You know what it feels like: you are on fire; you are ready, willing and able; you don’t need any more sermons on Rom 12:1. You are a living sacrifice. You have read Radical. You have read Crazy Love. You are ready to die. You are ready to die for Christ, the Gospel and whatever other mission God puts you on.
Wherever, whatever, however God, I am ready to sacrifice it all.
Problem: there is no altar. Well, not like you thought. If it exists, it does not exist in the glory of your perceptions. You pray continually for God to show you his direction. There has to be a place for me in his army.
Here’s what you do:
You decide to become a missionary. You talk to your wife and your family about quitting your job and becoming a full time missionary in Africa. Why Africa? Just because. You wife thinks you are nuts and your children don’t understand. All attempts to infect her with the desire to die have the opposite effect. But you are not about to question your calling. In your spiritual high, you place some distance between you and your family, believing that it is the Lord’s will. Discouragement has yet to set in.
Or maybe . . .
You decide to start a church. Your passions will be realized as you minister in your local community, transforming all those around you with the preaching—expository preaching—of the word of God. You are sick of the churches that would not know the Gospel if it hit them in the knee cap. You are going to be the lighthouse on a hill. You don’t really know what to do so you get on Microsoft Word and make a flier. You put a nice Bible graphic that you found from Google image search on the flier, along with the announcement of the new Bible study that is going to be held at your friend’s coffee shop.
The day comes. Hundreds of fliers have been handed out. Two people show. One is your wife. The other is a nice young girl who just broke up with her boyfriend and had nothing else to do that night. It’s past time for the Bible study to start and you look outside in hopes that someone else will show. Someone pulls up and leaves upon the realization that they might be the only ones there. You attempt to teach the Bible study, but the disappointment of teaching two people when you hoped for 30 to 40 takes the wind out of your sails. All you want to do is go home and cry.
Or maybe . . .
You decide to go to seminary, but don’t get accepted.
Or maybe . . .
You start with a small missions endeavor, but you don’t get the funds.
Or maybe . . .
You go to your pastor and tell him you will serve wherever, but, not only is he not as excited about your prospective involvement as you thought he would be, there is nothing for you to do. He says he will call you if something comes up. Nothing ever comes up.
Or maybe . . .
You start with a bang, but then it fizzles and no one is as anxious and excited as you are. You feel let down and discouraged.
What do you do when you try . . . I mean really try to die for Christ, but he won’t let you. What do you do when you are on the altar and you don’t die, but your are getting really sunburned?
This is to those of you who feel called to do something big for the Lord, but it never happens.
Don’t give up your zeal. The first two illustrations given above are round about reenactments of my life. Someone has once said that the Christian life is a life of starting over—every morning! Don’t let let-downs discourage you. You may be let down, but God has not set you down. Remember, he is not setting you on a 100 meter dash, but on a long distance run—a long distance run. I love new Christians who are set on giving their lives up for the Lord. But I am so saddened when I see those who had such a zeal reenter their old life with great discouragement, wondering why the Lord did not use them. God will use you. God is using you. But he does not carve out flashes in the pan. He creates endurance. I know . . . He does not move as quickly as we like. Keep the zeal and passion, but let the Lord set the pace. This is the hardest thing to do.
Ministry is not the de facto solution to satisfy your intense craving to die for the Lord. Remember, you are a living sacrifice. A living sacrifice. Don’t be surprised if you live! Don’t be surprised if you live a life that is rather ordinary, not making a significant impact every direction you turn. Don’t impose such a goal upon the Lord. Remember Abraham? What the heck was so great about his life? I don’t know that he ever held a great evangelistic crusade. He never traveled all over the world with nothing but his Bible. He never wrote any books. He did not pastor a church. He did not even start a blog. From what I read about him, if it weren’t for the Bible and God’s testimony about him, he would have never made much of a footprint in the world. Or, better, we would not have recognized the footprint he did make. Why then is he so great? Because he was a friend of God. He trusted him. Everyday, he believed God. He endured quietly.
Sometimes being a living sacrifice is just quietly trusting the Lord.
Be quiet and tranquil. The Lord will show your path in your tranquility. Paul tells the Thessalonians to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” (1Th 4:11). Ouch. But impacts are never “quiet.” I want to make an impact. I want to stir things up. I want to drop a bomb on the world leaving behind the sign of the Trinity! The problem is that your bomb could be the very opposite of God’s plan. Your bomb could be you getting off the altar. God will direct you.
I have just watched a very dear friend who had so much zeal for the Lord, so much passion to follow him, so much desire to die that he now sits, divorced, estranged from his wife and family, with his head in his hands wondering why the Lord gave him a spiritual cement job. In his zeal, he outran the Lord and left his wife because he could not wait for her to catch up.
Your passions may open the doors you expect and they may not. But you are to sit on the altar, no matter where you are or how God leads, and be a living sacrifice. Chuck Swindoll once said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. Get back on the altar.
What do you do when you cannot die for Christ? Live for him.