Friday, June 27, 2014

Counting the cost .......................... Parables 136

A friendly woman remarked that “people need to be careful what they ask for (even in prayer) because they might get it.” She explained that her daughter wanted an academic change, but lost her favorite teacher in the process. In other words there was a price to pay.

We tell our children that with every privilege there is some responsibility. When we lived in Alaska, our neighbors bought a fishing boat. We thought we might be able to squeeze in some open water fishing too. Then I noticed that for every hour they spent fishing, the boat needed an equal hour of cleaning, repainting, and refurbishing. Owning a boat would take more time than we could spare.

So it is with life. The benefits that looked so good usually have a string attached, leading to a knot, a price tag or no unwanted attachment. Sometimes the string is even tied in a hangman’s news! When we are faced with a decision and it appears as if the outcome is all roses, it is only wise to make sure we can handle the hidden thorns.

Several hundred years ago, the Hebrew people were facing such a decision. They had been slaves in Egypt. Now Moses would lead them to the land promised by God. They could hardly wait to leave. In fact, they could not have been more eager. But barely were they across the Nile when the inconveniences of desert travel begin to violate their comfort zone. They wanted freedom, but they quickly realized freedom has a string attached. They failed to count the cost and wanted to go back.

A few years ago Christ led me out of my bondage to sin. Like the Israelites, I too am on my way to an inheritance promised by God. No one could be happier or be more eager. But I was barely out of my old lifestyle and into the new one some of the inconveniences of the Christian life begin to violate my comfort zone. I complained and said, “this is too hard. I want to go back.” I also failed to count the cost.

Perhaps no one told me that the road to everlasting life sometimes goes sharply uphill. Perhaps they did and I didn’t listen. Perhaps I was so excited about the free gift of eternal life (actually not free --- it cost God a great deal) that I didn’t want to hear about the Christian life being a life of self-sacrifice.

Jesus told his disciples that “no one builds a tower without first sitting down and counting the cost, whether he is sufficient to finish it” (Mark 14).

How foolish to begin and then fall flat, especially into complaining that this life is too difficult. After all, we travel our road with the available power of the Almighty God. Complaints about the cost insult His sufficiency! Yet, if we do not reckon on the uphill stretches in the road before hand, even though they tend to build our faith in him, when they come, it is all too easy to want to quit.

The cost of following Jesus is not merely experiencing the normal hazards of living that everyone experiences. It is the extraordinary discomforts that come when deliberate choices are made to obey God. These are discomforts that could be avoided simply by doing what I want to do. It might be a strenuous extra effort. I missed meal or two, giving up some sleep, doing someone a favor when I would rather be relaxing or doing my own thing. Certainly the sacrifices or an expression of love, just as was the ultimate sacrifice Christ made when He gave up His life for us, but the cross of Calvary was not a picnic. Sacrifice has its downside.

Consider the cost. If anyone wants to follow Jesus, they can expect eternal life as a free gift, but the discipleship required for an obedient, fulfilling Christian walk is not the stuff that comes from a bargain basement. There is a price to pay.

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