Our Sacrifices

My dad always told me that life was full of doing things that I didn’t want to do. There was never any hope, really, that he’d be wrong so much as a slow, sad realization of just how right he was.

Every morning when I wake up, my heart’s sincerest desire is to go back to sleep. That’s what I want to do, but what I have to do is get up and go to work. I have to go to work to pay for things I need, like a car, or for benefits that I have to have, like health insurance. I sacrifice what I want for what’s best for me. They are sacrifices I make as a commitment to my survival. (Note: This commitment is also why I am working on a zombie apocalypse plan.)

When I think of people who’ve sacrificed what they wanted for their commitments, no one stands out more to me than Jesus. After the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples “…left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, ‘Pray that you will not give in to temptation.’ He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Luke 22:39-42, NLT).

We often talk about the physical sacrifice Jesus made for us, but we never talk about what He gave up mentally and emotionally in His commitment to us. We don’t talk about this part enough.

This is one of Jesus’ most human moments. We see where His desire and God’s desire do not match. Jesus knew what was coming – Roman soldiers beating Him, His dying body being tortured while on display for others. He also knew He was leaving the disciples, whom He loved very much. Think about it: Jesus was fully human; yes, He was also God, but He was human. He attached to people the same way we do. He had memories and feelings. He knew what was coming, but that doesn’t mean He wasn’t scared or upset about it. His time on this Earth with His loved ones was ending, and since that’s not easy for any other human, it wouldn’t have been easy for Him. As much as He loved everyone, as much as He wanted to be our salvation, and as committed as He was to us and our eternities, we can see how difficult it was for Him. Jesus had to make sacrifices, and some of them were incredibly superhuman, but others were as human as possible, as human as not wanting to leave His friends, as human as not wanting to die.

So what’s the point in me writing all of this or you reading it?

If you remember nothing else I write in this post, remember this: Everyone must make sacrifices for their commitments, and nothing is wrong with you for not wanting to sacrifice something.

Sacrifice, by definition, is the opposite of fun. We lose or destroy something we like for something else. You’re not giving up something you don’t like or don’t want because that wouldn’t mean anything.

What are we sacrificing for? Because that’s where our commitment is.

When I was younger, I wanted to be really good at playing basketball. So I played it every afternoon after school at my grandma’s house with my brother. I listened to him tell me what I needed to get better at. We stayed outside until it was too dark to see the goal or until my mom came to pick us up. I watched it on television. I was committed to basketball, so I spent my time and energy on it.

One of things I do in my free time is go to concerts. I spend money on tickets and save up money to spend on merchandise. I’ve probably already spent time with the songs of the performers and memorized the lyrics or the sounds at that point. I talk about my attendance on social media and watch and share YouTube videos of the groups. I’ll work my schedule around the show. I lose sleep to go to concerts. (One time, I went to a show that started – yes, began – at 10:00 pm because it was a small band I like that’s based out of Chicago, and I didn’t know when or if they’d ever come to North Carolina again.) I sacrifice a lot to do this, and in doing so, I am committed to this.

Do we do that for God? Do we give up money in pursuit of Him? Do we sacrifice our time and energy for Him? Do we do what He tells us, even when it’s the last thing we want to do?

It starts with realizing that God wouldn’t ask anything of us without reason or without helping us through it. That in combination with the fact that there is no greater pursuit or reward that a relationship with our Creator who is faithful and loving beyond measure. He’s worthy of our commitment, of course, but the rewards we receive for our sacrifices to Him are unreal. If you don’t believe me, try it. Put forth the extra steps and the effort to invest more in your relationship with God. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner.

By Carrie Prevette

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Bowing Down and Bowing Out

I don’t think I’ve ever told most of you the story of how I ended up attending Western Carolina University.

I became a Duke fan when I was eight years old. (Everyone in my family is a Duke and/or Carolina fan, so it was a 50/50 shot.) I loved their men’s basketball team, and I knew how good of a school they were. I decided that’s where I wanted to go to college not too long after that.

The older I got, the more into it I got. I was obsessed with more Duke players than you probably care to read about. I used to visit the campus once a year with my older sister as a member of the Junior Blue Devil Club, which allowed me to watch other Duke sports teams, meet athletes, wander around the campus, visit the chapel, and interact with members of the Duke community. I simply fell in love with the place.

I knew I would have to do unbelievably well in school to get there, so that’s what I tried to do. I did well enough in middle school to set myself up to do well in high school, and I did. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I will say that by the end of high school, I had been in five clubs, two honor societies, and had a poem published.

I applied to Duke, Lee University, Davidson, Western Carolina, and Evangel University. (That’s the order in which I wanted to attend them.)

I was surprised when Duke was wooing me. I was clearly wooing them, working hard, getting letters of recommendation, and even taking classes they wanted me to take that I didn’t necessarily want to take, but I guess I never thought they’d actually show interest in me. But they did. They sent me something weekly it seemed, one item of which was an invitation to tour the campus, prospective North and South Carolina students only. It made me feel good, like I wasn’t an idiot for thinking I could actually get in.

The entire time, I was praying for God’s will and guidance. I told Him if He didn’t want me to go to Duke that I shouldn’t be accepted because we both knew I would follow my will instead of His if it played out any other way.

Ironically, Duke was the first school I wanted and the last one I heard from. I got in to Lee, Western, and Evangel. I didn’t get in at Davidson, but it honestly didn’t bother me at all. Duke gave me my letter online at the very end of March. It was the day after the Duke/Carolina game. I was beyond nervous. Everything I’d wanted for the past ten years came down to a letter that I couldn’t even hold in my hands as I read it for the first time.

It was honestly the nicest rejection I’ve ever received.

The record for the number of first-year applicants had been broken, and everyone on the admissions staff had said how difficult the decisions were. If a lot of the people who didn’t get in had applied a year or two before, they would’ve gotten in. They physically did not have room for all the ones they wanted. They wished me well wherever I ended up, and they were sure I’d be successful in whatever endeavors I pursued.

To this day, I’ve never been so heartbroken over something that didn’t involve an actual human being other than myself. I cried on and off for two days. I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere; I just wanted to curl up and be sad.

My parents wouldn’t let me do that. I still had to do homework and go to school (where I broke down three times the next day). And it was just as well because I had a month to figure out where I was going. (The decision deadline for Western was April 30th.)

Although Lee was second and Western was fourth, I prayed and thought about it a lot. It never came to me in a dream. No burning bush, no small whisper in my ear, no angel waking me in the night. God let me choose.

It seemed crazy to me, almost unbiblical. If God had a specific plan for me, how could I choose for myself? But it was the vibe I was getting, and it’s something that a dear family friend and man of God who’d been praying for me as well told me. It became clear that God was going to bless me either way.

Western was less expensive and closer to home, so with God not telling me otherwise, it’s where I went.

I don’t regret a second of it. No, WCU isn’t Duke (a point I gladly would’ve made five years ago), but it has many things Duke never will, and it provided opportunities Duke wouldn’t have. I feel oddly safe in saying that my life wouldn’t be as lovely now had I gone to Duke instead of Western.

God had greater plans for me than I had for myself.

There’s a lot to be said for obedience and sacrifice. I think many of us don’t like to hear those two words. They’re harsh words of God from the Old Testament, not loving words from Jesus in the New Testament.

Please know that I’m not trying to sing my own praises here (Trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing anything, but especially that), but I believe that part of the reason why my college experience was so great is because of the sacrifices I made, both in general and to pursue God’s will, and the obedience I showed God and was willing to show Him.

The words “obedience” and “sacrifice” have connotations and denotations that aren’t exactly fun. They give an image of bowing down to something or someone and bowing out of pursuing or maintaining something you want or love. Those images are strong, but accurate. Bowing down and bowing out make us feel or seem weak, and that’s no fun to us either.

But God told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT).

Also, look at who you’re obeying and sacrificing for.

If it’s the one living, true God, (to me) you automatically get a pass. It’s awesome, and it makes sense.

If anyone’s worth sacrificing for, it’s God. Being so loving, He’ll always bless you back. It might be in the form of a second chance or a long hug from that one person you really need it from or some other way. Regardless, it’ll be given in whatever form you most need it in.

If you were to obey anyone, it should be God. Obedience to God means accessing the best life you can have. God took time to design you and the best life for you. The only way to live that great life is to seek it by seeking and obeying God.

We may not like to say “obedience” and “sacrifice,” but whether or not we say it or think a lot about it or worry about what doing so will make others think of us, both must be done for God to make us and our lives greater. They’ll cultivate your relationship with God to the point where you’ll do them without thinking too much about them.

By Carrie Prevette

Inconsistencies and Sacrifices

It was when Alan ordered a side of bacon in a little diner in Pennsylvania that God gave a new life to this series. Despite what Alan was anticipating, the bacon tasted just as good as it would have had he ordered it for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, afternoon tea, or a normally-timed dinner. Then he started thinking about how consistent he is in his walk with God. The answer he arrived at is the one I think we’ll all come to as well.

“I’d love to say yes, but no.”

I’m only consistent in my inconsistencies. I don’t really see how God can put up with my spiritual mood swings. I’m not even talking about the differences I show between the crises in my life; I mean within the span of one problem.

Let me demonstrate. One of my favorite bands is The 1975. I discovered them in early September of 2013, and I basically fell in love with them instantaneously. They announced a North American tour in early 2014 (January, I think), and they were scheduled to play two shows in North Carolina. Tickets were, in my opinion, astoundingly cheap. By this point, it was on my bucket list to see them live, and here was this perfect opportunity. It was May 14th in Charlotte – after graduation and not far from home. I called home, asked my sister if she cared to go with me, and decided that this concert would be a well-deserved graduation gift to myself.

After impatiently waiting, I finally got to order the tickets, and at the end of the checkout, I was ready for the whole, “Thank you! Your order has been submitted. Your order number is blah, blah, blah,” page to pop up. I was prepared to be so happy. Instead of that page, I got one that said my order could not be completed, and I was told to start over. It wasn’t the moment I’d waited for, and I went through the process again, this time equally annoyed as I was nervous. Finally, it said my order was placed, gave my order number, and said that I would receive a confirmation email. Wanting to bask in my gladness, I checked my email. There I saw not one but two confirmations. I had a total of four tickets and had spent almost $100.

To understand why I thought my heart was going to stop, you should know that at the time, I only had about $200 to my name, a sum which had just been cut in half, and wasn’t going to get any more money for two or three weeks. For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, college life isn’t cheap, and an extra $50 will always make a big difference to any college kid. CrowdSurge, the company I ordered the tickets through, has a relatively strict no-refund policy. Plus, I didn’t know a single other person who listened to The 1975, so I couldn’t just give someone the excess tickets and have them pay me back.

I emailed CrowdSurge and explained what happened. Then I got an email saying my refund request had been submitted and that someone would get back to me in the next few days.

The days between then and the day I received confirmation that I would be refunded for one of my orders were not fun. I would be stressed about it and then I would pray and feel better. I would think about it again and begin to freak out then stop and remind myself to trust in God. One day I’d be all, “I’m not going to worry. God’s got this.” The next, I’d be thinking of how I would design the flyer to hang on my door regarding the extra tickets I would be stuck with. I was budgeting in my mind and worrying that I wasn’t going to make it. Then I’d think about how God had provided before and feel a little comforted.

I was so up and down that I was making myself dizzy, and it’s one of those times that I look back upon and wonder why God puts up with me. I wonder that a lot because my inconsistency is still an issue.

Sunday’s topic was sacrifice, and when I think of the sacrifices I constantly make for God, I realize there aren’t that many and they’re not that big. I volunteer at church and I tithe, but neither of them really drain me in any way. My sacrifices aren’t big because they aren’t making me uncomfortable at all.

Alan identified the five spiritual sacrifices as: generous and cheerful giving, worship with praise and thanksgiving, prayer, evangelism, and martyrdom.

Unless you’re reading this from the afterlife, martyrdom doesn’t really apply to you in a practical sense here (although your reaction to it potentially becoming your reality is worth considering). Out of the remaining four, I can safely say I need to work on all of them. If you can say you’re consistent in even one of those areas, you’re doing better than me, and I commend you for it.

But you know what? I think that while God wants me to do all that, He’s okay with the fact that I’m not always doing all of those things at once.

At first, I thought this list was a checklist, but then I saw that it wasn’t (and I don’t think that’s how Alan meant it). We don’t have to check all the boxes, just as many as we can, and we always must have at least one checked. So unless you’re an uber-human who’s just always good at everything, I wouldn’t worry about nailing all of these at once.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel like sacrificing. It can be a lot of work, and I’m a pretty lazy person.

It would serve me well when I don’t feel like offering anything up to God to remember the sacrifices Christ made for me.

First, He sacrificed heaven itself. He went from having complete perfection, living in nothing but love and harmony to come walk around on this earth with mankind, a hit-and-miss species at best. If that’s not a sacrifice then I don’t know what is.

Then after growing accustomed to life as a man, Christ sacrificed His life for us. Now, I know that was the plan all along, and Jesus knew that too, but a lot changed between Christ leaving heaven and Christ leaving earth. Jesus knew He loved the people down here, but then He physically met them. Jesus made enemies, friends, and memories. He surely developed a fondness for certain places. He could’ve picked up a hobby or two. He was no longer on the outside looking in at human life. He had experienced it.

He didn’t want to lose it all. Luke 22:39-44 shows us that much. Jesus is on the Mount of Olives with the disciples. They’re there to pray, and Jesus steps off a little to pray by Himself. The disciples, as we learn later in the scripture, are tired. Maybe Jesus saw them try to stay awake and pray as He knelt down. Perhaps one poked another as his eyelids slid down to a gentle close. One of them might have said, “No, guys! We can’t sleep now. Jesus needs us,” as prayers became sleepy mumbles.

I imagine Jesus sighed as He watched all this, but He also probably smiled. They didn’t know the soldiers were moments away from taking Jesus. He did, and He was dreading it so much that He started sweating bullets of blood at one point. But maybe right before the storm, He also felt sad. Sad at what would transpire, and sad at what He was leaving.

The only recorded words of Jesus’ prayer here are, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Luke 22:42, NLT).

Maybe that’s all that was said. Maybe that’s just all that was recorded for us to read. Regardless, we know that Jesus wanted to use another plan if God had one, but really and truly, He wanted God’s will done above all else. And it was done. A sacrifice for all mankind was made, but don’t think for a minute that it was easy physically, emotionally, at all.

True sacrificing never is. That’s why it demonstrates love and devotion. If we only give what we don’t really care about or what is easy to give, how much do we really love who or what we’re giving it up for? What we give tells a lot about us and our affection for the one receiving it. Jesus’ immeasurable love and flawless character was shown through His life and Him going to the cross. What exactly are our sacrifices saying about us?

By Carrie Prevette

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