STRIVE…to Sacrifice: Life is Short, Pursue What Matters

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The release of Tim Hiller’s new book Strive was October 1, 2015!

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Luke 9:23-24

During my second year as a head football coach we began a new practice: we waited to vote for team captains until we had a week of practice under our belts. Why? We wanted to answer a key question:

Who wants to lead the most?

After selecting our captains during that second week of practice, I always held a meeting with our appointed leaders to outline the six pillars of being a captain in our program:

  • Compete: Captains must compete to be the best in all areas of their lives.
  • Heart: Captains are passionate and excited about what they love.
  • Attitude: A captain’s attitude is positive at all times, no matter what. Everyone is watching how you handle yourself.
  • Inspire: Captains are not only self-motivated within, but they also inspire those around them to greater heights.
  • Perform: Captains can be relied upon to come through when the team needs them to step up the most.

Up until this point in the conversation, the room was always filled with lots of smiles and head nods…until we reviewed the sixth and final pillar. Sacrifice.

Sacrifice: Captains are servant leaders—they serve others around them while they lead, even if it is inconvenient.

As our young men looked up at me with inquisitive looks, I asked them to read aloud the following two bullet points, outlining what sacrifice tangibly looked like in our program on a daily basis:

LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E.  Even when it is a hassle, you have to be willing to show your teammates you care and will do whatever it takes for them. The best ability is availability.

Captains in our program serve their teammates. This goes beyond encouraging words….our captains carry the ball bags, equipment, and water each day. Our captains listen to teammates’ problems. Our captains go above and beyond for the brotherhood.

Up until that point in my life, every football program I’d ever been a part of was about seniority, not service. Sophomores carried the water and equipment, seniors ordered them around. A coming of age meant more bossing around and less busy work. Admittedly, I ran my program this way my first season as a coach. It was what I had always been accustomed to. But then it dawned on me during my first off-season—I was training our senior captains to be served, not to serve. The exact opposite of true leadership.

As a coach, the sixth pillar of sacrificial service showed who really wanted to be a captain and who just liked the idea of it. A life of meaning is about sacrificing for the good of others. We all have things we want. Things we are striving for and pursuing. But we find out just how badly we want the object of our pursuit when it comes time to give something up for it.

I believe a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing we can pursue—in this life and the life to come—but, just like my young captains, it requires “want to.” And then it requires sacrifice. In Luke 9, Jesus walks us through the cost of living sacrificially for him.

  1. Desire – “Whoever wants to be my disciple…”
    Faith in Christ starts with a fixed desire on him. Jesus is addressing “whoever wants to be” one of his disciples. Half-hearted devotion will not last very long in the throes of life’s many challenges. He is the anchor for our hearts and lives.
  1. Denial – “…must deny themselves…”
    When I was a little boy, I used to dream about the day I could sit in the front seat of the car with my mom. But alas, I had to sit in the backseat until I was twelve years old! Denial of self is willingly sitting in the backseat of life while Jesus drives the car. He knows the way, we must trust and obey!
  1. Discipline – “…take up their cross daily…”
    For Jesus, carrying the cross up the Golgotha hill was a step-by-step struggle. So much so that Simon of Cyrene was forced to assist him. (Luke 23:26) What inconvenience, adversity or challenge is God asking you to take on each step of each day to mold and shape you?
  1. Doing – “…follow me…”
    Following is about doing as the leader does. Jesus is calling us toward a life lived in his image—filled with love and selfless sacrifice. Our external actions reveal our internal desires. Are you willing to do his will above your own?

Yes, the price of following Jesus is high, but the price Jesus paid on our behalf is higher. His sacrifice was the ultimate one—losing his life—so that you and I can keep ours eternally in his heavenly presence. Is he your desire? Are you willing to deny and discipline yourself to do his will? This week let’s work to sacrifice for the good of others and for God’s glory as we pursue a deeper relationship with his son Jesus!

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