Although I had been a Christian since I was a much younger child, I was confronted with one of the most important Christian questions with which we must come to grips when I was 12 years old.
Some Christian teens, in a youth group that I attended, were asked to lead the worship service one Sunday morning at the church. After a great deal of brainstorming, different roles and contributions were thought up and assigned.
Two girls would each sing a praise song. Another would lead a prayer. One teen boy would plan to play a tribute to God with his trumpet. Two other boys would be greeters before the service. One older teen girl was going to share a testimony as to how wonderfully different her life became when she met Jesus as her personal Savior.
And then someone asked, “Now … who will preach the sermon?” I have since wondered if there had not been a conspiracy afoot with that bunch. They all got quiet, turned and began to stare at me.
I stared back. After a moment or two of exchanging our meaningful stares, my blood began to run cold and I abruptly sat all four feet of my metal chair down from where I had been leaning back against the wall. “What?” I asked, breaking the silence.
“Well, we thought maybe you could preach the sermon,” they said. I laughed nervously, trying to sound like I thought that it was merely a joke. For some reason though, my blood ran even colder. But I didn’t answer. I thought that they might burst out laughing at any moment and move on to someone who could REALLY preach the sermon.
But they didn’t move on. They just kept staring at me. “We’re serious,” they said without a trace of humor in their expressions.
“Uh, I don’t think so. Couldn’t I do some other job?” I asked imploringly.
“Nope … we’ve got everything covered and all the other jobs are filled. There is only one thing left to do and you’re the only one who isn’t already listed as doing something.”
“I don’t think so, guys. I don’t even know what I’d talk about,” I said. “Besides, I’m just 12. Who would even listen to me anyway?”
They let it drop, looking disappointed (probably because they realized that one of them would now have to share the sermon). I slipped out that evening after the meeting breathing a sigh of relief. “That was close!” I thought on my way home.
But God had other plans for me. When I got home, I reached into my pocket and found a small Bible verse that one of my youth leaders had written for me some time before. It was also a verse that my grandparents had quoted to me, sharing with me an admonition to not settle for anything less than God’s dreams for my life.
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 NAS).
I have learned that as we read His Word, God can embrace us so closely to Himself, that there is no escaping the realization that you have encountered Him. So it was with this instance.
Like a thunderbolt, the depth and breadth of God’s mercy for me was starkly pictured in my mind. The image of God’s Son, dying upon a roughly hewn cross for my benefit, was so clearly etched in my mind that I was overcome with awe and love for Him. Then a little shame crept in, too, as I understood that were He as reluctant to take on my punishment for sin as I was for speaking in public for Him, I would have had no Savior. But thankfully He had not been reluctant in securing my salvation for me. He had not dragged His holy feet all the way to Golgotha, complaining about how “it isn’t fair” or whining “can’t someone else do it instead?”
Nor had He reluctantly received me as His child when I turned from my sin and placed my faith in Him. Jesus is by no means a “reluctant savior.”
“A living sacrifice?” I mused as I reflected over my dilemma. “It does seem pretty reasonable. So how can I say no to Him in this?” I walked slowly over to our telephone, dialed the number of one of the youth group leaders and told him that I had changed my mind.
“Great!” he exclaimed. “I’ll put you down for it.”
When the night of our service finally arrived, the church building seemed full … fuller than I could ever remember. But then again, I was petrified with fright. My imagination was undoubtedly inflating the reality.
The music was wonderful as the girls used their voice talents for God. The boy who played the horn had every heart thumping as his music rallied the soul around the banner of Christ’s love. The greeters were faithful and gracious, making sure that everyone who walked through the door felt welcomed. The testimony of the girl was powerful, moving, inspiring and … long. In fact, she spoke for about 20 minutes (far and away beyond the five minutes allotted to her). Still, I think every eye in the building had shed a tear as living water poured through this young woman’s words.
When my turn finally came, I was glad that the podium was very large and made of heavy wood. It both hid my trembling knees and also served as a solid foundation: I felt a need for something strong and steady on which to lean.
Then I opened my mouth and began to talk about the verse that God was using to tame my wild heart and aided me in rendering it to Him a “living sacrifice.”
I spoke only about eight minutes but when I was done with what I believed God had given me to share, I knew that I had done His will and that my obedience had pleased Him. As far as the message goes, I think things went well … at least, people told me that they had. Even if people simply felt that they just need to be nice to the “green-horn” 12-year-old, I didn’t mind for I had done the one thing that needed to be done: I had offered myself to my Savior as a living sacrifice. And I had found that as I depend on Him, I have truly found Someone strong and steady on which to lean … a fact which daily renews my soul as I turn to Him for wisdom, grace and strength.
That event was the occasion that God used to bring me face to face with how I was going to live my life. Would I live it for myself? Or for God and others? The realization that living my life for Christ was both “reasonable” and rewarding anchored me in years to come and is the bedrock for how I live my life now. My heart’s desire is that others also know that He Who mercifully calls us to Himself through faith in Christ is worthy of our love and service.
And take heart! There is surrounding a wholehearted walk with Jesus an orchard of unimaginable blessing as well as streams of cool refreshment that flow from fellowship with Him.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected]