I stood in my backyard with it all laid before me. It was late July and the Alabama sun was bearing down. Strown before my father-in-law and I were pieces of the playset we had endeavored to build for Jackson. The pile seemed to go on forever, as if the pieces were increasing by the moment. There was a cost to be counted: my child's happiness for an entire afternoon baking in the hot sun doing battle with the Denver Wood PlaySet, twisting and forcing a bunch of pieces together. Not ideal.
Luke records an instance where Jesus, standing before the crowds that followed Him, effectively laid out the pieces of what it is required to truly be one of His followers. Jesus said: "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it mock him, saying 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Luke 14:27-30)
But what is this cost? I know I often fail to grasp the magnitude of Jesus' command here. The truth is we all like to soften the command. So, we label things we can do with relative ease as "counting the cost". This could be:
- Regular giving. Commendable to be sure but do we actually give sacrifically?
- Church attendance. Again, commendable but is giving up an hour of leisure to be instructed from God's word really a hard price to pay if we find abundant joy in Jesus?
- Not watching the popular TV show or listening to a certain recording artist because of the content of the program or music. Once more, commendable but easily replaced.
I'm willing to bet we all could identify areas where we have tried to soften the blow of "counting the cost" through compromise. "Lord, I just cannot do that but look at this and this and this! Surely, you wouldn't ask more of me?"
I don't mean to say the things I mentioned above or other similar actions are not good or that anyone should stop doing these things because "they aren't enough". They can be very good. But I would submit these to you as part of the "base package" of Christian cost. Jesus gives to us a far greater example.
What did it cost Jesus to be obedient to the Father? Only that He submitted Himself to the fullness of God's wrath against sin. He endured Hell for us - inserting Himself in our place to take what we each rightly deserve for not living the life that He lived. He did this because He loved and revered the Father. He desired to glorify the Father.
Don't let anyone fool you: There is great cost associated with full and complete devotion to Christ our King. He is Savior and He is Lord. Our affections, our thoughts, our actions are all His and are to be governed by Him and the values of His Kingdom. This might look like:
Giving up seeking retribution or holding a grudge when slighted. Can you lay aside the pride that screams at you to get back at others to instead trust in the Lord's justice?
Giving up protecting yourself and your job when opportunities to compromise arise. If asked to lie or engage in some other immoral activity for the benefit of the company, are you willing to risk your job for what is right?
Giving up desires for your family to look like everyone else's. What activity(s) should come off the calendar to have regular family worship and to gather with the church?
Giving up peace in a friendship when a friend falls into sin. Will you risk the friendship by warning them about how their actions are destructive, seeking their good above maintaining the status quo?
After I had toiled in the summer sun for several hours, Laci brought Jackson outside to see the finished project. His face lit up when he saw the finished project. He begin inspecting the swings, the ladder, and the slide. He settled on the swings, swinging back and forth, grinning ear to ear and laughing the whole time while I pushed him. I looked at Laci and just said: "Worth it".
In Matthew 13, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great value. The one who finds these, Jesus says, goes and sells all they have in order to buy the field and pearl. No cost would keep the one who found them from having that which filled their hearts with exceeding, abundant, unfettered joy.
The cost of following Christ is indeed great but the reward so much more. May we see this and embrace it. May we repent of trying to lessen the cost so as to embrace cheap, knock-off treasures. May we count the cost and treasure Christ and His Kingdom.