Summary: Exploring what it means to be a true disciple in today’s world.
COUNTING THE COST OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP
In this parable Jesus is illustrating one very simple and obvious basic truth: His disciples may have to pay a price. It may cost you if you commit yourself to believe, receive and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. It not only, may, but it will cost to be a true follower of Jesus of Nazareth. He is surely saying to all those in any age who may consider becoming one of His true followers: "You better count the cost before you commit." You need to look before you leap. Don’t be carried away by a moment of emotion or swept along by a temporary tide of popular sentiment. BUT FIRST COUNT THE COST!
We should make a realistic cost estimate before we commit ourselves to any important project. History is replete with the wreckage of those who have not heeded this common sense advice. Both Napoleon and Hitler failed to count the terrible punishment a harsh Russian winter and a fervently patriotic population could inflict upon their poorly prepared and scantily clad troops. After hundreds of thousands of casualties, both armies found themselves involved in costly and humiliating retreats.
Those of us who remember the construction of the Sydney Opera house recall the low estimates and the astronimical final bill. The construction of our nation’s new capitol building in Canberra followed the same pattern. Cost over runs in time, energy and money were enormous.
It is a well known fact that over eighty percent of all new businesses fail within the first year. Why? It is agreed that a lack of a good business plan; including an accurate survey of possible adverse contingences and a complete and accurate cost analysis is usually the common factor in failure. Many attempts are doomed from the start and the common sense approach of carefully counting the cost would quite often prevent much heartache and financial lost. All of this illustrates the ultimate folly of the failure to realistically assess the costs of a worthwhile endeavor.
The Bible also gives us ample evidence and a number of examples to confirm the truth of the matter. The Jews failed the count the cost before they left the land of Egypt. The result was rebellion and disobedience in the wilderness of sin. This brought the predictable application of God’s heavy hand of chastening upon them and the subsequent defeat, death and destruction of a whole generation if Israelites. Why? Because the failed to count the cost of following Jehovah and Jehovah’s man, Moses. They should have known that life in the wilderness would be no rose garden. Those should have known they would find no leeks, onions and melons in the harsh, dry and arid desert that lay between them and the promised land. "And [when] the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard [it]; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed [them that were] in the uttermost parts of the camp." (Numbers 11:1)
Contenting for the truth of God and a committal to the way of God has always cost the followers of God tremendously. Such true discipleship cost Abel his life. It cost Joseph his family and Moses his fantastic future. It cost Elijah his safety and security. The same could be said of other prophets. This is to say nothing of the stories of Job, Daniel and the three Hebrew children. The history of true disciples in every age has been written in the blood of martyrs, beginning with Stephan, the apostles and thousands of other believers in the first century. Such history cleary confirms the prophetic preditions of the apostle when He said, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12
Paul, alias Saul, surely counted the cost that would be exacted from him. After all, he had inflicted a heavy penalty upon others who were simply followers of Christ. Yet he paid the price of being misunderstood, misrepresented, slandered, maligned, imprisoned, stoned, beaten, as well assassination attempts. He wandered as the off scouring of the world until he was ultimately slain as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. But he evidently thought that the cost was worthwhile. "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," (Phil. 3:8)
I asked myself as a prepared this message, "How can you give a positive slant to all this?" "Everyone wants to be encouraged. How could such a message be possibly be encouraging?" I truly believe Paul found the key and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he gives it to us today. When compared to what we gain in Christ, how could we count the loss of the things of this world as any loss at all? Paul had a privileged position that gave him worldly power, prestige, prospects, popularity, possessions and pleasures. But as a man of the world, he surveyed all this and simply said, "Compared to what I have as a true disciple of Christ, all that is just like a great manure pile!"