Awfully good brownies. Seriously funny. Jumbo shrimp. Living sacrifice.
The apostle Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). To anyone listening — Jew or Gentile — the word sacrifice would have conjured images of dead animals offered to God (or gods). Yet, Paul calls believers to offer themselves as living, breathing, sentient sacrifices.
“Living sacrifices.” It reads like poetry, and I am sure it would look lovely on a plaque or mug. But if I am honest, I have no idea how to live dying (or die living).
Am. Have. Do. Suffer.
Elisabeth Elliot, in her familiar, cut-to-the-chase, faith-with-feet manner of living, has helped me understand and apply Romans 12:1 — how to walk as a living sacrifice. Elliot writes,
God knows your heart and will accept your offering in any way you can make it, I am sure, but a very simple thing has helped me. It is to kneel with open hands before the Lord. Be silent for a few minutes, putting yourself consciously in His presence. Think of Him. Then think of what you have received in the four categories mentioned (are, have, do, suffer). . . . Next visualize, as well as you can, this gift, resting there in your open hands. Thank the Lord for whatever aspect of this gift you can honestly thank Him for. . . . Then, quite simply, offer it up. (Loneliness)
Four categories: Am. Have. Do. Suffer. I am to offer to Christ all I am, all I have, all I do, and all I suffer.
Four Simple Words
Since reading her paradigm, I have found myself throughout the day thinking through these helpful four categories. Nearly every part of my day, large or small, can be traced to one of these four words. As I wrestle with my personality or limits. Am. As I fold laundry. Have. As I am driving to pick up the boys. Do. As I cancel my plans to take a sick child to the doctor. Suffer.
I have found these four words to be an especially helpful exercise on my Sunday afternoons, looking ahead to the coming week. I write down the four words in my journal. Next, I write out the different activities, insecurities, fears, and hopes of the coming week next to one of the four categories. I follow each with a prayer to entrust that burden or event to the Lord as an act of preemptive sacrifice. Here’s an example of what Elisabeth Elliot’s model has looked like for me this week:
Am: Introverted and structured in an extroverted and unstructured holiday season.
What does God say? “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
How can I pray? Lord, remind me that you have wired me well, and go before me into a busy few weeks where I feel I will be operating out of weakness.
Have: Free time and down time with our children.
What does God say? “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
How can I pray? Lord, we have countless hours ahead of us. I fear boredom or laziness for them, and I fear that I will not have enough energy to fight the tyranny of the screen. Father, give me creativity that is not mine, and more of your Spirit to think of meaningful ways to invest our extra hours.
Do: Holiday festivities and events.
What does God say? “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5–6).
How can I pray? Father, as we hustle about buying and giving and preparing for Christmas, please be at the center of our celebration. It is all too easy to sing the songs and exchange the gifts and buy into the contrived commercialism. Please, Lord, help us prioritize our Advent devotions in the morning and teach the boys that you are greater than any toy or gift.
Suffer: Difficult decisions about schooling.
What does God say? “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12).
How can I pray? While decisions like ours may not feel like suffering to everyone, I have been so very anxious over the ones we must make. Help me to remember that you hold our children’s futures in your hands. Remind me that you care far more deeply about them even than we, as parents, ever could. Transform this stressful and confusing process into an offering of continual trust in you.
My Am. Have. Do. Suffer. looks different each season, each week, often each day. Yours will be different than mine. Yet every Christian, with a little intentionality — no matter our age, calling, gifting, or stage of life — can offer all we are, and have, and do, and suffer to the Lord. We can become sacrifices of praise, and, in doing so, finally, truly, and joyfully live.