Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sacrifice: Giving Up to Go Up

During the winter of 1777-1778 George Washington and his beleaguered troops encamped at Valley Forge were in dire straits. The soldiers were short of food, clothing, shelter and ammunition. General Washington sent a plea to the leadership of Pennsylvania asking for money saying, “Unless aid comes, our affairs must soon become desperate beyond the possibility of recovery. The Army must disband or starve.” 

One man responded to that plea. He was a wealthy merchant, Jacob DeHaven, who supported and believed in the revolutionary cause. Mr. DeHaven loaned the struggling government $50,000 in gold and what historians estimate to be another $400,000 in supplies. The Continental Army survived the harsh winter at Valley Forge and the rest is history. 

Ironically, DeHaven—the man who saved America—died penniless, giving everything he had for the freedom of the country. To this day, the DeHaven family has never been repaid by the U.S. government. The descendants of Jacob DeHaven claim that with interest added off the 1778 loan the government owes $141.6 billion.1 

Ultimately, there is no price tag that could ever be placed on Jacob DeHaven’s sacrifice, for without his investment the dreams of the Founding Fathers would have frozen to death that terrible winter so long ago. 

That story reminds me a principle that John Maxwell calls “the law of sacrifice,” which says “You have to give up in order to go up.”2 In other words, things that are worth something of great value will always come at great cost. Moreover, the higher you want to go, the more it’s going to cost. 

This is a principle that the Church needs to hear today. We want the best of everything—new buildings, state-of-the-art media, dynamic teaching, pastoral care, children and youth ministry and exciting worship. Many Christians desire these things, yet they are unwilling to tithe, volunteer, or serve in a way that might challenge their plans. This is the epitome of cheap worship. You cannot build a great church unless people are willing to sacrifice their best for the kingdom of God. 

The principle of sacrifice is laid out clearly throughout the Bible. When Abel offered his sacrifice to God, he brought out “the firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:4). When Abraham was tested by God on Mt. Moriah God demanded that he lay his beloved son Isaac on the altar (Gen. 22:2). Years later, when David desired to build a house for God he was offered a plot of ground for free, but David refused to accept the gift. He replied, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing” (2 Sam. 24:24). 

The only way the church will be great is if the people are willing to sacrifice their best for God. As one old preacher said, “You can’t run the church on pocket change and spare time.”  

1. Lisa Belkin, "213 Years After Loan, Uncle Sam Is Dunned," The New York Times, 27 May 1990 <http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/27/us/213-years-after-loan-uncle-sam-is-dunned.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm>.

2. John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 183-192. 

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