Summary: The greatest contributions to the world are made by the greatest sacrificers.
SACRIFICER OR SURVIVOR?
Life has many “ups” and “downs.” We would rather have the “up” experiences rather than those that can be described as “downers.” Sometimes we think of the “up” times as successes and the “down” times as failures. However, it is how we respond and react to the “ups and downs” of life that really determines our “success” or “failure.”
I have heard many people who have experienced setbacks in life (death of a loved one, a divorce, a loss of a job, etc.) describe themselves as “survivors” just taking it “one day at a time.” While there is merit in such recovery situations of making sure that the “down” experiences don’t cause us to be totally “down and out,” we must learn to move on and not get stuck in “survivor” mode as a way of life.
We don’t hear this terminology (being a survivor) used in the case of “up” times; however, we can let successes cause us to shift into “survivor” mode by letting pride or greed take control of the situations in which we find ourselves. The possibility is ever present in the “ups” and “downs” of living.
THE TEMPTATION TO SURVIVE RATHER THAN SACRIFICE:
In Matthew 14 we see that Jesus was near the pinnacle of His popularity. The crowds were such that He would try to avoid the crowds, but they would find Him. He taught them and, out of His compassion for them, He fed the crowd with the loaves and fishes. Needless to say, His popularity soared. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was tempted in the same ways we are tempted. The people’s concept of the Messiah - a popular leader that could take care of their needs - was being dramatized before their very eyes. They were ready to accept Jesus as the Messiah but for the wrong reasons. At this point Jesus could have ridden the crest of a feel-good, hot-tub religiosity that most of those in the crowd would have followed and people would have hailed Him as the Messiah. Was this not why He came? Yes and No.
Yes: He did come as the Messiah.
No: He did not come as the popular leader that would take care of all their needs and usher in the rebirth of the national sovereignty that existed in the days of David and Solomon. Things could have been this way and the course of history would have been different if the Jews had been living in holiness since the time of the captivity and been prepared to anoint Jesus as the Messiah (See Daniel 9:24). However, the 70 weeks of Daniel had passed and they had failed to accomplish this (put an end to transgressions, etc.) and Christ came to die, a perfect atonement for sin.
There was a temptation to become a popular Messiah and be accepted by the people for the wrong reason. How did Jesus deal with such enticements? Matthew tells us in verse 23
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone
Jesus needed time alone to pray. Surely this is a need in the life of everyone of us. When we are tempted to take the “easy” way, we need time alone in prayer.
The alternatives were pretty well defined:
A. Be accepted and enjoy the “good life” with the fame and popularity (to survive)
B. Be rejected (even to the point of being put to death unjustly) by the very ones He came to save (to sacrifice). John tells us He came unto His own and His own received Him not.
The time alone in prayer helps us to hold on to “why we are on the earth.” Jesus did not come to be a survivor but to be a sacrificer.
IMPACT ON COMMITMENT:
Sometimes we think that since Jesus “paid it all” that we have no responsibility and there is no commitment to be made by us. That’s the temptation we face: “to be transported to heaven on flowery beds of ease.” The problem with such a choice is that it is not a valid choice. It will not take us to the desired destination. Others would have us to go further and to give our “best” to the Lord (implying we can do whatever we want to the rest of our lives). However, the Apostle Paul, wrote the following to the Christians at Rome.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:1,2