When we think of “The Cost of Discipleship” we may think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his incredible book by the same name. We may think of our Christian brothers and sisters who have become martyrs for the faith. We may think of missionaries who have abandoned this material world for something greater, who have left their secular belongings for spiritual living. You may even think of pastors, deacons, and other people who have “paid the cost” so to speak, and have sacrificed things in order to serve God fully. There are very few men and women out there who are willing to sacrifice everything in order to love God, serve God, and follow God through the wilderness, through the valleys, through the highs and lows, but I’ve found that if you speak to those who have made a great sacrifice for Him, they do not view it as sacrifice…they find their sacrifices a delight. They are happy to abandon this sinful world, they are happy to go follow Jesus, they are happy to go where He calls, they are happy to be made into a new creature by Jesus Christ and to let the old man disappear. They are relieved, knowing that the things that they have sacrificed was simply baggage holding them back from their ultimate calling from God Almighty.
The Apostle Paul put it in beautiful words in Philippians 3, verses 7-8.
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Paul listed things that he once had, and they were all great things. To the world, it looked as if Paul was making a great sacrifice. That he was not truly gaining anything, but instead, he had lost everything. He bragged on who he was before Christ. In verses 4-6, we read about those things. He said that if any man had a right to brag on themselves, he had even more of a right. He was an incredible man, with an amazing heritage, he was a hard worker, full of zeal. He was Hebrew of the Hebrews…Paul had it all. But he gave every bit of to the Lord, he left his old self behind and he became a new creature. And all of those things that he sacrificed…he counted them as dung. Everything he had once held so dear was complete rubbish to him now. Paul spent lots of time in prison, he suffered more than we could ever imagine for his faith, but did Paul consider all of his sacrifices to be some terrible cost that he felt forced into paying? Of course not! Everything was worth it; everything he went through, every sacrifice he had to make, was worth knowing Christ.
We tend to have a weird point of view on the cost of discipleship. Sometimes, I think we are guilty of looking at this world, our sins, our old self, and thinking about how hard and terrible it is to let go of those things. Perhaps, you feel God calling you to do something hard, something that requires a bit more sacrifice than you had originally planned when you got saved, and you are wondering if you’re strong enough to give those things away. Are we willing to give up our fancy subdivision for the mission field? Are we willing to give up our precious time in the day to go serve someone? Are we willing to face the hate and persecution and go out and share the gospel? How much is too much? We say, God, I will give up the big sins; I will stop partying like I used to before I was saved. I will stop drinking. I will stop partaking in sexual immorality, and so on. But…what about everything else?
We are the servants of God. We are either following Him completely, or we are failing Him. God never told us that we only had to sacrifice the obvious and simple things. We are called uniquely, we are called to live in unique ways, to do unique things, to go to unique places. Are you willing to serve God and give things up, or are you moaning and groaning in desperation, pleading with Him, “God! Just let me keep this one thing!” If we hate the sacrifices we make for God, are we truly His willing, loving disciple? Are we truly serving Him? Oswald Chambers once said,
“It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about a cost when you are in love with anyone is an insult.”
So let us think about it this way, as Chambers put it. Imagine that I am in a relationship with someone, I claim that it is extremely serious. That I love this man more than anything, that we are soulmates. But any time he asks me to make a small sacrifice, any time he asks me to do something for him, I go on and on about how I always have to make the sacrifices, I always have to pay the cost. I may even do what he asks, but I am whining the entire time. Would that not insult him? Would that not hurt him? Christian, Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Anything He asks us to do for Him is so tiny in comparison. He asks us to give up this, or give up that, and meanwhile…we are begging Him to not make us do such a thing, saying, “Oh, Jesus. Do we have to sacrifice that much? Is it really necessary?” Meanwhile, He died for you. Died a terribly painful death. He gave up His life, His throne in Heaven so that He could come to this world as a normal man. So He could be persecuted, mocked, tortured.
How dare we insult Him in such a way?
I’m preaching to myself, here. Just so y’all know. I have found myself, so many times, asking God just how much I really need to give up. He demands that I give up certain things, and His voice is crystal clear. But I’m picking things out from His “trash” pile, and asking Him…can’t I keep this? I know You said to throw it away, but do I have to? Why are we viewing these sacrifices in the way that we are? With the attitude that we have? When we should be like Paul…God, I look back at the things I once had and I thank You for showing me that those things were rubbish. Do we treasure God’s presence more than our idols? Do we treasure His presence at all?
John 12:26 – If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.
Where is God heading? And are you serving Him with joy? Are you with God?