— neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. –
II Sam 24:24
The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.
-Jessie Owens, Olympic Gold Medalist
This morning I offered my body up to God, an odd offering, when you think about it. Surely He doesn’t need my physical self to get His purposes done, yet somehow today the reason He wants it seems unusually clear: My body is the primary tool I’ve got to love Him with.
Certainly if I was paralyzed and unable to move, my expressions of love for God would be limited to my thoughts and, perhaps, my words. But even my brain and mouth are part of this vessel He trusted me with, so it still gets back to loving Him by offering back to Him what He’s given, and what He’s also given me free will to use as I please.
There’s the rub, and that’s where Owens words above ring so true. Because today I’ll want to think, say, and do any number of things contrary to His will, yet I’ll also want to resist those things. So there will be a battle; an inward one, invisible but raging, the victory of which will be determined by whether or not I choose to love God with my body.
If I do, it will cost. It’s supposed to.
Today I will want to snap at somebody; lust over something; indulge wrongful appetites; look down my nose at a brother. When I say “No” to those desires, it will cost me the comfort of feeling good, or the self-medication a bad habit so often delivers, or the Gotcha! feeling of nailing someone who offended me. Denying what my flesh desires will be an uncomfortable experience, a delay of gratification and a humbling, sometimes painful thing to do.
But when I do, I will, like David, be offering the Lord something which cost me. Please understand, I’m aware that saying “No” to sinful impulses is hardly the stuff martyrs are made of, and I doubt members of the early Church would be impressed by our daily struggles which are, admittedly, mild in comparison to theirs. But I still think they’d applaud, knowing what it’s like to deal with dragons within and without, and even admitting with a bit of a wink that the ones inside can be tougher to see, much less slay, than the ones in the arena.
Every day I speak with men who are too close to giving up, too discouraged over their repetitive sins, too weary in well doing and just about ready to cave to their flesh once and for all. I get it. You can grow so tired of struggle, and so bored with the ups and downs that go with it. So while I’m saddened over the number of Christian men who’ve thrown in the towel, maybe I should instead be blessedly surprised at the number who haven’t.
But to those who haven’t (which, I trust, includes you) David’s commitment still speaks – I will not offer that which cost me nothing. Because in the long run, while God is hardly impressed by our faltering, small offerings and sacrifices, He delights in them, accepting them in love no matter how small they may seem.
Then we, by grace, can revel at the end of the day, knowing we gave Him something that cost. We died a little to ourselves; we said “ouch” when it hurt; we struggled like men and prevailed like conquerors. There’s more meaning in that, and more blessed peace and contentment, than could ever be delivered by the paltry sins we passed on.
Today began with a call for sacrifice. May it end with a call for thanksgiving to the One who gives us commands, then equips us with all it takes to obey them.