The Discipline of Sacrifice

AUTHOR: Holy Scripture

The Bible is full of stories of incredible sacrifice, and the discipline of sacrifice is better learned through observation and practice. The men and women of the Bible serve as our mentors and guides as we learn how to sacrifice.


Read or listen to Romans 12:1–2.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[a] 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.


Read the blog below. What is one thing you learned about sacrifice?

The Discipline of Sacrifice Changes Lives

by Johnny Daigle


Most of us are familiar with the spiritual disciplines like study, worship, celebration, service, fellowship, confession, and even submission. These have been termed disciplines of engagement by philosopher and author Dallas Willard because they involve doing something. Dr. Willard puts other disciplines in a category he calls abstinence when referring to disciplines like solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. These, obviously by their named category, involve holding back from some activity. I would suggest that these disciplines are more alien to our Protestant sensibilities and experience.


Abstinence and Engagement

The definition of “a discipline” from Dallas Willard is an activity undertaken to bring us into more effective cooperation with Christ and his kingdom. Our spiritual life is incomplete without abstinence, because our engagements crowd us by so much “doing.” In the discipline of abstinence, we put even good things aside that we may take hold of God in a way that is difficult to do in our activities of engagement.

In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard quotes W. R. Inge,“If we feel that any habit or pursuit, harmless in itself, is keeping us from God and sinking us deeper in the things of earth; if we find that things which others can do with impunity are for us the occasion for falling, then abstinence is our only course. Abstinence alone can recover for us the real value of what should have been our help but which has been an occasion of falling.”

Willard writes, “in disciplines of abstinence, we abstain to some degree and for some time from the satisfaction of what we generally regard as normal and legitimate desires.” He continues, “Keep in mind that the practice of abstention does not imply that there is anything essentially wrong with these desires as such. But in today’s distorted condition of humanity, it is these basic desires that have been allowed to run a rebellious and harmful course, ultimately serving as the primary hosts of sin in our personalities.”

He also notes, however, that abstinence alone is not enough for spiritual health and must be balanced with disciplines of engagement. Removal of sin from our lives is helped by a balance of both, and abstinence is what creates space in us for the right kind of engagements to take hold.

Dallas Willard concludes,“A proper abstinence actually breaks the hold of improper engagements so that the soul can be properly engaged in God.”

In this five week Advent study series, we will have ample opportunities for disciplines of engagement in study, Scripture, prayer, celebration, and fellowship, but to “make room” for abstinence this Advent season, we hope you’ll consider the discipline of abstinence through sacrifice.




Quoting again from The Spirit of Disciplines,“In the discipline of sacrifice, we abstain from the possession or enjoyment of what is necessary for our living—-not, as in frugality, from what is really to some degree superfluous anyway. The discipline of sacrifice is one in which we forsake the security of meeting our needs with what is in our hands. It is total abandonment to God, a stepping into the darkened abyss in the faith and hope that God will bear us up…. Our need to give is greater than God’s need to receive, because he is always well supplied. But how nourishing to our faith are the tokens of God’s care in response to our sacrifice. The cautious faith that never saws off the limb on which it is sitting never learns that unattached limbs may find strange, unaccountable ways of not falling.”


Faithfulness Through Sacrifice

During Advent, we will consider characters like Ruth, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, and the Magi, who all chose to sacrifice and pursue something better, even amid confusion and difficulty. And as they walked by faith, they saw God come through. As they walked into the darkened abyss, God held them up, even as they sawed off the limb on which they were sitting, they found themselves safe in his arms.

Maybe there’s something for you to sacrifice, and perhaps give to another, with an expectation that God will provide for you. Maybe it is a gift. Maybe it is the gift of our time, or attention. In God’s kingdom, we learn it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Will you consider the discipline of sacrifice this Advent? I invite you to sacrifice what might be nice but what you could do without, that you may grow deeper in your trust and dependence upon the one you can’t do without: the great gift to the human race we receive at Christmas, Jesus Christ himself.

May we use these disciplines to bring us more in cooperation with Jesus and his kingdom, empowered not to move out on our own, but with the expectation that he will be there.


God, it is strange to think about sacrifice during the Christmas season! Please guide me to weave this practice into my life.


Week 1 of 5 Sacrifice

1 Comment

  1. cathy

    WOW Johnny! Love this


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