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Bible Study: Subscription VS. Sacrifice

I taught this lesson to my small group guys tonight. It seemed to hit home pretty well.

Subscriptions I have:
– Gym membership – a smoking great deal at $50/year
– Disneyland – $30/month
– Cell phone – $94/month

These are all subscriptions I have. I can cancel them at any time. I might have to pay a small penalty, but the companies wouldn’t care that I canceled or even miss me when I’m gone. No big deal.

There are, however, some sacrifices I make:
– Mortgage – I can’t really decide to move out of town on the spur of the moment. The bank’s going to care and I’m going to get hurt financially and credit-wise if I just abandon my mortgage responsibility.

– Marriage – If I was married, that would be a sacrifice. I wouldn’t be able to think of just myself. Every decision I made would have to involve how it would affect my wife. If I had kids, the sacrifice gets even greater. – The unfortunate thing is some people treat their marriages and children as subscriptions rather than a sacrifice.

– My job – My job is a sacrifice. I commit a lot of my time to it. I love it, but it’s a big commitment. It’s not as big of a sacrifice as a family – or at least it shouldn’t be, but some people treat it that way. They put their work ahead of their families.

– My faith – Again, some people get this all wrong. They treat their faith like a weekly subscription that comes each Sunday and maybe Wednesday during small group. Other than that, God gets placed on hold. God needs to be the biggest sacrifice we make.

Let’s go around the circle and say whether our relationship with God is a subscription or a sacrifice in our own lives. A subscription means that you go to God when you need to. A sacrifice means that you intentionally make God a part of your daily life.
– Subscription
– Sacrifice
– Neither
– 1/2 and 1/2 are acceptable answers (When a student answered 1/2 and 1/2, I always asked which one they probably were more of – they know – a little nudge helps them think it through a little better)

Let’s look at some scripture:

Have a student read Hebrews chapter 11. Stop the reader occasionally to point out the sacrifice involved (Most of these are not in the verses, but are in the original text in the Old Testament):

– Noah took years (possibly 50-100) to build the ark. Imagine putting up with people laughing at you all that time. You’re nowhere near water and you’re building a big boat and it’s never rained before. That was a huge act of faith and sacrifice for God because he trusted God

– Abraham’s wife didn’t get pregnant until she was almost 100, but they didn’t doubt that God would provide a son. What’s crazy is when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham was obedient. It took them 3 days to get to the spot where the sacrifice was supposed to happen. Can you imagine what Abraham was going through? But he was faithful.

You can point out other facts along the way about these stories to drive home the point that they were faithful even when stuff didn’t make sense.

Why were these people chosen by God? Why would he give him these assignments? What was probably true about them as people?

– They were already faithful in small things
– God knew he could count on them
– They were in tune with God
– They were not subscribed to God, but they were sacrificed to him

Do you know that if you become sacrificed to God, that he will be faithful to use you and direct you?

Some of you are incredibly busy. Can you be that busy and still be sacrificed to God?

The truth is you can be. What it requires is not finding time to set aside for God (while that is important), but including God in your daily life. You can do all that you do in a way that is pleasing to God. You can play volleyball in a way that represents God well. You can treat others at work in a way that God would want them to be treated. You can pray throughout your day.

These people in Hebrews chapter 11 drew near to God and God drew near to them. God will be faithful to do the same for you. What you’ll realize as you sacrifice your life to God daily (rather than just subscribing occasionally), he will use you more and more. You’ll see him directing you more and giving your more opportunities to serve him from day to day.

Our greatness is not generated by our own actions. Our greatness is in the work of God using us for his purposes. If we’ll sacrifice to him, we’ll be amazed at how he uses that.

Illustration (think of your own to use in its place):
In my own life, I’ve seen God doing amazing things as I trusted him and moved into uncomfortable situations I knew he was guiding me into. I went to college without any money. What little money I did have, $150, had to be given to my sister because she lost her wallet and all of her money the week before I left.

Every day when I returned to my dorm room, I expected to have a message waiting for me saying that I had to go home because my college bill hadn’t been paid. Every day that message didn’t come. Every day was it’s own miracle in that way. Every day was a new reason to trust God.

In college, you’re not supposed to be able to register for classes the following quarter unless your bill for the current quarter is paid in full. Somehow, it always worked out for me… God was teaching me faith and patience. My bill was never caught up until the end of my sophomore year.

These days when something seems to go wrong and appears to be hopeless, I look back to that and other miracles of God working in my life and can know that God already has a plan and it will all work out.

Will you guys commit to sacrificing to God rather than subscribing to him? I’ve been doing that now since I was younger than you and it’s made a huge difference in my life compared to others who haven’t. I don’t have a big house or family or high-paying job, but I wouldn’t trade what I do have for anything that isn’t in God’s plan for me. Trusting God and doing what he wants me to has given me the best life I can possibly imagine.

This lesson will obviously require you to put some thought into sharing parts of your own story. You’ll want to make it more conversational than rigidly structured. Don’t follow this lesson word-for-word. Just make it your goal to help your students see the need and make the personal commitment to become sacrificed to God instead of only subscribed. That’s the life God will use for great things. They might not do anything like the guys in Hebrews 11 did, but they will be used by God in a fulfilling way to do whatever it is he has set aside for them to do… and they’ll never be as happy or satisfied doing anything else.

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dennisbeckner@churchleaders.com'
Dennis Beckner has served in youth ministry leadership for Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA since 1999. Dennis is a contributor and speaker to youth training events, writing projects and other engagements. Contact him at his blog, VolunteerYouthMinistry.com.