In the book of Romans, Paul appeals to believers to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice … which is your reasonable service” 1. What does the word “sacrifice” mean in relation to a Christian’s life and service to God?

The Oxford Dictionary defines sacrifice as “to give up one’s interests, happiness, etc., in order to help others or to advance a cause.” The Encarta Dictionary defines it as “giving up something valuable or important, for somebody or something else considered to be of more value or importance.”

By these definitions, we understand that although you’ve given something up, you’ve also received something of greater value in return, which means that, really, there has been an exchange, a trade-off. No true loss was ultimately experienced.

There are many examples where this cost/benefit transaction happens in everyday life. Parents continually make sacrifices for their children’s well-being and future. Athletes sacrifice to train hard and win in their sport. Students sacrifice to make good grades and graduate. People in the workplace make sacrifices to advance in their careers and to support their families.

Anything that is worth achieving will generally cost something. And the greater the value of what we’re trying to achieve, the more it’s going to cost us. Putting this into terms that relate to our lives as Christians, this means that—like the parent, the athlete, the student, or the career-focused individual—we also will have to make sacrifices to follow Jesus and fulfill His purpose for our lives. We will each face different challenges unique to our Christian faith, but we have been blessed with God’s Word, His Holy Spirit within us, and our community of faith to help us meet those challenges.

It’s not a question of whether we will have to make sacrifices in life, but what we choose to sacrifice for. As Christians we’ve adopted the Lord’s goals and purpose for our lives and have made them our own. In day-to-day terms, that translates into unselfish giving of ourselves, our time, our resources, our prayers, kindness, empathy, and love—for the sake of being what the Lord wants us to be in order to do His will and reach people with His love and truth.

It’s a price we’re willing to pay because we place a greater value and importance on living in accordance with God’s will and fulfilling His great commission 2 than we do on our own lives and the temporal things of this world. The Bible says that “this world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” 3.

Living for the “now,” pursuing immediate results, striving to receive recognition for our efforts and reap the fruit of our endeavors can seem more appealing than living for the eternal. But Jesus taught us to look beyond our everyday lives, to live and work for and invest in the eternal life to come, which starts by seeking first His kingdom and righteousness 4.

That may not reap immediate results, but we know that according to God’s promises, whatever we invest in His eternal kingdom will last forever. Of course, even if we don’t see visible returns from our sacrifices, we still experience joy, peace, blessings, and most of all His presence in this life.

The Lord’s love is always there for us, and we are richly blessed. But sometimes we can become familiar with those blessings to the point that we start to think that we are entitled to them. We come to expect good fortune in our lives and can be surprised or feel deprived when we find ourselves in a season of lack, loss, or difficulty.

We can tend to forget that the calling of an active Christian entails sacrifice. So to expect that our lives will always go well and we’ll always be happy, and that there won’t be times when we will experience loss, heartaches, or deprivation is not realistic or an accurate depiction of the faith life.

The apostle Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” And what is that secret? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” 5. The author of the book of Hebrews encourages us to therefore “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” 6.

The Lord asks us to “deny ourselves and take up our cross daily” 7. To deny yourself literally means “to refuse to gratify your personal needs or desires,” and instead to daily take up the cross—our life of sacrifice and service—and follow Jesus. So, we can see that the Lord doesn’t gloss over the fact that the life of a Christian is one of sacrifice and forsaking, which at times can translate into hardships, trials, weariness, and loss.

The Bible says that we are “bought with a price” by God 8, and we are therefore to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is our reasonable service” 1. Sacrifice is meant to be our “reasonable service.”

Giving of ourselves to the Lord and others can sometimes feel like an endless uphill climb. But let’s put that struggle and the accompanying feelings in perspective by remembering that our stay here on earth is only for a moment when compared with the eternity we will spend in heaven. The Bible tells us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” 9.

A life of sacrifice can war against our proclivities for a life of comfort, gratification, and security. It can be painful sometimes when you’re “dying daily,” as Paul expressed it 10. Where does the courage and strength to give of self sacrificially and selflessly come from? The apostle Paul summed it up succinctly when he said, “The love of Christ compels us” 11.

Our love for Jesus, and His love for us and sacrificial death on the cross for our eternal salvation, are what motivate us to live for Him. Only a deep and abiding love for Jesus will inspire us to follow in His footsteps in living a life of love and service for God and others. As we seek to fulfill the Lord’s will for our lives and to pattern our lives after His example and Word, our motivation to love and serve Him and others will grow and be strengthened.

As Christians who understand God’s greater purpose and meaning of life, we realize that our existence spans beyond the earth life. Therefore, we make sacrifices in the here and now in love and gratefulness to the one who gave His life for us so that we can live in His presence for all eternity and reap eternal rewards there and then.

The life of an active Christian may not always be comfortable in lifestyle, but it is solid and can withstand the storms of life, because it has the Lord as its foundation 12. He has promised to always be with us and to bless, protect and keep us throughout our lives. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” 13.

He has also promised to reward us for everything we give up for Him with “a hundred times as much in return,” along with inheriting eternal life 14. There is no greater promise or guarantee in the universe. That is the guarantee of a Christian.

  1. Romans 12:1 NKJV
  2. Mark 16:15
  3. 1 John 2:17
  4. Matthew 6:33
  5. Philippians 4:12–13 NIV
  6. Hebrews 12:1–2
  7. Luke 9:23
  8. 1 Corinthians 6:20
  9. Romans 8:18
  10. 1 Corinthians 15:31
  11. 2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV
  12. Matthew 7:24–25
  13. Matthew 28:20 KJV
  14. Matthew 19:29 NLT