There Is No Convenient Sacrifice

I’m sure it has to do a little with my age, but with every talk I hear from the Brethren there seems to be an increased sense of urgency. Whether it be in General Conference or other forums, Church leaders seem to be asking us to do a little bit more, to become more engaged in the work.

The message is simple; this is not the time to be sitting around, doing nothing.  Nor is it a time to be just a “Sunday” member, coming to church, but not allowing the gospel to effect our everyday life.  As Elder Maxwell put it, the time to come off the “porch of the church”[1] is now.  There is more to do and less time to do it.  And the Prophet has asked us all to do more.  Not only is he asking, but he is showing.  We must ask ourselves, as did Elder Ballard, “Are we keeping pace?”[2]   We must realize that we, the members of the church, will be required to do more and more, in other words, to SACRIFICE.

The topic of sacrifice is incredible and much like other gospel topics such as charity, faith and  hope, all-encompassing.  But we first need to understand, at least in some small degree, what is meant by “sacrifice”.

In the “Lectures On Faith” Joseph Smith (and others) places emphasis on sacrifice and its effect on our eternal progression.  “Let us here observe that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”[3]

We learn a few things here.  First, we belong to a church, a theology that requires us to sacrifice.  Second, we need to sacrifice. Without doing so, we can not be saved.  Sacrifice acts as a refiner’s fire. Without it we will not “improve our time”[4] here on the earth nor be found worthy to “be crowned with much glory.”[5]

To sacrifice is eternally necessary, but we often say, “yes, I’m willing to sacrifice as long as it’s on my time-table and doesn’t hurt.”  By definition, sacrifice is not comfortable. There is no such thing as “Comfortable Sacrifice” or “Easy Sacrifice”.   David teaches this principle in the Bible. He is commanded to offer a sacrifice to end a pestilence.  When David arrived at the appointed place, Araunah the Jebusite offered to give David, without charge, everything he needed to perform the sacrifice.  David’s answer was profound and teaches us an inherent truth about sacrifice. “Nay; but I will surely buy [it] of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.”[6]

Second, it is voluntary.  Words to describe sacrifice include surrender, give, permit; all implying free choice. True sacrifice, acceptable of the Lord, can’t be forced, compelled or coerced.  “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.”[7]   Therefore, for something to be a sacrifice it has to be (1) uncomfortable and (2) it has to be our choice.

Sacrifice biblically meant animal sacrifice. Sacrifice for the pioneers certainly included extreme physical sacrifice. Sacrifice for us today can mean a lot of things but in our hurry-up, over-scheduled world, perhaps the most significant thing we are asked to place upon the altar is time.  It is hard to come by and very hard to give up.  Our inability to sacrifice our time prevents us from scripture reading, praying, attending the temple, accepting and magnifying callings, doing home and visiting teaching and ultimately from entering the Celestial Kingdom.  Keep in mind, what competes for that time.  There are obvious day-to-day things that must be done, but more and more we are using even these exceptions as an umbrella of excuses to shelter us from the rains of sacrifice only to find ourselves in the mist of a spiritual drought.

We must sacrifice.  We are too comfortable.  The Lord’s work is NOT a “spectator sport”[8].  Everyone must take an active, even a “proactive” role in the building up of Zion.  Is it hard to do?  Is it hard to read in the scriptures and say our prayers everyday?  Is it hard to accept and magnify callings even ones we may not like?  Is it hard to attend the temple?  You bet it is!  It’s supposed to be.   Through these sacrifices we grow and become more like Christ because we give, freely of everything we have.  “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”[9]  It is using our agency to sacrifice that will enable us to break the chains of mediocrity and qualify us to draw upon the very powers of heaven.

At times, especially when sacrifice seems great, we may find ourselves asking why so much is required. “Why do I have to go through this again?” “Why this, why now?”  “Does it have to be so hard?” “Will it ever end?” All are serious, sincere and appropriate questions. Those who understand and believe in the Plan of Salvation concede that it is all part of our schooling, our becoming. But even that conviction doesn’t make the sacrifice easier, nor should it. Remember, it is sacrifice; it needs to hurt, at least a little.

In times when we desperately seek God’s pavilion[10], it helps me to remember what Adam learned shortly after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden:

 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.

Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.[11]

Keeping this perspective and remembering that all we do, all sacrifice, is really in remembrance of He who made the ultimate sacrifice, makes the giving of our time, talents and blessings a little easier and filled with much more meaning. Though “What would Jesus do?” is a great question, even more important is the question, “What did Christ do?” Its answer brings both redemptive and enabling power to our own sacrifices.

This is the sense of urgency we feel from our leaders, an urgency to sacrifice and do more.  There is so much to be done. Everyone, no matter the stage of our testimony; big, little, or developing, everyone is needed in His work.  It is our opportunity to declare as Joshua did, “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”[12]

_________________________

[1] Neal A. Maxwell, “Why Not Now?” New Era, Apr. 1975, 5

[2] Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Are We Keeping Pace?” Ensign, Nov. 1998.

[3] The Lectures on Faith (1985), 69-70.

[4] Alma 34:33

[5] D&C 58:4

[6] 2 Samuel 24:24

[7] D&C 58:26

[8] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Way of the Disciple” May 2009, 75.

[9] Matthew 10:39

[10] D&C 121:1

[11] Moses 5:6-8

[12] Joshua 24:15

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6 Responses to There Is No Convenient Sacrifice

  1. Shelby says:

    So true. Thanks Troy!

  2. Jill Parker says:

    Love it! (And you)

  3. Steve Petrie says:

    Troy, I love these posts to your blog. Sacrifice certainly ‘brings forth the blessings of heaven’ and is essential to our progress. It is also true that the Lord rewards our sacrifice ‘an hundred-fold.’ Someone said that to sacrifice is to give up something good for something better. I believe it is infinitely better.

    • Troy says:

      Hey Steve! Ah, great point. What appears to be a sacrifice really isn’t a sacrifice at all when viewed with an eternal lens. Another great gospel irony. Thanks!

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