During His earthly ministry, Jesus wasn’t exactly a salesman. In fact, sometimes His words were downright tough to hear. In the book of Luke, Jesus explained to a large crowd of people what the qualifications are to becoming His disciple. His followers must forsake everything else and take up their crosses (a symbol of complete submission). Jesus said, “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” (Luke 14:28). In other words, people should think very carefully about what would be required of them before they start, or they may not be able to follow through to the end. But salvation isn’t the only time when this analogy applies. There are three times Christians should count the cost.
Mark 10:17-27 tells the story of the rich young ruler. A wealthy young man asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him he must keep the commandments of God, and the man was happy to report that he had done that since he was a child. Then Jesus, “looking at him, loved him” (Luke 10:21). Jesus saw the man’s earnest heart, ready to obey God in every detail but one. He was unwilling to give up something in this life that meant more to him than the next: his material possessions. When Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, the man went away sad. He had counted the cost, and it was too high.
Consider this scenario in light of the seeker-friendly Gospel presentation today. How many modern Christians would have quit before they started if they had been given the true picture of submission required to follow Jesus? Instead, having started their race, many turn back in disillusionment when the road gets difficult. Or, worse yet, they stand – like that half-finished tower – as an object of derision to others because they carry the name of Christ without the characteristics of Him. Our first act as Christians should be to count the cost of our discipleship. We should settle it within ourselves that nothing is more important to us than serving God. Then we must love like Jesus by giving others the true Gospel message that belief in Jesus as Savior means living with Jesus as Lord.
John 5:1-15 tells the story of the man waiting at the Pool of Bethsaida to be healed. At a certain time, an angel would come to stir the waters. Whoever then stepped into the water next would be made well. The man didn’t have anyone to help him, so every time the waters were stirred, someone else would get there first. The man had been there a very long time when Jesus found him by the pool. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made well?” Now, this might seem like a silly question, but it’s not. Consider the man’s life of waiting at the pool. Being made whole would mean an entirely different life with the same responsibilities as any healthy man.
Think about the many prayers we all pray, asking God to move our mountains. We want God to take away the obstacles in our lives that seem to hold us back at every turn. But have we ever talked to God about being willing to pay the price for Him to do it? Have we considered the new time constraints that would come with a promotion? Are we prepared to put in the effort to make our marriages work? Or, like the man at the pool, are we ready for the increased responsibility that comes with healing? In some cases, God may be waiting for us to count the cost before He answers our prayers.
Acts 9 tells the story of Apostle Paul’s Road to Damascus conversion. Before that day, Paul (then Saul) had mercilessly persecuted followers of the Way, even consenting to the stoning of Stephen. But Jesus came for him on that road. He introduced Himself and called Paul into His service. Three days later, God told His servant Ananias to find Paul and pray for him. He said, “…’Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).
As God’s children, we all have a call on our lives. We each have a part to play in the Body of Christ and a job to do to bring others into the Kingdom. But how many of us are complacent with our ministries instead of praying big prayers to our big God? What if we were to count the cost of allowing God to move us into positions to reach more people and do bigger things? It might mean spending more time with greater focus, and it might take us further outside our comfort zones. But what could God do with His (unlimited) resources and our willing hearts?
Count the Cost
Counting the cost means weighing all the variables ahead of time before making a decision to begin. We count the cost for salvation when we set our faces like flint, settling it inside ourselves that nothing matters to us more than pleasing and serving God. When asking God to move on our behalf, we must count the cost of answered prayer lest we be unable or unwilling to pay when we get it. And, finally, we count the cost of growing our ministry when we have honest conversations with God about what we are willing to do for Him with His help. In this way, we make our decisions to begin with the end in mind, prepared to give what it takes to finish strong.
Looking for other Points to Ponder? Try The Fruit of the Spirit During Times of Crisis. Or, try The Desires of the Heart: What’s Your One Thing? Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. You can find that at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.