The Importance of Sacrifice and Praise in Christian Life
So my dear brothers and sisters, just like how gold is purified by fire and treated with acidic solutions, our life on earth is an acid test where we are burnt, beaten, purified and dissolved in order to remove impurities and test our devotion to our Father in Heaven.
As His chosen people, God puts us through many testing grounds to assess our loyalty towards Him. Every life on earth involves innumerous sacrifices in order that we emerge better and stronger in faith.
The Power of Sacrifices
To gain something life, you have to sacrifice something else. Do you believe that? To drive a car, you have to sacrifice fuel; to lead a healthy life, you have to sacrifice your gluttonous cravings; to gain eternal life, you have to sacrifice many tempting pleasures on earth. The formula applies perfectly in every situation of life and scientific theory.
We see many instances in the Holy Scriptures where God tests His people for better or for worse.
Let’s start with Abraham who was the epitome of steadfast love for God. Abraham trusted God at all times! He became a father to Isaac at the ripe old age of hundred because he trusted God despite all odds. Such was his love for Father God that he was even willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac, without a second thought. How great a faith he had in His Master!
In [John 12:24], we see Jesus telling us-“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Christianity has a strong foundation built upon the blood of martyrs. This is why it continues into existence even after 2000 years. The story of St Ignatius is worth a mention at this juncture.
St. Ignatius of Antioch was eaten by the beasts at the Colosseum, Rome, where he met his martyrdom. A true athlete of Christ, this simple act of shedding blood at the Colosseum inspired thousands to visit the site and convert to Christianity. The true martyrdom of known and unknown saints of Christianity ensures that it grows steadily without destruction.
Just like the Israelites who had to struggle in the wilderness for 40 years to humble themselves before God, we too have to go through varying degrees of red sea experiences, trials, pandemics, and crisis in our lives to be tested and tried for eternal life. God tests us in varying ways so that we emerge in purity and humility.
[Deuteronomy 8:3] tells us how the Israelites were humbled by God,by letting them hunger, then by feeding them with manna, in order that they understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
If we look back through our lives on earth, we see that our lives reflect the same kind of ‘wilderness experience’ that the Israelites went through, albeit in different degrees and forms. We realize that all the people who persecute and hurt us are instruments in the hand of God to help us get purified. Even when we go through these testing times, we see that God always gives us a helping hand to stay afloat and emerge a winner from these trials. God’s intervention here could be very subtle that we often fail to notice it.
Have you noticed that when you are rejected by everyone, you see that ‘one person’ who comes forward and offers you support which gives you a new lease of life? Sometimes, when we feel that we are sinking and no one is there to offer help, unexpected resources turn up from perfect strangers. We associate these things to people and luck.
My Dear brothers and sisters, it is our father God who sends these gifts in the form of people and circumstances to make sure that we are protected and covered when we face persecutions for purification.
Know then in your hearts that as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you as well. Many things that we desire will be forbidden, and many things that we crave for will be denied by our God at this point. This is because God loves us and wants to protect us from sin. He wills us to have better lives than we aim for ourselves.
At times, a life has to be taken away in order that someone else is given a better life. There could be many reasons for this. The life that was taken away could have been a spiritual hindrance for the people associated with that life, or could have led many to destruction. In such cases, we must trust God without complaining as He alone can see the bigger picture.
[Hebrews 12:7] Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?
Once we successfully sail through these trials, God provides us with the life sustaining ‘Manna’, and the promised bread and wine that will never make us hungry or thirsty again.
Value of sacrifices in life
We all wonder why the church teaches us to practice sacrifice for the attainment of salvation. Sacrifices lead us to live a life of humility. If you are accustomed to satisfy all your desires, a time may come when you can no longer satisfy the bigger desires of your life.
Sacrifices help us to gain control of the pleasures our body craves. If you are unable to sacrifice the little desires of your heart, how can you resist the temptation of sacrificing the greater desires of your body? It is impossible to sacrifice the sexual desires of your body, if you cannot sacrifice the little pleasures of your life. This is where sacrifice plays an important note in fighting bigger temptations of our lives.
The Church therefore always encourages sacrifices of varying degrees like avoiding meat on Friday, Lenten observances, advent observances, special days of fasting and abstinence etc. All these special days of celebrations and feasts are appointed by God so that we may have control on the flesh.
Church is brilliant in that it knows how to help the faithful in keeping their holiness.
[Hebrews 12:8] If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
Father God and His discipline
As a Christian, if you have not had any ‘red sea’ experience; if you have never gone through hunger, sufferings, trials or testing times, you are in serious danger. You are not a legitimate child of God. Somewhere you have lost it and God may not be accepting you as His own. Our Father in heaven constantly disciplines us and prunes us so that after sometime, we start eating the fruits of His love. He does it out of love to make us a new creation.
Therefore, we must always be open to discipline as it produces something good in the long run. Parents are responsible for disciplining their children in bringing them up as children of God. This will also help them to observe the commands of the Lord our God, to walk in obedience and to revere Him.
True freedom comes from walking in faith, obedience to the commandments, and fearing God. This will protect us during our earthly life. If we cannot walk in faith we will be a slave to sin.
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills, by making us walk through trials and suffering.
Everything we go through is meaningful. We are not going to perish with our trials. The momentary painful experiences of disciplinary actions by God are aimed at purifying us so that we can enter the promised beautiful land. We must accept these sorrows willingly to enter the kingdom without hindrances. We must also thank God for every small blessing so that our Father in heaven is exalted.
Thanking God for the blessings
Anyone who experiences a blessing must thank God wholeheartedly after that.[Deuteronomy 8:10]When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you…
Have you thanked God for the wonderful spouse that God has given you? We may not have perfect situations in life. But we must thank God for that unexpected blessing; for that much needed career break; for the food on our table; for that narrow escape from a dangerous situation, and also for many more blessings-big and small.
When we have all the comforts in life, there is a possibility of forgetting God while we enjoy His blessings. Even people who were very devout and prayerful when they went through hardships can fall out of prayers once they come out of these situations and start enjoying peace and prosperity. We must take care not to forget the commandments when we have everything.
My dear people of God, we must take utmost care to remember our Lord when we are financially stable, peaceful, and healthy in life. We may lose these blessing anytime. God gives us warning after warning by sending trials and sufferings through our way. We do not know what awaits us on earth tomorrow.
Remember that when your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, your hearts should not become proud, and you should not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of slavery.
[Deuteronomy 8:17] Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”
The blessings that we enjoy are not through our own merit. Know that even if we are not spiritually strong, the blessings that have come to us is through someone else- one of our ancestors who could have entered into a strong covenant with God, or someone else who could be dedicated in praying for us. Therefore, never exalt yourself for the blessings and graces God has given you, and always thank Him for the graces that He has generously bestowed upon you.
Just like the blessings that came to you due to the devotion of our ancestors, we too must make sure that our children have a spiritual heritage to inherit, by our commitment to God. Are we up for that? Let us examine our conscience and see if we have stored spiritual wealth for our children, so that they too enjoy their life on earth.
[Deuteronomy 8:19] If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
Father God, forgive us for the times we exalted ourselves in prosperity rather than exalting God; for going after other Gods for more fame and riches. We acknowledge that all that we have in life is nothing but Your grace, nothing but Your blessings…