Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In this Part 2, we’re talking again about the question, What is sacrifice? What sacrifices have you made?
It was David Livingston who wrote:
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice, which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?
Is that a sacrifice, which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice.
Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory, which shall be revealed in and for us. I have never made a sacrifice.
Amazing words from one that gave his life in the service of other people.
C.T. Studd said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
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It is no surprise then when Jesus says in John 15:12-13 (TLB):
I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends”.
Sacrifice is costly
If you look up the definition of sacrifice in the dictionary, it says something like this: Sacrifice: ‘a voluntary giving up of something valued; forfeiture; a relinquishment; an offering’. It’s clear that, in every case, sacrifice is both painful and costly. We might sacrifice our health, our home, our livelihood, even our lives for the sake of others. But, we will only do this when our sacrifice is understood to benefit those we love.
Here are just a few examples:
- Parents will make sacrifices in order to provide for their children.
- Students will make sacrifices in order to get good grades and please their families.
- Workers will often make sacrifices to ensure they stay employed and are able to provide for their families.
- Employers will make sacrifices to ensure their employees are happy.
- Athletes will make sacrifices so that they might improve, become the best in their sport and win accolades for their country.
- Ordinary citizens will make numerous sacrifices (pay taxes, obey laws) in order to be acknowledged as genuine members of the local community and wider society.
- Soldiers will make sacrifices for the protection of their country and the freedom of the world. We especially remember them on Anzac Day.
Two men, two stories of personal sacrifice
There are two stories I’d like to share—and I’ll continue with these in Part 3. Specifically stories about two men in different centuries who gave the ultimate sacrifice any of us can give. They gave up their lives for other people.
First, lets go back to 1982, which is a fair while ago, to Washington DC. It was a very cold, snowy afternoon, when Air Florida Flight 90 was preparing for taking off to Florida. Nothing unusual about this flight—there were five crew members and 74 passengers. One of the passengers was Arland Williams, aged 46, who was a bank executive from Atlanta. He had no idea that within seconds he and five other people would be the only ones left alive.
Only 73 seconds later, the aircraft slammed into the concrete and steel of the 14th Street bridge, and ploughed into the frozen surface of the Potomac River. All that remained was the tail section. It was a horrifying accident seen by many people, rather terrifying with jagged ice and people who had died or were dying in the freezing water, waiting for help. Boats could not be launched.
Twenty minutes after the crash, the sun was going down, and no-one had been able to reach the six survivors. They were doomed until suddenly, miraculously, a rescue chopper came whisking across the darkening sky. It dropped a life ring right into the hands of one of the survivors and plucked him from the water. Then things turned really strange. The next person to receive the ring handed it over to someone else. The chopper lofted her to safety, then wheeled back.
The man, Arland Williams, gave away the ring again. And again. Five times he made a conscious decision to put the lives of others ahead of his own. We’ll continue with this story in the next part.
(To be continued in What Is Sacrifice? – Part 3)