Romans 12: 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
A study was done by physician Bob Goldman in the 1980’s where he began asking elite athletes whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal, but it would also kill them within the following five years. More precisely Goldman surveyed combat and power sports athletes with the following proposition: “If I had a magic drug that was so fantastic that if you took it once you would win every competition you would enter from the Olympic Decathlon to the Mr. Universe contest, for the next five years but it had one minor drawback, it would kill you five years after you took it, would you still take the drug?”[i] Shockingly, when the results were tabulated, more than half of the athletes said they would take it. This is known as the Goldman Dilemma.
While more recent research showed significantly lower levels of acceptance of the proposition, this is still an alarming survey. It is incredible that so many would be willing to sacrifice their lives, for something as fleeting as fame and as perishable as gold. Athletic competition was popular even in Bible times and the Apostle Paul wrote: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
I read a daily devotional recently from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for his Highest (January 8) where he addressed this concept of sacrifice. It made me contemplate a verse that I often quoted at a weekly youth Bible study at our home: “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). In fact, this is probably one of the oddest “key scriptures” any Bible study group will ever have, but it had been particularly powerful in my life as I recognized that we cannot be true disciples without first dying to ourselves. However, Chambers goes a step further in his devotional.
Chambers says: “What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, that is, sacrifice our lives.” And further, “It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a “living sacrifice”— to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus.” This concept of being a living sacrifice comes from today’s scripture from Romans 12 verse 1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
While many may be willing to die physically for a noble cause, I believe it is far more difficult to die each day to ourselves, to allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us through Jesus. This is a painful process as God challenges sin in our lives or simply chisels at character traits which are inconsistent with who Jesus is (he who is living inside of us). Are you willing to be a living sacrifice? Are you willing to surrender everything to God and allow him to do whatever he pleases with your life? That is something worth dying for.
[i] (The Goldman Dilemma, Goldman et al., 1984, p. 32).