Self-Fulfillment Through Self-Sacrifice  1 Peter 2:19-25

God calls us to develop our gifts and genius or intellect to the max. But we can only find self-fulfillment through self-sacrifice.  Actually, the idea isn't all that new. In music, the concept of "two choirs" was established long ago. Composers and directors learned that a deeper complexity and meaning could be drawn from two different pieces of music performed simultaneously than could ever be achieved by two single performances. The power of two choirs, singing distinctly different, yet complementary pieces at one another, does more than simply offer two melodies at once. It transforms each piece and creates an entirely new composition with a life and power all its own.

There should be "two choirs" at work in the soul of every Christian as well. On one side, we should hear the sweet sound of a call to full self-expression and personal development. In Christ, Christians are free to discover the full extent of their selves and their gifts.

But on the other side, as the 1 Peter text this week reminds us, Christians should hear another choir calling them to practice self-sacrifice. The defining character of a Christian is as a "servant," not as a master and it is only in service to others that the Christian becomes most fully Christ-like.

Unfortunately, finding the right balance in our lives between these two choirs isn't always easy and isn't always popular. Traditionally, the church has stressed the idea of self-sacrifice as the proper Christian response to others and the world. The unselfish devotion and commitment of countless generations of believers to this ideal of self-sacrifice is part of the reason the church still exists today. Millions have come to know Christ through the sacrificial love and selfless devotion of Christian missionaries, teachers, reformers and witnesses. But it is also true that there are individuals whose lives have been made miserable through a false or faulty notion of what leading a "sacrificial life" truly means.  This is the legacy that has been left to us, to you and me to pass on and to leave for the future generations.  What is the legacy that we leave behind?  Will it be a beacon for generations to come to follow.  Or are we going to leave disgrace, fear and lack of faith which no one will follow.  We are walking in the footsteps of those who came before us.  Now we are to leave our legacy of faithfulness and love for others to follow. 

Jesus was called by God and destined for a unique sacrificial role. But consummating this plan did not mean embracing a doormat destiny.  Jesus could act as a powerful and compelling leader while calling all who would listen to servanthood because he was first a servant of God. It was on the strength of that relationship with the divine that Jesus was able to make himself the "suffering servant" for all men and women.

Just as Jesus fully developed His gifts, His genius, through self-sacrifice Christians are called to embody that same sacrificial attitude. Faithfulness to Christ's mission and message does not mandate a lifetime spent under the heel of abusive people and powers. If we would seek to imitate Christ, to follow "in his steps," we must first strive to develop our own unique gifts and our own special "genius" to their maximum potentials. If we wish to become "suffering servants" for others, we must first seek to be the kind of servant God intended us to be.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people so wrapped up in discovering "who they are" that they forget where they're going and where they stand in relationships, in community. The great genius of Jesus was that he became more fully himself as he offered more and more of himself to others. This is the Christian paradox of servanthood and sacrifice that Jesus embodied that we become more genuinely the person God intended as we extend ourselves in sacrificial love and service to others.

In the community of faith, we are challenged to develop inwardly and serve outwardly. Only in such a faith community can we grow into ourselves while we grow out toward others.

There is a church in Los Angeles that has as its mission statement "Winds That Keep Our Sails Full of the Spirit." These same "winds" are what enable each of us to seek God while serving others and let us be fulfilled, even as we are poured out.

You and I were not created to believe in nothing. But believing in God is not something done for our own sake. Greater belief in God enables us to believe in each other. We need people around us who believe in us.  Do you inspire people around you or do they run from you or ignore you?  It is great to have people in your life who believe in "us"? Isn't it great to have people in your life who believe in you?

A 19th-century Polish poet Cyprian Norwid wrote: "To be what is called happy, one should have  something to live on,  something to live for, something to die for. The lack of one of these results in drama. The lack of two results in tragedy."

As members of the body of Christ, as Christians, we must be willing to make the church our true family. Only such genuine "belonging" can fill up the void inside each of us. It is in such committed belonging, however, that we will experience some of our most intense moments of sacrificial suffering.

Christians are called to belong to a human community, and any community of people will sometimes let us down. Realize that you will let people down, and that they will let you down. I have been let down many, many times by people, and I am sure that I have let others down as well.  The reality is this, people cannot meet all your emotional needs. No human will ever love you the way you want to be loved because "no one has ever loved anyone the way everyone wants to be loved."

Fred Rogers who created children's program, "Mister Rogers," around his conviction that everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is lovable. Consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that he or she is loved and capable of loving.

Aren't we the only part of God's creation that becomes something other than what it is? A cat doesn't "become" anything a cat is; a cow doesn't "become" anything a cow is.

But "becoming" is what the entire process of human life is about. As we spend our lifetimes growing our souls, we become more and more what God intends us to be both for ourselves and for others. Through "believing" and "belonging," we enter into the process that will enable us to "become" not perhaps what we would expect, but what God expects.