “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life–these 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 compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.”

Sacrifice or betrayal

Those of us who live in America truly know little about what true sacrifice is. We think fasting for a day or spending an hour in prayer or withholding something from yourself is sacrifice. Yet when we remember the thousands of Christian men and women around the world being persecuted and even killed for their faith our ‘sacrifice’ seems insignificant. Eric Fellman tells the story of meeting a Chinese couple in Hong Kong, while traveling to China.

“A Chinese man in his 6Os opened the door. His smile was radiant, but his back was bent almost double. He led us to a sparsely furnished room. A Chinese woman of about the same age came in to serve tea. As she lingered, I couldn’t help but notice how they touched and lovingly looked at each other. My staring apparently didn’t go unnoticed, for soon they were both giggling. “What is it?” I asked my friend. “Oh nothing,” he said with a smile. “They just wanted you to know it was OK–they’re newlyweds.” I learned they had been engaged in 1949, when he was a student at Nanking Seminary. On the day of their wedding rehearsal, Chinese communists seized the seminary. They took the students to a hard-labor prison. For the next 30 years, the bride-to-be was allowed only one visit per year. Each time, following their brief minutes together, the man would be called to the warden’s office. “You may go home with your bride,” he said, “if you will renounce Christianity.” Year after year, this man replied with just one word; “No.” I was stunned. How had he been able to stand the strain for so long, being denied his family, his marriage, and even his health? When I asked, he seemed astonished at my question. He replied, “With all that Jesus has done for me, how could I betray Him (Eric Fellman, Moody Monthly, January 1986 p. 33)?”

What sacrifices are you making to follow Jesus? Are you taking up your cross and following him? Lets discuss this together in the comments. If you are receiving this as an email you can click here to add your comments on the blog.