Self-sacrifice has been the predominant thought popping up in my mind the last few days. What does it really mean to give Jesus all of ourselves? What does a life look like that is totally sold out to God?
I’ve been captivated by a beautiful version of the Elizabeth Prentiss hymn “More Love to Thee” sung by Fernando Ortega. This same hymn was sung by North Korean Christians in 1974 as they were being steamrolled to death by Communist government agents, simply because the believers would not deny Christ. Minutes before, they had also witnessed the hanging of their own children, committing them to heaven rather than renouncing their belief in Jesus.
I live in a country where I have the freedom to worship. I will never be commanded to deny my Lord and Savior in the same way my North Korean brothers and sisters were (and still are). So how can I give Jesus my life? How can I live in this world so that when I get to heaven some day, I am greeted with “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21-23)?
A verse in the hymn mentioned above says it plainly:
Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!
My “earthly joy” and “peace and rest” can be anything that I do for myself instead of for Christ. It’s very simple, yet hard to swallow. But what does it look like in everyday life?
So many of us women willingly give up our communion time with God because of all the hustle-bustle in our lives. It seems to be just what you do in America today–moms driving kids around town from this activity to that. There’s dance, drama, music, and sports, to name a few. All good things. But multiply that by three, four, or five children, and suddenly our day is full of the urgent, leaving no time for what is really important–cultivating our relationship with our Lord, through His Word and through deep and intimate times of prayer.
By appealing to our idolatrous covetousness (Col. 3:5), Satan has convinced multitudes of Christians that we need to pursue the American dream. So we attempt to give our kids a “well-rounded” education filled with aimless hobbies, using up precious moments of our fleeting lifetimes. We spend countless hours and masses of money chasing after endeavors that rarely amount to anything of significance here on earth and have no eternal value.
Being citizens not of this world but of heaven (Phil. 3:20), we should instead make what Jesus called the “right choice” (HCSB), or the “good portion” (ESV): sitting at His feet, listening to His teaching–being a Mary instead of a Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Rather than scurrying about here and there, we should aim for a better way. The prayer of the apostle Paul for the Colossians was that they would “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10). How can we even begin to live up to that expectation when the first thing to be thrown out the window, in favor of vain activity, is our quest for God?
Please don’t misunderstand my intention. I am not in any way saying music lessons or sports are sinful or should be avoided. What I am saying is that each of us should scrutinize our own lives. Are we drawing near to God at all costs so that He will draw near to us (James 4:8)? Or do we give precedence to every other thing in our lives, especially in the name of educating our children, or even what may seem good, such as ministry work, for the best thing?
Martha was serving the Lord Jesus Himself when He taught her that Mary chose the better portion. However, it is usually not labor in the name of Jesus that gets in the way of our communion time with our heavenly Father. Sadly, most often it is the pursuit of our own earthly pleasures, our own physical well-being, or our own comfort that we prioritize.
Do I always do this to which I am exhorting you? Ugh!–absolutely not! I fail miserably time after time to give God the firstfruits of my life. But I have the goal in mind, and so I succeed more often than I fail. Having tasted what it is to be filled with the Spirit and seeking daily to submit myself completely to Jesus, I know the world can offer no substitute. I desire to be a sold-out servant of God. This comes not by feeling or emotion, working oneself up in song or dance, or even by doing a plethora of good works, but only through the deliberate sacrifice of all other things in order to make God the priority. Dedicated prayer and the faithful study of His Word must come first. The kind of life pleasing to God will follow.
 The Voice of the Martyrs, with P. Todd Nettleton, Restricted Nations: North Korea (Bartlesville, OK: VOM Books, 2012), 45.
 The Voice of the Martyrs, Extreme Devotion (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002), 99.