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Weekly Wisdoms for the week of June 12, 2006

Sacrifice is the true measure of love.

The degree of one's love for someone is measured by the degree of his or her sacrifice for that person. When you deeply love someone, you'll do a lot of difficult, challenging, or painful things for him or her that you would never do for anyone else.

Jesus, even before his death, demonstrated his love for others by sacrificing for them. John 13:1 tells us: It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. In the next 15 verses, Jesus washes his disciples' feet -- a task usually performed by the lowliest servants. Yet Jesus, out of love, gave of himself in order to serve. Love means going out of your way to be a servant.

Sacrifice is exactly how we can measure God's love for us. As Romans 5:8 explains, God let his son, Jesus Christ, die so that every one of us could have the opportunity to be alive: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God demonstrates his love for us by his sacrifice for us.

In 1 John 3:16-17, we are presented with this same challenge: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. How can you love others if you're not sacrificing for them?

In your life, examine what you can do to serve others in order to show them true love -- God's love. Such love requires sacrifice.

We want God to change our circumstances, but God wants to use our circumstances to change us.

It can be easy to think that God is obligated to make life easy for us and to remove all of our difficult circumstances. But, the truth is that during hard times God is preparing us for greater things. If He removed the difficult circumstances in our lives, we would probably never mature.

James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." In other words, rejoice in "trials of many kinds", because they test your faith, which causes you to grow closer to God. Indeed, God assures us that something beneficial can come from the hard times in life.

If you are going through trials now, take hope in the fact that almost everyone in the Bible who did great things for God also had to endure great hardships. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, Paul recounts many of the difficult circumstances that he had gone through: "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked."

Clearly, Paul had suffered greatly for the Gospel. However, God used those circumstances to make Paul more mature and to give him a great love for God and for spreading God's Word. Now, Paul is widely considered the second most important person in the New Testament—behind Jesus, of course. However, we must remember that Paul had to go through many difficult trials. It was those times of testing that caused Paul to grow closer to God, qualifying him to be a great witness for Christ.

This same principle can be seen in almost every other person in the Bible who did great things for God. It was during times of testing that such people developed the strength and character for which we respect them.

Therefore, don't always beg God to change your circumstances. Instead, view each as an opportunity for God to change you, making you "mature and complete, not lacking anything."