Just over eight years ago, my husband and I packed a UHaul with our belongings and made the long drive from New Jersey to Virginia, settling into our new home.
At the time, a towering oak tree stood in front of our house with English ivy spilling over the roots and along the base. It was a sad day when they told us the tree had to come down; too close to the house, too close to the septic system, too dangerous in a hurricane.
Such a lovely, stately tree. Such quaint and romantic English ivy.
But we made the sacrifice to avert future disaster and the tree company hauled its branches down and then the trunk itself. But they left the stump in place, which still sits even now as the centerpiece for my front garden.
Over time, I realized that the tree had produced offspring before the men attacked it with their chainsaws. On the corner of my front garden grew a baby oak, not a tiny sapling easily yanked out by bare hands. A thick sprout of a tree with roots down deep.
It was ugly there. It was off-center and inconvenient. After each rain it seemed to grow exponentially overnight, overshadowing the blooms of nearby calla lilies and violets.
It annoyed me.
I tried pulling it up, but I’m no Goliath. I couldn’t even budge the stubborn baby oak an inch. So, I compromised, cutting it down every few weeks so it was slightly less conspicuous and ugly than before, but never fully uprooting it.
Today, I stared at the towering leaves of my garden enemy once again in disgust and frustration—and determination. It just had to come out!
I attacked it with my shovel, digging deeper than I ever had tried before and hurting my back while yanking and twisting its roots every few minutes.
Then I realized the sad truth. In order to dig down to disengage the tree’s roots, I had to dig up my sweet violets growing nearby.
I had to make another sacrifice in order to accomplish the work. After a tiny moment of sadness, I sunk the shovel deep once again and finally heard the roots snap before I pulled the tree free from the ground.
It took me about five years of battle with stems, roots and offshoots, but I finally won the day and victory was sweet.
Despite all the assertions to the contrary, the Christian life is and should be a life of sacrifice. It’s not a guarantee of abundance or comfort, coziness or material success, health, wealth, prosperity and all the trappings of “the good life.” Jesus never promised the American Dream.
Of course, the sacrifices we make are almost always greater than digging up violets in order to oust an inconvenient tree. Yet, they do often involve uprooting and turning over our hearts.
That’s what sacrifice does—it demands that nothing else at all matters more to us than God–not sin, not personal comfort. Sacrifice ensures that we can give any of that up, even if it’s painful and difficult, for the sake of His name. It’s a way of knocking over the idols and false gods that take precedence in our time, resources, and priorities.
It’s acknowledging that He is God alone.
But it only happens when the sacrifice is truly sacrificial, when it actually costs something. Anyone can give to God out of our abundance and excess and we might feel an ugly sort of righteous pride about it. Look what we did for God. Look how generous we are.
Yet, when King David longed to build an altar and give an offering to God, he searched for land on which to build. The owner of the chosen plot, eager to help out the king, promised the land as a free gift to David.
David refused, saying,
“No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24—HCSB).
In the same way, after rich and powerful men paraded into the temple and loudly plopped their tithe into the box, looking for praise and accolades from the bystanders, a widow walked behind them.
Without showiness or shame, she gave her offering of two coins and Jesus noticed. Others fawned after the wealthy who had done little more than give to God what was leftover after they paid their dues to the country club.
Jesus said, “she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).
This isn’t a devotional about money. Sacrifice isn’t limited to cash and coin.
This is about giving to God every part of us, every stronghold, every dream, every luxury, every need and trusting Him with it.
Maybe it’s how we spend our time. Maybe it is about money. Maybe it’s about what we watch, read, and download onto our iPod. Maybe it’s being willing to lay a dream at His feet and walk away, leaving it in His hands instead of your own.
How are we giving to God in a way that costs us?
After all, Christ gave His very life to us. Surely we can give more than violets in return. Surely we can refuse to sacrifice to God an offering that costs us nothing.
More Devotions From My Garden:
- Breaking Ground
- Tomato Plant Prayers
- May the God of Hope
- The Storms May Come
- Soil Samples
- Peppermint In The Spring
- Be An Original
- Underneath the Dirt
- Whatever It Takes
- Season of Prayer
- It’s Crowded In Here
- Seed Identification
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King