Cultivating the Spirit of Self-Sacrifice
“I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.”—Rom. 12:1.
1. Why is Jehovah worthy of our sacrifices for him?
FOR humans to want to make sacrifices, the object of such sacrifices must be worthy, held in high esteem. In all respects, Jehovah God is certainly worthy of any sacrifices that we make for him. He is the Creator of the awesome, magnificent universe and the source of all living things. He is also the Maker of a new order of righteousness that will remedy all mankind’s problems. Appropriately, the Bible says: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Rev. 4:11) Because Jehovah is so worthy, we are urged to ‘present our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to him.—Rom. 12:1.
2. What is included in the word “sacrifice”? (Read Hebrews 13:15, 16.)
2 Just what does being a living sacrifice to Jehovah involve? One definition of the word “sacrifice” is “to surrender something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered to have a higher claim.” An additional meaning of “sacrifice” is “the offering of life to a deity.” Since Jehovah does not ask us to be killed literally on some altar, the offering of our lives would be in service to him. When speaking of the coming destruction of this system, the apostle Peter urged that Christians be persons distinguished by “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.” (2 Pet. 3:11) So acceptable sacrifice to God involves positive acts, as well as abandoning practices that Jehovah disapproves or that could interfere with our service to him.
3. Does Jehovah approve of all sacrifices involving worship?
3 Does a course of self-sacrifice mean that God is asking people to become fanatics, to do unreasonable things? For instance, some persons crawl long distances on bloodied knees to church shrines, thinking that God is pleased with such sacrifices. Others may deliberately undertake a life of poverty and begging. Some refuse to eat certain foods as part of their worship. But Jehovah does not ask his servants to bring themselves into hardship deliberately. He disapproves of man-made decrees that have “an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and mock humility, a severe treatment of the body.”—Col. 2:23.
4. What does it mean to sacrifice for Jehovah’s interests today?
4 The kind of reasonable self-sacrifice that Jehovah requires is for us to limit our personal desires so that we can serve his cause more fully. That cause centers around God’s incoming government for all the earth, his heavenly kingdom in the hands of Christ. Since that government will soon be earth’s only ruling authority, all who want to live under its righteous administration need to learn its laws, principles and purposes. They also need to promote its interests, ‘preaching this good news of the kingdom’ among mankind today. Thus, sacrificing for Jehovah’s interests means to obey his laws and to put his kingdom first in our lives: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness,” said Jesus.—Matt. 6:33.
5. Should a course of self-sacrifice be considered too difficult?
5 Is a course of self-sacrifice an easy one? No, it is not. But it is Jehovah God and Christ Jesus who invite us to this course. That means that such a course is possible, since the loving Father and his Son, who created humans, know what people can accomplish. Furthermore, since Jehovah and Christ have such great love for humans, we can be certain that they would not ask anything of us that would be damaging to our best interests. Too, when we consider the grand rewards that lie ahead, it can be said with confidence that making sacrifices to serve Jehovah is the only worthwhile course of life today. All else will sooner or later end in disappointment.—Matt. 19:26; Rom. 9:33; 1 John 4:16.
6, 7. (a) What kind of sacrifices did Noah have to make? (b) Did Noah become discouraged with the passing of time?
6 We can be greatly encouraged in our course of self-sacrifice when we examine Bible history and see how other ordinary people successfully pursued such a course, and the blessings they received for doing so. For example, Jehovah asked Noah to sacrifice things so that he could do a work that the world of his day considered foolish. He was instructed to make a huge vessel, an ark. Yet there never had been any pouring rains or floods. Furthermore, Noah was not a shipbuilder, and he had family responsibilities as well.
7 Building such a huge ark would require Noah to take time from things that he may have preferred to do. Indeed, had he put that same time and energy into increasing his material wealth, he no doubt could have been more comfortable. Too, he had to sacrifice some of his reputation with neighbors, since his work on the ark opened him up to ridicule. Did he get discouraged or quit because that work took many years while he awaited the end of that system? On the contrary, Noah patiently continued his course of self-sacrifice. This included his being “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:5) He understood that he did not live in a “normal” world, but one that was “ruined in the sight of the true God and . . . filled with violence,” one that would eventually be destroyed. Thus, the Bible says: “Noah proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.”—Gen. 6:11, 22.
8. How did Noah’s obedience affect all of us?
8 We should be very happy that Noah refused to be on the side of the self-indulgent ones of his day. Because of his obedience, we are alive today, all of us being descendants of Noah. Those who were self-indulgent lost everything—homes, possessions, their so-called “normal” way of life. They also lost their very lives and their children’s lives, as “the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.”—2 Pet. 3:6.
9. How was Abraham blessed for his willingness to make sacrifices?
9 Abraham was another who appreciated the need to make sacrifices for Jehovah. Jehovah instructed him: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you.” (Gen. 12:1) Abraham did not hold back because Jehovah was asking him to leave a secure way of life for something so uncertain. He had confidence that whatever Jehovah required of him was right and for his own good. “At that Abram went just as Jehovah had spoken to him.” (Gen. 12:4) True, that meant considerable sacrifices for many years. But Jehovah greatly blessed his willingness to serve: Abraham saw many of Jehovah’s marvelous acts in behalf of himself and his family; he did not lack material necessities; he came to be called “Jehovah’s friend.” (Jas. 2:23) Also, God promised Abraham that an entire nation of people would come from him. Significantly, the Bible says of this: “After Abraham had shown patience, he obtained this promise.” (Heb. 6:15) Further, he was privileged to be an ancestor of Jesus.
10. What contrast in attitude was there in the first century, with what results?
10 In the first century of our Common Era, many ordinary men and women sacrificed some of their own interests for the sake of Jehovah’s interests. Yes, they worked hard and underwent difficulties, but their contentment was great in knowing that they were doing the right thing and pleasing God. Also, they had the confidence that Jehovah would remember their faith and works in his behalf and would surely give them a fine reward in the future. And what about those who were too self-indulgent, who wanted to preserve their “normal” way of life and who rejected Jesus out of fear that ‘the Romans would come and take away both their place and their nation’? (John 11:48) In that very generation their way of life ended anyhow. Roman armies devastated the land, with enormous loss of life and property. But self-sacrificing Christians heeded Jesus’ teachings, fled the area and preserved their lives, although leaving behind homes and almost all material possessions. They are counted as truly “happy.”—Luke 21:20-24; 22:28-30; Rev. 20:4-6.
SACRIFICES IN OUR TIME
11. (a) Are Christians today required to give up all possessions? (b) How does sacrificing for Jehovah involve our activity toward others?
11 Is this to say that all servants of God today must give up homes and other material possessions as part of their sacrifices for God? No, that is not the point, although with the examples noted regarding Noah, Abraham, and the first-century Christians, there has been the willingness to do that if necessary. The main thing is one’s willingness to put God’s interests first in his life, making whatever sacrifices might be necessary to do that. It is not so much what a person has or does not have, but where his heart is. Is it toward Jehovah’s interests first, or is it toward personal interests first? And part of Jehovah’s interests includes doing things for other people, as God’s Word says that we should be “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others,” and “not to be pleasing [just] ourselves,” but “let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding.”—Phil. 2:4; Rom. 15:1, 2.
12. Why should we appreciate the self-sacrificing course of others in modern times?
12 Do we see such a spirit of self-sacrifice in modern times? We certainly do. In fact, the several million persons now enjoying Bible truths and Christian fellowship in association with the more than 40,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses all over the earth are benefiting from the sacrifices made by loyal servants of God earlier in modern times. Back in the late 1800’s and in the first part of the 1900’s many self-sacrificing persons worked hard to teach others Bible truths and to establish the foundation for Jehovah’s modern visible organization, from which we now receive the truth about Jehovah, as well as so many other benefits.
13. What sacrifices are many making to serve Jehovah more fully?
13 Right now, throughout the earth, many tens of thousands of devoted men and women are making unusual sacrifices to serve God. Some have literally sacrificed homes and possessions so that they could work full time for Jehovah’s interests in missionary work, in Bethel homes, or as traveling representatives serving congregations. Others are making sacrifices to do special, regular or auxiliary pioneering work so they can more fully teach others about Jehovah’s incoming new order.
14. How does Jehovah view those whose service to him is more restricted by their circumstances?
14 However, not all who are devoted to Jehovah are free from responsibilities to the extent that they can do such full-time work. Many have to struggle hard in a difficult economic system to make a living for their families, appreciating that if they did not they would be “worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) Christian parents also have the responsibilities that come with having children. They understand that they must sacrifice some of what they might prefer to do so that they can spend time bringing up their children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Too, there are some who, because of poor health, advanced age or other limitations, can offer very little in direct service to Jehovah. In this, they are like the needy widow who could offer at God’s temple only “two small coins of very little value.” (Luke 21:1-4) Yet all such persons who do what they can to help others to learn of Jehovah are surely making sacrifices that please him. He loves them for their willingness to endure difficult conditions and yet make some offering of service to him, as their situation permits.—Jas. 5:11.
15. What questions are good to ask ourselves?
15 Do you have the spirit of self-sacrifice? Or, do you tend to be self-indulgent? Are you serving Jehovah as well as your circumstances allow? Why not examine yourself to see if your Christian service to God could be improved?
16. How might we ‘buy out the opportune time’? (Read Romans 10:9, 10.)
16 For instance, could you devote more of your time to personal Bible reading? If you have a family, do you have regular Bible discussions with them? Could you take more of your spare time to call on people in your neighborhood to tell them about the “good news”? Or, could you devote some time to assist the sick, the elderly, or others by performing Christian acts of kindness and love? Perhaps you could compare the amount of time you spend on, say, recreation, such as watching television, with the time you spend serving Jehovah in one sphere of his activity or another. Is it balanced?—Eph. 5:15.
17. Why is it important for parents to examine what they ask their children to do?
17 Are you a parent? Examine your relationship with your children. Appreciate that the best time for your young ones to begin learning a course of self-sacrifice is in childhood. Give your children some useful work around the house. Get them to see that play is not all there is to life, that it involves work, sacrifice. Perhaps in your own childhood you had poor clothing, little recreation or not enough good food. You may feel that you do not want your child to be deprived as you were. But, on the other hand, giving your child everything he wants might cost him his life! It might make him think that life is easy, that things come easy, that doing Jehovah’s will is easy, and so later he might be unwilling to make sacrifices for Jehovah. As you adults already know, life is not easy, things do not come easy, and doing Jehovah’s will is not necessarily easy. So help your children to get a balanced view of life. Teach them that while there is time for recreation, there must also be time for work, for Bible study, for sacrifice. Discipline your sons and daughters in a course of reasonable self-sacrifice. The fruitage of this discipline could well be one of the most valuable things they will inherit from you. (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12:11) And your own good example will be the best reinforcement of the verbal instructions that you give.
18. If we cannot devote more of our time to serve Jehovah, what improvements can we still make?
18 Whether you are married or single, it may be that an honest self-analysis will show that you are spending as much time as you reasonably can in serving Kingdom interests. Is there still something else that you can do? Yes, there is. You can work to make yourself a better Christian, learning to display in fuller measure the fruitage of God’s spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) Furthermore, you can work to improve the quality of your service to God.
19 In the future, in God’s new order, how satisfying it will be for you to look back and know that when it really counted in this time of urgency, you put your ‘shoulder to the wheel,’ made the necessary sacrifices, and did your part in serving Jehovah. Yes, be willing to set aside personal interests for Jehovah’s interests, keeping in view the thrilling rewards ahead. Cultivate the spirit of the psalmist when he said: “In willingness I will sacrifice to you. I shall laud your name, O Jehovah, for it is good.”—Ps. 54:6.
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Peter, Noah, Abraham and others made sacrifices for Jehovah and were blessed by him