Living Sacrifice


Lately as part of my morning Bible reading and quiet time, I’ve prayed this prayer: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” I spotted that verse (from Acts 9:6) on a sign posted outside a local church that I pass on my commute to work. I read that question every day for a month or more before it finally sunk in. Maybe, I wondered one morning as I drove to work, I need to ask myself this question at the start of each day?

You know that I grapple with hearing God’s voice in my everyday. Sure I see him – in amber light as it falls on velvety daylily petal. In the quiet loon drifting on glass-still water. But I don’t ever get those nudges that other people talk about – those moments when I clearly discern what God actually wants me to do, concretely, in my day-to-day existence. Moments when I feel him telling me, “Michelle: Do this.”

When I saw that sign day in and day out for a month (thankfully that church doesn’t change out its signage regularly. Perhaps they know some of us need to read the message more than once – say 30 or so times – before it makes an impact?), it occurred to me that perhaps I don’t get the answers because I don’t explicitly ask for them.

So I’ve been doing just that every morning for more than a week now. I simply close my eyes and ask, “God, what do you want me to do today?” And the first thought that pops into my head (unless it’s something like “Eat three ice cream sandwiches” or “Buy yourself a Chanel handbag”), I interpret as his answer.

One day the thought was, “Practice patience with the kids.” Another day it was, “Have fun.” Another time the thought was, “Send that email, the one you keep putting off.” And then last Thursday it was this: “Be positive and spread good will at work.”

This one I didn’t like. This one sounded too hard. Impossible, in fact. This one, frankly, I wanted to ignore (which is exactly what I did).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t make a habit of intentionally sowing seeds of dissension or creating workplace unrest or even being a big fat negative naysayer (I actually have to work at this, glass-half-empty person that I am), but lately, I haven’t gone out of my way to be a positive, inspiring employee.

You see, when I got back from vacation last Monday, I found that some organizational restructuring had taken place while I'd been gone. I returned to a different hierarchy; fellow employees were now reporting to different supervisors. And while this didn’t affect me directly – my boss is still the same – it dramatically affected some of co-workers, people I consider my friends. Naturally, as with most any change, they weren’t entirely happy. I returned to an atmosphere of unsettledness.

I had two choices. I could be positive and focus on the big-picture strategy: how this decision was probably a good one for the organization. Or I could fuel the fires of discontent.

I chose the latter.

And I chose the latter because it was easier.

I thought about this today when we read these verses from Romans 12:1-2:

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Had I acted at work last week in a way that could be described as “spiritual worship?” Had I presented myself as a “living sacrifice?” Did I “discern the will of God” and then do what he would consider good and acceptable?

No. On all three counts.

Instead, I conformed to the ways of the world, because those ways are easier and sometimes, let’s be honest, more fun. I’ll be frank: I fall prey to gossip more than I’d like to admit because I find it entertaining. Gossip feels like camaraderie, “us against them” – and that can feel empowering.

But gossip and dissension are false empowerment. Gossip and dissension are conformity to this flawed and broken world.

Real empowerment is trying to live what is good and acceptable and perfect in God’s eyes. Real empowerment is humbling, non-conforming service to others…and thus to God. Real empowerment is living out the will of God, even when it’s hard and not very much fun.

It may sound like an exaggerated overstatement to describe a positive, non-gossipy workplace attitude as a “living sacrifice,” but I’d suggest it’s not. I’d suggest that any behavior that’s the opposite of what’s expected, any behavior that does not conform to this flawed world but is instead an act in line with the will of God, is indeed a living sacrifice.

Last week I chose the easy way out at work. This week, with God’s good grace, I pray I’ll choose to be a living sacrifice instead.

What about you? What helps you make the right, “living sacrifice” choices in your day-to-day life?

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Melissa Bradley  – (July 17, 2011 at 1:18 PM)  

Beautiful! Love IT!!! I completely agree with you. To hear the term "Living Sacrifice" you immediately think(or at least I used to), like a martyrdom type death which is not a daily threat. Then we go about our daily lives not conforming to the call. The call is a daily dying to ourself! A daily forsaking the easy road of conformity to others and this world. And instead Dying to self and conforming to the image of Christ! You Nailed it Girl! Thank you for your words!

Twiz  – (July 17, 2011 at 1:34 PM)  

Your words have been a real encouragement to me as I face very similar temptations at work. Thank you for sharing. I pray that I too may listen to and discern what is the will of God.

Twiz  – (July 17, 2011 at 1:34 PM)  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Marie  – (July 17, 2011 at 1:39 PM)  

Oh boy did I need to hear this! We have a big staff meeting tomorrow to discuss scheduling changes that will affect everyone. Big changes have been happening over the last 3 weeks, and only the two Dr.s and the office manager know what is going on. I am afraid I haven't been much of a living sacrifice, it has been way too easy to join the general discontent and speculation. As you said, there is a camaraderie of us against them. Going to really work at being positive tomorrow and look at the big picture rather than the microcosm of how it affects me.
Thanks Michelle!

S. Etole  – (July 17, 2011 at 1:49 PM)  

You've shared this in a way that makes it very applicable to our daily lives ... in whatever capacity we find ourselves. Good job!

GLENDA CHILDERS  – (July 17, 2011 at 2:33 PM)  

I love the reminder to ask God's question and listen. Praying for courage for you next week, Michelle. A fresh start with new mercies.

Fondly,
Glenda

Courtney  – (July 17, 2011 at 2:41 PM)  

I never would have applied those words to the workplace, but you are SO RIGHT. Thank you for the enlightenment - about how I can be a living sacrifice in any situation. I also fall into the easy trap of gossip. You are not alone there.

Ostriches Look Funny  – (July 17, 2011 at 4:30 PM)  

I love this. I too am realizing that God has called me to certain things (um, patience) and I try sometimes to do it...and I can't.
So, I'm realizing too that I have to ask Him for the ability to do it. I am terrible TERRIBLE when I'm tired. I am internally angry. So I remembered after screaming "GO TO SLEEEEEEEEP!" to my children who would not sleep at 9 pm, that Jesus said, "come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest". So I prayed, okay I know that rest doesn't necessarily mean sleep, but if you want me to have patience, I need rest, and you said you'd give it to me.
Since praying that, my mother has come over unexpectedly to watch the children while I nap during the day, and I have felt extremely rested all the other days. So cool. I'm sure he will give you what you need to obey Him. EXCITING!

Laura@OutnumberedMom  – (July 17, 2011 at 4:42 PM)  

Not an exaggerated overstatement at all, Michelle. You're right, living each day in opposition to this "broken, flawed world" is living sacrifice.

This is honest, inspiring and...convicting! Thanks, Michelle.

Jean Wise  – (July 17, 2011 at 7:16 PM)  

I find taking the time for silence and solitude and really spend time with the Lord, helps me make the right choices. sometimes the right decision is very very hard and it is only with HIs strength can I do this. good post!

I am going to send you a devotion I wrote about this same question.

Jennifer @ GettingDownWithJesus.com  – (July 17, 2011 at 8:41 PM)  

I always appreciate your honesty and the way you live out your faith in the open, Michelle. You are so approachable and really, you just make me feel so comfortable. Thank you for that ...

Secondly, I have gotten into this same habit over the last year or two. I wake up, and ask the LORD: "What are we going to do today?" I'm not always the best listener, but there's nothing quite so encouraging as knowing the God and I are "in it" together, even if I'm messing it up, not hearing him, or outright ignoring His nudges... He never leaves me nor forsakes me.

Keep listening, Michelle. He has you on a marvelous path!

caryjo  – (July 17, 2011 at 8:45 PM)  

I appreciate your straightforwardness and your honesty. Since I'm not in an office any more, and can control my atmosphere a LOT more than in the past, I don't have to deal with your issues on a daily basis. BUT... keeping my heart focused on the Lord's desires for my daily activity... always a challenge with my intense personality.

Thanks for laying this on my lap/heart today.

emily wierenga  – (July 17, 2011 at 10:28 PM)  

i love how you talk with him, how you ask him, how you seek him hard, friend.

Dawn @ Dawnings  – (July 18, 2011 at 8:04 AM)  

Apparently we both had a humbling this week. Isn't God good to never give up on us in our weakness.

Nancy  – (July 18, 2011 at 10:22 AM)  

I'm just so happy to hear that God has to repeat himself to you, just like He does to me. Wonder how many times I would have driven by that sign before I got it? I also love the way He is so patient with us as we learn the lessons He's teaching us, like the one you shared here in the workplace. Even though we get it wrong, each day is an opportunity for a do-over.

Just getting caught up on my reading--I've missed you!

Linda  – (July 18, 2011 at 2:57 PM)  

I just love your open, honest heart Michelle. I struggle with exactly the same thing. I had to smile (or perhaps laugh) at myself as I read because instead of doing what I believe the Lord has said, I begin a discussion. Before long, I'm either totally confused or convinced that it wasn't really God after all. I just remain STUCK!
I am going to try to be as obedient as you've been. I think you get a do-over on the job one :-)

Shaunie @ Up the Sunbeam  – (July 18, 2011 at 3:58 PM)  

This is so good Michelle, and mirrors the way I've been seeking daily guidance too. I wish I were a faster learner, but I seem to need plenty of repetition to grasp in the real world what my spirit knows. Thank you!!

Charity Singleton  – (July 18, 2011 at 4:14 PM)  

Michelle - What an honest and timely post. There are lots of changes going on at my work as well, offering my tongue and my heart as living sacrifices is a daily discipline. And I dare say there's no exaggeration to say that every area of our lives must be offered this way.

Abby  – (July 18, 2011 at 5:01 PM)  

I love how you take us all on the journey with you...this is teaching and you have a refreshing honesty that makes definitely calls us to look deeper...

oh dear, 'living sacrifice' that feels like all it is right now and I am fighting that 'martyr' self-pity mentality that is defeating the JOY in conformity to Christ that He wants it to be...when you read my post, you'll see, this is the roughest spot in the journey overseas so far...bless you friend:)

Jennifer  – (July 18, 2011 at 9:18 PM)  

You are so right--being a living sacrifice is dying to all those 'little' things that show the true condition of our heart. I once worked in an environment where the morale was extremely low, and it was very easy to listen to all the gossip. I had a very hard time bringing a positive attitude to work, but that's exactly what God expected.

Thanks for your post. Unfortunately, I'm not having a hard time thinking of all those little things I need to offer up as a sacrifice, as well.

Lisa  – (July 18, 2011 at 10:58 PM)  

I have taken the easy route too many times to count. Just tonight my friend and I were talking about what it means to die to self. We both admitted that we know we should run to God, but sometimes it just "feels" better to give in to flesh. I love the question you ask every morning.
Thanks for inviting me to join your linky party. Many blessings!

alicia  – (July 18, 2011 at 11:00 PM)  

I love your honesty! Yes, I usually need to be beaten with the message 30 times or so also. And yes, I fall all too easily into gossip traps, not only because it's easy, but it's just "girl talk" is usually my excuse. Call it what it is, it is still wront. Thanks for the accountabitiy.
( I am so happy to finally be able to comment! My computer hasn't been working for weeks!)

David Rupert  – (July 19, 2011 at 7:34 AM)  

What does God want me to do today? It isnt in the big things -- no. it's in the small obediences. That's where the journey begins and ends

Christina Klas  – (July 19, 2011 at 12:18 PM)  

Had I acted at work last week in a way that could be described as “spiritual worship?” ..... oh boy. That one hits home. Thank you for helping me to keep things in perspective!

Ashley Sisk  – (July 19, 2011 at 2:14 PM)  

This message really spoke to my heart today because I felt like I was the one saying the words. It's so hard at times to be obedient...especially when it's so easy to be of the world and not of the word. Great piece.

H. Gillham  – (July 19, 2011 at 3:54 PM)  

The world is evil, isn't it? A tempting place for all of us to want to play.

This was a good word, my friend.

Good word.

We're starting a study on James this month at my church.

I have to be re-convicted all the time. Whats up with that?

Jenn  – (July 19, 2011 at 5:07 PM)  

I definitely struggle with that one too. It is so easy at work to complain and gossip, it doesn't help that I work with almost ALL women. (nothing agains women it just creates a certain dynamic.)

It is not only easier but more fun in the moment I think to complain. It feels good. Any thing that requires us to give up our selfish desires I think would count as a living sacrifice. :)

Thanks for the reminder as I return to work after a year off not to fall prey to old habits.

Anonymous –   – (July 20, 2011 at 4:25 PM)  

Michelle, thanks so much for writing truth and sharing yourself! I just happened to see your name on another blog I was looking at and came here and yes, it's you :) I live in Topeka and used to live in the white house on Anaheim. In fact, I still dream that we move back to that house and the last time I had that dream, I was looking down the street at your house - crazy!!!! Anyway, I'll enjoy checking in on your life thru your blog. Glad God is working with both of us, aren't you?!!! :)
~Robin

Michelle DeRusha –   – (July 20, 2011 at 7:28 PM)  

Robin! I hope you come by again to read this comment, since I don't have a way to respond to you. How exciting that we meet again...and through a blog of all places! Your old house is for sale -- how about you guys move back in?! I sure would love to have you in the neighborhood again.

If you come back by here, click on the contact button and send me an email -- that way I'll be able to write back to you and we can keep in better touch (in additional to the yearly Christmas letter!). Say hi to Brian for me!

seashore  – (July 20, 2011 at 8:30 PM)  

I love your idea for the Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday posts. I have been reading them and can't wait to join in next week. Thanks

I Live in an Antbed  – (July 21, 2011 at 11:54 PM)  

Dear Michelle,
What a precious testimony of His Faithfulness! What a precious declaration of how He is bringing your every thought, word and action into alignment with His Perfect Will! I am so excited for you!!! And you keep saying you don't hear His voice telling you what to do, but the Holy Spirit in you is increasing your sensitivity so that you will grow into hearing every Whisper. Beautiful!!

Shaunie @ Up the Sunbeam  – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

This is so good Michelle, and mirrors the way I've been seeking daily guidance too. I wish I were a faster learner, but I seem to need plenty of repetition to grasp in the real world what my spirit knows. Thank you!!

Ashley Sisk  – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

This message really spoke to my heart today because I felt like I was the one saying the words. It's so hard at times to be obedient...especially when it's so easy to be of the world and not of the word. Great piece.

Jennifer @ GettingDownWithJesu  – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

I always appreciate your honesty and the way you live out your faith in the open, Michelle. You are so approachable and really, you just make me feel so comfortable. Thank you for that ...

Secondly, I have gotten into this same habit over the last year or two. I wake up, and ask the LORD: "What are we going to do today?" I'm not always the best listener, but there's nothing quite so encouraging as knowing the God and I are "in it" together, even if I'm messing it up, not hearing him, or outright ignoring His nudges... He never leaves me nor forsakes me.

Keep listening, Michelle. He has you on a marvelous path!

Anonymous –   – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

Michelle, thanks so much for writing truth and sharing yourself! I just happened to see your name on another blog I was looking at and came here and yes, it's you :) I live in Topeka and used to live in the white house on Anaheim. In fact, I still dream that we move back to that house and the last time I had that dream, I was looking down the street at your house - crazy!!!! Anyway, I'll enjoy checking in on your life thru your blog. Glad God is working with both of us, aren't you?!!! :)
~Robin

Melissa Bradley  – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

Beautiful! Love IT!!! I completely agree with you. To hear the term "Living Sacrifice" you immediately think(or at least I used to), like a martyrdom type death which is not a daily threat. Then we go about our daily lives not conforming to the call. The call is a daily dying to ourself! A daily forsaking the easy road of conformity to others and this world. And instead Dying to self and conforming to the image of Christ! You Nailed it Girl! Thank you for your words!

alicia  – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

I love your honesty! Yes, I usually need to be beaten with the message 30 times or so also. And yes, I fall all too easily into gossip traps, not only because it's easy, but it's just "girl talk" is usually my excuse. Call it what it is, it is still wront. Thanks for the accountabitiy.
( I am so happy to finally be able to comment! My computer hasn't been working for weeks!)

David Rupert  – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

What does God want me to do today? It isnt in the big things -- no. it's in the small obediences. That's where the journey begins and ends

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