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FIRST-PERSON: What they sacrifice

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Like most of the 50-plus students on this summer’s Oxford Study Tour sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I wanted to get some classes out of the way so I could graduate on time and I wanted to see London.

So imagine my “surprise” when I felt conviction from the Holy Spirit while visiting sites of Christian historical significance.

Standing at the exact spot where the Oxford martyrs were burned at the stake because of their faith; visiting the place where Thomas Cranmer was imprisoned and had to watch as two of his colleagues were publicly executed; walking through the house where William Carey lived before giving up his life in Britain to serve as a missionary in India; seeing the tomb of John Bunyan, author of “Pilgrim’s Progress”; and being reminded of his literary contributions to the Christian world made primarily from prison — it was difficult not to ask myself the question, “Would I be willing to sacrifice what they sacrificed?”

As American Christians, we likely will not face imprisonment or execution as these Christians did (but then again, maybe we will), but it nevertheless does not hurt to consider what we are willing to give up for the sake of being obedient to God.

It is easy to say from a comfortable church building on a Sunday morning we will go wherever God leads us, but when God finally gets around to cashing that blank check and we see what we will have to give up, we may find ourselves a bit less willing to comply.

What if God’s will for your life is to go to prison for your faith? Will you obey?

What if God calls you to give up your life here, pack up your family, travel by boat seven months to India, and start a new life there, waiting seven years before you see your first convert and losing your spouse in the process (as He called William Carey)? Does God still have your compliance?

What if God tells you that your calling is to be burned at the stake for your beliefs? Would you still be willing to go “wherever God calls”?

I plan to graduate next May (and am on track to do so thanks to the credits from the July 6-23 Oxford Study Tour). I have been asked numerous times what I plan to do next. While the answer varies, I essentially tell everyone the same thing: “I don’t know.”

I have some ideas, of course. Some of my options are more appealing than others, and perhaps my fear that God will call me to the least appealing option is hindering me from truly considering what I will do. But after visiting these sites in the U.K. and being reminded of what past Christians have had to sacrifice for their faith, I can’t help but wonder, “If God does call me to that least appealing option, will I obey? Will I make the sacrifices He calls me to make?” It should be noted that this particular option does not involve being burned at the stake, which is what some have had to endure, so do I really have reason to drag my feet?

While I did get more out of the study tour than, “Hey, I saw Big Ben!” the one thing that’s pressing on my mind the most is something we all should consider: “Would I be willing to sacrifice what they sacrificed?” The answer should be easy, especially when we remember this encouragement: “… the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

    About the Author

  • Alex Sibley