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When it comes to money and material things, most of us understand that the Lord's work can require sacrifice. If a thing needs doing and we lack the surplus cash to make it possible, many good brethren will dig down deeper and do without some things for themselves in order to get the Lord's work done, perhaps selling off possessions to raise the necessary funds, as the early disciples did (Ac. 4:32-37). We don't always give as we should, obviously -- but most of us know what the word sacrifice should mean.
This week, however, let's consider that we should be willing to sacrifice time as well as money for the Lord's work. Money is valuable, of course, but time is in some ways an even more precious commodity. Philanthropic organizations say that the typical American would rather write a check to support a worthy cause (and be "done with it") than donate even a little time. In spiritual matters, we may occasionally sacrifice the having of certain things, but very few of us will let the Lord stand in the way of doing something we want to do. If the Lord's work conflicts with any of our activities (or even sometimes with rest from our activities), we will hardly consider giving up the activity as a sacrifice. Our rule seems to be that if anything has to "give," it should be the Lord's work. Scheduling conflicts are virtually always resolved at the expense of the Lord's work. We do with our calendars and datebooks precisely what we have always said was sinful to do with our checkbooks: give the Lord nothing but what is left over. If the Lord needs an hour or two, that is fine, unless we have anything else we could be doing. It begins to look as if the Lord gets our time only when there is absolutely zero else going on.
But the real work of the Lord has always tended to encroach on busy schedules. If we do not get a fresh grip on the concept of sacrifice, we are going to lose our souls. Jesus said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt. 16:25). By withholding our schedules from the Lord, are we not refusing to give up our lives for Him -- one day at a time? Jesus was never involved in anything that He was not willing to lay aside in order to serve our needs (Phil. 2:5-8). We need to think as He thought.
Monday: Matthew 13:18-23
Key Idea: The cares of the world can choke God's word so that we become unfruitful.
Questions for Family Growth: How might we describe the attitude of the person represented by "what was sown among the thorns" (v.22)? How can the "cares of the world" interfere with what God desires of us? How can we avoid this problem?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 12:24.
Tuesday: Malachi 1:6-8
Key Idea: The Lord is dishonored when we offer to Him that which is of no value to us.
Questions for Family Growth: How had the people of Malachi's day "despised" God's name? Did they recognize the seriousness of what they had done? How had they offered less to God than they would offer to their governor?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 12:25.
Wednesday: 2 Samuel 24:18-25
Key Idea: The Lord is honored when we offer to Him that which has "cost" us something.
Questions for Family Growth: What did David need to offer the Lord and why did he refuse the gift offered to him by Araunah? How does this principle apply to us today? How can time, as well as money and material things, be "costly" when we devote it to the Lord?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 12:26.
Thursday: Matthew 16:24-26
Key Idea: If we desire to "save" our lives, we will "lose" them.
Questions for Family Growth: What did the Lord mean by saying that we will "lose" what we "save," and that we will "find" what we "lose"? Do you agree with the statement that anything we are unwilling to give up for the Lord is an idol?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 12:27.
Friday: Luke 10:25-37
Key Idea: We should be willing to be inconvenienced for the Lord's work.
Questions for Family Growth: What might have been some of the reasons why the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side of the road rather than help the man in need? Is it likely that these men were any busier than the Samaritan who stopped to help?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 12:28.