Often we think of the costs of obeying God and taking up our cross to follow Christ when it means doing the really hard thing:
• a mother who visited an inmate in prison to express her forgiveness for the drunk driving incident that killed her daughter.
• a wife who shares every-other-weekend visitation with the child her husband fathered in an adulterous relationship.
• a man who gave a kidney to the friend of a relative he had never met.
• an employee who admitted to his boss he had been lying on his time charts to the tune of nearly $5,000 over several years.
When obeying God is defined by these kinds of "I could never do that" actions, we can miss what the Bible means by "to obey is better than sacrifice." The fact is, costly obedience happens most in the minutia of normal, everyday life.
Throughout my Christian life I've been guilty of elevating obedience to the heroic to the neglect of the ordinary. While marveling at how a friend can continue to serve others through cancer, I forget that God is requiring me to do what is right, day after boring day. Why could I rise to unselfish love for others the days after my beloved mother died, yet find it challenging to serve my family meals and fold laundry on any given day?
I recently heard someone say that often we forget that grace is for today. We think about past situations or trials and remember the grace that sustained us. We consider what is coming down the pike of our lives and trust that grace will be there.
But what about the grace we need today? The grace to love a spiritually wayward and disrespectful child. Take time out of our frantic lives to spend some time engaging with God through worship or Bible reading. Do that task we've been putting off for weeks. Silence the mean reaction we think our spouse deserves after how we've been treated. Trust God for strength to work and love through discouragement or depression. Walk away from the television or computer when the temptation to lust grabs our hearts. Say, "I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?"
Grace for today means we have the indwelling Spirit of God with us for every luring temptation and every call to love when we don't feel like it. I don't know about you, but obeying God in the really big moments that happen only infrequently in life is hard -- but grace grabs ahold of me and I find the necessary strength to grab onto Christ to think and do what's right. It's when "life happens" on a typical day that I struggle to stop and look to Him for help. Help when the dogs bark and wake up a finally-sleeping grandchild. Help when my husband and I have a conflict and neither of us know what to do. Help when a friend comes over for counsel when I feel depleted and weary. Or help when I am overwhelmed with anxiety about someone I love and I know my fears are infecting my interactions with her.
Doing the really hard thing isn't confined to the the really big things in life. Your and my ordinary lives are sprinkled with opportunities to obey God time and time again. Minute after minute. Hour after hour. Day after day. Such costly obedience prepares us for the day we wake up and hear news that rocks our world or realize we need an extra dose of grace-motivated obedience to forego bitterness or sinful anger or vengeance or hopelessness because something really big just happened.
What's the most discouraging ordinary thing you're facing today? There's grace to walk in the costly obedience to God that our Savior modeled during the many ordinary days in His life: days that got Him ready for that one Day when He most needed strength to do the hardest thing ever by hanging naked till death on a cross.
The same Spirit that empowered Him on both the normal and big days empowers us,too. Sacrifice is required when parents die or heroic service is required. But it’s also needed today and tomorrow when things just don’t go our way.