Friday, May 13, 2011

Counting the Cost of Following Jesus - Greatest Hits

Have you ever wondered what it was really like for the disciples to follow Jesus? Think about it, you leave your job, you drop everything, and go into full-time ministry. Most people I know, can't just leave their job and house and go into ministry. I also hate to call it ministry, because they actually became friends of Jesus; even Judas. Real ministry flows out of relationship.

Jesus' insight, genuineness, warmth, and His can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it qualities were somehow very attractive. Of course, now we know why, but the disciples, they didn't. They had some sort of religious notion that there would be a messiah, a king greater than David - one that would rule and reign in Israel, defeating all their foes. Which is true, but the way that God carried it out, well it wasn't what they thought - not even close. How about you, do you have some sort of religious notion about church, about Jesus?

I could write a hundred things about being religious, and I have. However; today, I want to write about what is costs to follow Jesus. The disciples went from working for a living, to living by faith. They had no idea what was going to happen to Jesus - I doubt they knew what was going to happen in the next minute. The Triumphal Entry must have made them feel amazing, even exhilarated - and then the crucifixion shortly afterwords. That was one of the prices for Jesus' ministry here on earth - He is our example. He also became poor, and never married. He put His life in danger more than once. How about you? What is it costing you to follow Jesus?

It is true that the disciples; later called apostles, feared for their lives because of their relationship with Jesus, and in some cases suffered persecution, imprisonment, while eleven of the thirteen, suffered death.

For most of the church in today's world, things are different for Christians; they don't fear for their lives. (I don't mean to minimize what goes on in some places in the world, it is heinous.)

I think the love of mammon and the love of God are very similar. We look to both to provide for us, protect us, keep us healthy, provide for leisure (happiness) and give us some sense of worth. Money and material possessions can do that. The difference is what it costs us in terms of tension, as we try to insure and protect our wealth. One weighs us down, the other lifts us up. Where are your treasures?

But what about you? What has serving Jesus cost you? Money, prosperity and materialism can certainly come between us and God. But there is a much deeper cost to serving Him. What would you do to have an all expenses paid mission trip to Brazil. Out of the blue, a man at church writes you a check for $1000, and the church sends you off with a powerful time of prayer? Most folks could probably do that pretty easily. I know I did. But what if you came home to find you were laid-off from work, or lost a parent to an unexpected illness? I have experienced both.... and I am no martyr, not even close. I am just your average Christian going though my days trying to make a difference for the Kingdom.

I took another trip to Europe and received a call from my kids with an emergency, there was nothing I could do. Even Paul was buffeted by the Devil. It is part of the cost of following Christ. In some ways, it is easiest to say it this way, "you trust Him or you don't." I didn't at the time.

Luke 14:28 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it--"

There is so much more to the cost of following Christ - we forsake all that we have, all that we are, and all that we own. As followers of Christ there is always the possibility for losing our earthly treasures - but there is for those that don't follow Christ. Paul also said that they could take our life, and that to, would be glorious. I have some friends that were missionaries in Indochina. They expected to lose their lives for Christ at some point, yet they pressed on preaching the gospel in Communist countries. They often prayed, "Lord we give it all to You, but could you spare us the torture please."

The cost of serving Christ is greatest when we have a lot of earthy possessions to lose. When our treasures are stored up in Heaven (Matt. 6:19-21), we can do all that we are asked by the Master without fear. The less we have to lose, the more valuable we are to the work of the Kingdom.

As I was writing this blog I was reminded of a story about a little girl. I believe it was in the book, Intimacy Cover Up. Her Father loved her so, and took her on outings; just the two of them. He bought her little gifts, but she especially loved her sting of "princess" pearls. Of course they were only plastic, but she loved them so.

He father saw how much she loved them, and decided to buy her real pearls - for she so treasured the plastic ones he was certain that she would take care of them. One evening he looked at her while she lay in bed waiting for her goodnight kiss. In his pocket was a string of beautiful pearls in a velvet jewelry box. But when he asked her for her plastic pearls, she said emphatically "No, I love my pearls, Daddy! But you can have my purple pony." Her father kissed her good night as he always did, and left the room.

He returned the next night and asked her the same question. She was confused, "I love my pearls Daddy, but you can have my dolly." Each night her father would come into the room to kiss her good night, and ask her if she was ready to let him have her treasured plastic pearls.

One night he came in to say good night, and she was sitting up in the bed crying. In her hand she clutched her beloved plastic pearls. "Here Daddy, you can have them." He placed them in his pocket, and caressed her face as she sobbed. Finally, from his pocket he withdrew that little velvet box, and with delight, he watched her open it. "Oh Daddy, they are beautiful!"

He lovingly looked at her and said, "I have been longing to give you these."

1 comment:

photogr said...

David:

Beautiful story. I recall reading it some where and it stuck in my mind.

In my mind, this is a parable of God wanting to give us a similar beautiful gift if we would only give our lives to him in return.

Material things can certainly get in the way of your focus on God. Some can even cause you to worship them instead of God. Thus you loose your focus on attaining the most precious gift given with love. Your stored up treasures in His kingdom.

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