Note: This is entry 11 in a study guide series called “Four Seasons of Healing: A Pathway for Those Living with Chronic Illness.” For a list of entries click here.
Part IV: Fall: Caring for Others (September to November)
October: Offering Yourself to God
Therefore, I urge you,brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conformto the pattern of this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasingand perfect will.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
During the fall term of my second year at college my attitude and view of psoriasis began to shift. I started seeing how God could utilize my lifelong battle with chronic illness to benefit others. A breakthrough came when I took the risk to share my psoriasis journey in front of a few hundred students at my college Christian fellowship large group meeting. To my surprise, fellow students supported and encouraged me for my transparency. A few even pulled me aside to share their own struggles. That evening God revealed to me how he can use my trials to empower others who feel weak or beaten down.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about offering themselves to God as a sacrifice. The language he uses harkens back to the Jewish temple sacrificial offerings of animals, as explained in passages like Hebrews 9:13-14. The priest offered the sacrifice to God as a way for the worshiper to draw close to God. Here the priest and the offering are one in the same—the believer. This offering, unlike those in animal sacrifices, remains alive to be repeatedly offered. To sacrifice the body symbolizes the entirety of a person offered to God to bring others closer to God. All this is done “in view of God’s mercy” as described in the earlier chapters of his letter.
A merciful God leads people to extend that same mercy to others. In making that choice to be an offering, God transforms the worshiper’s thinking and values. It’s been a long journey from accepting my suffering with chronic illness to becoming an offering to God and others. That change began with a commitment to God that I would not let my circumstances or illness define or control me.
Describe a time when you offered your time, talent, or treasure in service of a good cause. How did it feel to give something of yourself, even if you were experiencing pain and loss?
- Often it takes an act of courage from one person to openly share about a difficulty that prompts others to do the same. What are the risks and benefits to being the first person in a group to show transparency?
- What might make it difficult to become an offering to help others after suffering chronic illness or a similar trial?
For Further Thought
The beginning of Romans 12 serves as a seminal teaching for the Christian life. Interact with the first two verses in the following questions as you consider how following Christ leads to a life of service and offering
- Why does Paul stress the importance of having God’s mercy “in view” when making a life commitment to him? How has God been merciful to you?
- Paul introduces the idea of the world conforming people to its mold. In what ways does the call to service compare to the world’s thinking and philosophy?
- What role does a change in thinking and heart play in knowing and doing God’s will? Give an example.
- Optional: Brainstorm ways and opportunities to reach out to a stigmatized or underrepresented group, such as those with chronic mental health or skin conditions. Commit to one action in the coming week.
Close in Prayer
Meditate on what it means to be both the one making the offering to God and the one being offered. Commit to God in prayer your desire to be an offering that would bring others closer to Him.