This topic (and my opinion on the matter) are neither groundbreaking nor original. So go read John Piper's "Desiring God" to get to the heart of the matter. That being said, I have come to realize through recent conversations that not many people have thought this issue through all the way, and it has lead many to a truly enslaving mindset. So please, do read on.
Let me draw two situations for you to get the question across properly.
Ladies (or men...restructure the example if you wish), whether you're married or not, imagine your husband, or the man in your life approaching you and saying,
"Hello darling, let me take you out to eat wherever you like. We'll go to your favorite restaurant and then anywhere else that you want. Then we can take a walk on the beach and talk about whatever you want for as long as you want. What do you think?"
You think for a moment and ask with a smile,
"What made you think of this?"
Now, imagine him saying,
"Well, I was reading this book on relationships and it turns out this is what boyfriends and husbands are supposed to do. I really don't want to, but I figured that would make my motives more self sacrificing. I'm gonna be miserable the whole time because there's a football game on, but it's like the experts say, love is about sacrifice."
While you let that response sink in, consider the second situation I would like to present where everything is the same, except your husband/boyfriend responds this way,
"Wow, I don't even know where to begin. I was finishing up work today and I had this sudden urge to be near you. All I could think about was the last time we talked and how much I love your company. I just want to take a whole evening to get to know you even better and fall more deeply in love."
Need I ask which response you'd prefer? Perhaps not. However, let me ask you, do you or do you not want a husband who is self sacrificing? I feel no hesitation in assuming that the first response in the story would be downright insulting. It is meant to be insulting. However, let me ask you... why? If faithfulness is measured by sacrifice, wouldn't it be better if the love of your life felt a sense of that sacrifice when he gave his time and energy to you?
We hear this message in so many sermons, particularly in regard to marriage and relationships. Not only that, but it is applied to our relationship with God. If we are not willing to suffer loss for God, then we don't really love him. Isn't this true? If it is, then why not be honest and express our "holy" frustration when our time with God or those we love costs us something or makes us miserable?
Are you frustrated with the question ladies (and all God followers)?, I hope you are.
It's a downright tragedy that more Christians don't ask this question when it comes to their relationship with God. Therefore, let me make a controversial statement that I will then defend. Your relationship with God is not authenticated by your willingness sacrifice, it is proven by your joy. Or, to put it another way, God is not made joyful by your sacrifice. Rather, God's gift of joy should cause you to sacrifice.
Before I defend this further, let me mention and comment on a few verses that prove the point:
In Isaiah 29:13, God chastises his people by saying,
"...this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me..."
Like a phony husband on a date, the people of God are saying kind words to God, yet their hearts take no joy in it.
In Deuteronomy 28:47-48, God rebukes his people by saying,
"Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you..."
This makes sense, yet if the many sermons are true, the people of God aught to be rewarded for serving God in misery. They really sacrificed didn't they?
No. Again, NO! Let's not confuse Jesus words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments." This verse does NOT teach that loving God IS keeping his commandments. If this were true then we could please God while hating obedience at the same time. This is absurd. True love and joy in Christ PRODUCES obedience. Otherwise it is disobedience, not matter how noble it seems. He wants our hearts, therefore our works.
Ok, so what about those times when it is painful to obey? Should we just suck it up? Well, yes and no. The question is, what is the governing affection of your life? Is your Christian life a pursuit of sacrifice? Or is it a pursuit of the God you love, for whom you joyfully make temporal sacrifices? Do you know he's worth you giving your life? Or do you live in constant fear that he won't make these sacrifices worth your time? Does he feed your soul or suck you dry?
There is no other way of thriving in the Christian life than knowing this fact: the pursuit if God is the pursuit of joy. A joy that only God can give us. A joy that only a heart that has been sovereignly changed can desire. A desire that we could never produce on our own. If we grow content with anything short of this, we will inevitably serve our enemies.
I'll close with a quote from Augustine,
"Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy. There is no man who does not desire this, and each one desires it with such earnestness that he prefers it to all other things; whoever, in fact, desires other things, desires them for this end alone.”
Pursue joy. Long for it. Live for it. Die for it. God is your reward.