By Peter Amsterdam
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During an especially busy time, I underwent a perspective adjustment that changed my outlook for the better. At the time there was a huge amount of work to do. I was quite tired—almost exhausted, to be honest. But I realized, “Well, what in the world do I expect?” We were tackling some big projects, each of which the Lord had confirmed was necessary for that time, so of course there was a lot of work. The verse that came to my mind was, “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.”1
I realized once again that the long hours of work and the tiredness were all part of my reasonable service, part of presenting myself a living sacrifice before the Lord. It's the dying daily that Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians: “I die daily.”2
This got me thinking about some of the great men and women of God, our forefathers in the faith, and what they endured and gave during their lifetime. We all have our battles and tests, and they're very difficult and trying. We face situations that are very challenging, or that bring with them personal hurt and sacrifice that cost us a great deal personally. I'm sure we've all had times when we've just felt tired to the point of thinking that we couldn't go on.
But when you think about what some of the great men and women of God went through, people like Amy Carmichael, David Livingstone, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and too many others to name, it helps to see the difficulties of life in a different context. A number of them had several of their children or their spouses die on the mission field, they repeatedly suffered poor health, many of them experienced loneliness, some of them struggled with depression, they had to work years on end without seeing much in the way of results.
It helps to know that we're not alone. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”3 These godly men and women can relate to and understand many of the things that we each experience today. They fought many spiritual and physical battles.
I think that most of us probably look at those great men and women of God and think, “Well, I'm not in the same category as they are.” But the godly men and women of the past are part of our “spiritual heritage.”
These great men and women of God of old can inspire us, and there's a lot we can learn about the attitudes and perspectives that they had about their lives for the Lord. They had to have the heavenly vision, and that's what gave them the faith to endure the very real sacrifices, both physical and spiritual, that they made in order to do the Lord's will.
The verse that comes right after “present your bodies a living sacrifice” is “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”4 That verse applies well to having the right perspective on the difficulties we face and the sacrifices we make for the Lord and others. If you have the right perspective, one that is realistic and yet also positive and praiseful, it can make a big difference.
When your perspective is renewed and realigned with the Lord's, it does literally transform your life. So whenever you are tempted to feel that life is too rough, or the battles are too heavy, or that the work is too hard, it can help to look at the challenges through this perspective, which can help you to see things more positively.
Years ago, when I would be down in the mouth about things, complaining about this and that, my wife would give me what I called “the prison talk.” She'd say, “If you think things are difficult for you, just imagine what it was like for those missionaries of the past who were put in prison and had to suffer for years at a time. Then you'd see that compared to their troubles, yours aren't so bad.” Well, I didn't really like it when she told me this, but, lo and behold, all these years later I'm finally getting the point.
Understanding what others faced, the sacrifices they made, the hard lives that they lived, and the impact that their fortitude and perseverance had on the world—not only the world of their day, but on today's world due to their stand of faith—has helped me put my life and work in perspective. In fact, it has helped me to face my duties with more joy, realizing that it's through the hard work, through doing whatever job is necessary, that progress is brought about and victories are won.
When I work hard or do things that are especially difficult for me, when I have to go the extra mile, when I have to perform what I feel are mundane tasks, I'm performing my “reasonable service”—the “living sacrifice” Paul referred to in these verses. When I connect the dots like that, it changes my outlook on hard work and hard times. I look at it much more positively, which has helped my attitude to be more positive.
The apostle Paul was definitely someone who experienced a great deal of trial and anguish in his service to the Lord. He said:
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.5
But through all that Paul experienced and endured, the physical deprivations, the spiritual battles and tribulations, he stayed focused on the heavenly vision. Even when he told it like it was, “we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life,” he sums up their situation with a statement of praise, a declaration of faith: “Who delivered us…, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.”6
I'm sure Paul had to make a conscious choice to have a positive perspective, and to look at the sacrifices and the cost of serving Jesus with such faith and praise. Listen to some of the other things he said.
None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy…7
We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost…8
I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.9
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.10
I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.11
Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.12
And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.13
I will very gladly spend and be spent for you.14
Those are very meaningful verses. They really help to present a new perspective on our “reasonable service” and “living sacrifice.” It helps to remember that our lives, as disciples, involve hard work, difficulty sometimes, spiritual warfare, sacrifice, and when it comes along we shouldn't be surprised or taken aback or wonder what's wrong. It's par for the course.
Thankfully our lives for the Lord aren't just about sacrifice. And most of the time, we don't have it so bad. There's a lot of work, and there are difficulties and obstacles, but if we have the right attitude toward it, then we are able to see that we also have a lot of blessings and benefits. We can praise the Lord for the grace He gives when we do have to work hard and sacrifice, and avail ourselves of His promises in His Word to face the tests graciously—realizing that many great men and women have gone before us and done the same for their Lord and Savior. We're in good company!
Originally published November 2008. Adapted and republished March 2013.
Read by Simon Peterson.
1 Romans 12:1 KJV.
2 1 Corinthians 15:31.
3 Hebrews 12:1 ESV.
4 Romans 12:2 KJV.
5 2 Corinthians 11:25–28 KJV.
6 2 Corinthians 1:8,10 KJV.
7 Acts 20:24 KJV.
8 Romans 5:3–5 KJV.
9 Romans 8:18 KJV.
10 Romans 8:35–39 KJV.
11 2 Corinthians 7:4 KJV.
12 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 KJV.
13 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 KJV.
14 2 Corinthians 12:15 KJV.