Scripture: Romans 12:1-8
Trevor Santor grew up loving the game of baseball. He played it as much as could and this got him a scholarship to play the game at Grand Canyon University. Trevor was unable to pursue the dream all the way to the professional level, but he continued to be active in the game that he loves by being a high school baseball coach. Laurie Kehler comes from a long line of gardeners. Both her mother and grandmother took gardening very seriously. Previously I did not know that competitive gardening was a thing, but Kehler grew up in a family that has won multiple awards for how well they get the soil to produce incredible plants. Kehler continued this tradition and has spent her whole life in the garden growing things. Now on the surface these two people seem to be very different. They are from different generations, they have different interests, and neither one would understand the other’s world very well. However, they share one similarity. They are both authors. In both instances their books takes the thing they love and connects it with their faith. Trevor Santor is the author of Baseball Genesis: Living for Christ through the game of baseball and Laurie Kehler is the author of Gardening Mercies finding God in your Garden. These two authors are not alone in connecting the things they love with the God who love us. Bookworm Matt Rawle has written books connecting some of his favorite literature with his faith such as Faith of a Mocking Bird and Redemption of Scrooge. Apparently, I am also missing out because a lot of people find God on the golf course. A thirty second search on Amazon reveals that Tony Small, Jon Decker, Gary Martiva, Ronald Mercillo, Phil Callaway, Barbara Hogg, and David Curry have all written books that find spiritual truth in the game of golf. All of these people took something they enjoy and has a lot of meaning to them in their life and it helped them gain a much greater understanding of faith. This is a natural thing that we do. People, in general, are exceptional at finding patterns. We are able to make connections between seemingly unrelated things that helps us gain a deeper understanding of both. Before I followed Jesus and loved God with all of my being, I loved Star Wars. I know you all think I am obsessed with it, but believe me that I am nowhere near the level of super fan that I would have been 15-20 years ago. At that time I might have known just about everything there was to know about Star Wars, so when my eyes were opened to what is truly important, when my heart was strangely warmed, it was only natural to begin connecting this new world of faith I was discovering to what I knew the best.
I mention all of this because in those early days of my faith this scripture had a profound impact on me, and it continues to do so. This morning’s scripture is full of wisdom, power, and truth. It can truly be a guiding post for our life. I came across this scripture very early in the beginning of my faith walk and I immediately saw a connection to Star Wars that has continued to guide my faith since then. It does not matter how we approach this scripture, if we take it seriously then it should be one that points all of us to living more faithful lives.
In Star Wars the Jedi are empowered by the Force. It allows them to do incredible things. It is the source of their power, but they do not control it-rather they yield to it and the force flows through them. In this scene from the original Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi explains it as such.
There is an important exchange here. Luke Skywalker ask if the force controls his actions and the response is “partially”. Years ago this scene instantly connected with this scripture, because to be a living sacrifice is to allow God through the Holy Spirit to partially control our actions. To be a living sacrifice means we offer ourselves, our will, and our very lives to God. However in doing so we are not puppets on a string. We do not stop being who we are. To be a living sacrifice is to offer up our lives to God’s service but we still have agency and choice in life. In Star Wars the Jedi are essentially living sacrifices to the force. In that clip, Obi-Wan was essentially telling Luke to have faith and trust in the force. In doing so the force guided his actions. In the exact same way, we offer up our bodies as living sacrifices to God and we do this by faith. This is why this is a spiritual act of worship, we are our offering ourselves in faith. Just like the force guides the Jedi’s actions when we are a living sacrifice God guides our actions. As it states in verse 2 when we are a living sacrifice, “then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” When we submit our will, our wishes, and our desires before God then we make room for God’s will. When we stop listening to all of the other voices trying to shape us, but by faith commit to listen to just one voice then this scripture communicates to us that we will be able to discern, know, and follow the will of God.
I do not know about you, but that is an incredible statement. We, you and I, can grow in faith to a point where we can in confidence act knowing that we are acting within the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. How powerful is that? Being a living sacrifice means that we choose to put God first above all else, and when we do that we can do more than just know God’s will. This scripture goes on to speak about how the Holy Spirit empowers us. This morning’s scripture is one of the other places in the New Testament that speaks of spiritual gifts. As verse six states “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. The gifts mentioned in this scripture are prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy. There is a much larger list of spiritual gifts found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In all instances though, these Spiritual gifts are an empowerment of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual gift is not just something we are good at, it is a way that God uses us to do something that we could not do on our own. Through the spiritual gift of encouragement, God gives us the ability to say exactly the right words to the right person at the right time to make a true difference in their spirit. Through the spiritual gift of serving we are able to give of our time and effort to make a maximum impact for the kingdom of God. Just like the force allows a Jedi to do things far beyond natural human abilities, Spiritual gifts allow us to make an impact for God’s kingdom far beyond what we could do on our own abilities.
Early in my Christian walk this scripture first connected with me because I saw parallels between being a Jedi and being a follower of Christ. I saw how trusting in the force in the Star Wars universe was similar to being a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, in our universe. However, the reason why this scripture and this connection convicted me so powerfully way back then is that I realized I was Han Solo. That is the character in the clip who was the cynic and the skeptic. He is the one who said hokey religions were no match for a good blaster. Before I became a Christian that summed up my feelings quite nicely. A blaster, a space gun really, is a powerful tool that we have complete control over. Any tool that I had control over seemed to be a better fit than a hokey religion. Like Han Solo in the clip I hated the idea of not having control of my destiny. Yet I realized that like Luke Skywalker I had to let go and have faith. Doing so was my first step into a larger world. Once I was a skeptic and a cynic who refused to believe in what I could not see. I only wanted to trust what I could control, but taking steps in faith confirmed that God, Jesus, forgiveness . . .it’s true. All of it.
This morning’s scripture was incredibly influential early on in my faith and it is one that I continue to come back to again and again. I come back to it because I need the reminder. I need to be reminded that my life is not my own, that my calling is to be a living sacrifice. I need to be reminded daily that for my life and my faith to be functioning properly I am not in control. I need to be regularly reminded that the most valuable way that I can worship God, the single best way that I can glorify Him is to daily say “take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee.” I needed to be reminded daily that I do this by giving up control, by laying down my will, my desires and my life before God and truly praying not my will but yours be done. I need to daily remind myself these things, because I am not always the best at remembering it. I cannot speak for you, but I like to be in control. I often find relinquishing control, even when I need to, hard and uncomfortable.
We like to be in control, or at least we like to think we are in control. We like to think we are the masters of our own destiny and nothing has providence over us. However, where does that get us? When we take the wheel are we truly at peace? Do we experience true joy? Are we filled with a sense of purpose? Again, I cannot speak for you but in my experience that is not how it works. We only find a sense of peace, contentment, and joy when we know in the depths of hearts and souls that we are rooted in and following God’s will. We can only do that if we become a living sacrifice by submitting ourselves fully to God. In order to do this we have to overcome our selfish desire to be in control. When we are confronted with a problem in our life, something that needs doing, or an irritant to take care of our impulse it take control and deal with it on our terms in our way. But that is not submitting ourselves to be a living sacrifice. In the clip when explaining to Luke how to use the force Obi-Wan said “your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.” In the same way our first impulse might be to reach for control in any situation and handle it ourselves but we have to let go. Being a living sacrifice means we let go and we let God be the one that leads and guides us.
What is it in your life that you struggle to release control of? Either God is the Lord of all our life or God is the Lord of none of our life, may you let go. May you put your full trust in God and be a living sacrifice. I think you will discover that when you do, you will find a greater sense of peace, purpose, and knowing than you have experienced before. Because you will no longer be vainly chasing your own will but you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Not only that, but by the Holy Spirit you will be empowered. Like the Jedi can use the force you will have spiritual gifts at your disposal to carry out God’s will. May you be a living sacrifice and in doing may you discover that the Lord will be you. . . always.