I decided to speak about the idea of 'sacrifice.' I believe that true sacrifice is an uncomfortable and undesirable idea to most people, because it:
- Requires us to give something up
- Involves a cost, and it always hurts
People in the developed world, where I'm from, are not good at giving things up. We are obsessed with our "rights"; things we think are ours, and NO-ONE is going to take them away from us. Even Christians, people who confess to follow this guy called Jesus.
Well do you realise what HE gave up?
I will always remember a Christmas service at Werribee Baptist Church a couple of years ago. Undoubtedly there were many 'once-a-year' Christians there that day, who came along expecting a nice peace-and-goodwill message about the baby Jesus, but Pastor Jeff Benson launched into the incredibly impacting reality of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.
Jesus Christ left the comfort and perfection of eternal heaven. He entered the world through the womb of a woman, into poverty and infanticide. Because of His birth, His parents became refugees or asylum seekers in another country. Through His three years of travelling while telling people about the Kingdom of God, He had no permanent home and relied on the generosity and hospitality of others.
He was rejected and mocked by His own family. While He was popular with the masses, He also endured hunger, sorrow, pain, loneliness, betrayal, injustice and ultimately a criminal's death. Fortunately for us, the story didn't end there and through the power of God Jesus rose again and conquered death.
Why did He do all that? For us. That is what we remember when we take communion. And when we talk about 'sacrifice,' He is the ultimate example. Now, the challenge for Christians is that we are not just supposed to applaud politely from the grandstand, but we are called to FOLLOW His example if we are truly His disciples:
"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)
C.T. Studd was an English missionary who gave up a large family inheritance as well as fame and fortune as a cricketer to follow God to India, China and Africa. He is attributed with this quote that has stuck with me ever since I heard it: "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
That basically sums up my God-inspired adventure that has been the last seven years of Compassion sponsorship and travels. You probably already know the numbers:
- 54 kids financially sponsored in 26 countries
- 31 kids visited in 12 countries
It is fair to say, from a first-world perspective, I know a thing or two about sacrifice. Giving things up for the benefit of others. Comfort, security, safety, time, money. I literally gave up everything in a material sense to move to the Philippines and work in an orphanage this year. Yet it all pales into insignificance compared to what I've received in return. God has used the generosity and sacrifice of people in the developing world to consistently bring me to my knees in gratitude, and provide the closest earthly example of His sacrifice for us.
I want to share with you some examples of sacrifice which I have witnessed and been the beneficiary of in my Compassion travels. Just in case some people get the wrong idea, which has happened in the past, I am in no way blowing my own trumpet or saying that these things happened because of me or in honour of me. It is purely and simply a response to the love, mercy and grace of God.
(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)
|This boy in Brazil (who I did not even know) stepped out of his comfort zone in a huge way. He learned a few words of English and spoke in front of a large crowd just so he could present me with a gift on my birthday.|
|This is the family of John Dave from the Philippines. His father works as a bodyguard for the city mayor. He normally works every day to provide for his family, but he took today off so he could spend it with me and his family|
In September 2012 I gave Sam to Ana Cristina from Brazil (below). She is a precious 14-year-old whose family has gone through an unimaginably hard time over the last three years (read more here). Last week I visited Princess Joy on my birthday (above), and decided to give her Yellow Ted.
It was not done as some nice, feel-good gesture. I told them that I want them to always remember how valuable they are to me, and to God. My hope and prayer is that during the hard times in their lives, they will hold Sam and Yellow Ted close and cling to the one true sacrifice: Jesus Christ giving His life for us so that we can be made right with God for eternity.