Yesterday was a hard day for me. No particular reason except I was willing to think through and admit some things that needed letting go. I find that whole idea a hard thing because it feels so much like giving up instead of anything positive. It was an emotional day. An exhausting day. A praying day. A confessing day. Of course, I did the dishes and took care of my kids and a few loads of laundry, made baked chicken for supper as well, but at the heart of it, it was a hard day.
And you know what I wish? I wish I would have taken my own advice. I'm using Oswald Chambers' writing as a starting point for my devotional reading this year. And yesterday's entry, had I read it yesterday, would have been a 'spot-on' encouragement for me in all that I was trying to work through. Lesson learned.
Mr. Chambers used the story of Abraham and Isaac to show us how God reveals himself not as a God who necessarily DEMANDS us to give up our life physically as a sacrifice for him (although that is part of the willingness in discipleship and many people do this every day), but that God expects us as His Followers to experience the sacrifice through death that gives us a glimpse into what Jesus did for us.
DOES MY SACRIFICE LIVE?
"And Abraham built an altar . . and bound Isaac his son." Genesis 22:9
This incident is a picture of the blunder we make in thinking that the final thing God wants of us is the sacrifice of death. What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, that is, sacrifice our lives. Not - "Lord, I am ready to go with You...to death" (Luke 22:33). But - I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God.
We seem to think that God wants us to give up things! God purified Abraham from this blunder, and the same discipline goes on in our lives. God nowhere tells us to give up things for the sake of giving them up. He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having - that is, life with Himself. It is a question of loosening the bands that hinder the life, and immediately those bands are loosened by identification with the death of Jesus, we enter into a relationship with God whereby we can sacrifice our lives to Him.
It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a "living sacrifice," to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus. (Romans 12:1) This is the thing that is acceptable to God.
As I read the Abraham story this morning (a day late, but really, right on time...) It hit me again how many times God asked Abraham to let go of what he knew and the things he desired to follow Him into the uncertain future (at least to Abraham!) and God didn't say "this is how it's going to be for you... follow me and life will be like a cruise in the Mediterranean". I mean, read the WHOLE story of Abraham's life (it's starts in Genesis 12). It's one kerfluffle after another but all the while, Abraham is following God through it. He's never asked until this moment 10 chapters later to give up as much, even though giving up home and land and country is alot.
Isaac was no ordinary son born to two naive young people blissfully embarking on their family planning experience. He was promised from the beginning and Abraham and Sarah believed and laughed in God's face at equal intervals. And then there he was, after all the wishing and hoping and begging and trying to make it on their own, there Isaac was in the flesh, a son to love, and Abraham was asked by God to march up a hill and lay him on the altar. And the crazy guy did it. And God proved that He doesn't want us to give up things for the sake of giving them up, and he doesn't expect us to always understand His ways. He asks us to give up things because we (I) end up setting them , my hopes and dreams I create for myself, on MY OWN ALTAR, rather than allowing the circumstances God has me in to reveal something of Him to me.
Maybe ~ yes, probably ~ I've been worshipping at the altar of my own hopes and dreams rather than giving up what I need to in order to find more of myself in my life with God. I've always believed in a determination that pushes through to dreams fulfilled but that determination is only legitimate if God is actually the fuel ~ the life~ that pushes me through. Only if I want what He wants is that hope legitimate.
God doesn't ask me to let go of things because He's mean and doesn't want me to be happy. He wants me to let go of MY things and dreams so that He can show me the walk down the mountain where you rejoice in the fact you know that you know that you know that God is in THIS.
I am certain that Abraham must have felt an overwhelming sense of living in the presence and will of God as he walked down that mountain with Isaac in his arms. How could he doubt anymore? Maybe that's what I need to embrace... yes, it is. Instead of being sad over the loss of a dream, of not getting exactly what I want, but knowing God has asked me to give up some things so that I might know him better, and that I can in spite of the heartache, know that I live in His presence, that I am in His Will.