Summary: No act of faith or obedience, whether great or small, whether seen or unseen, will go unrewarded.
This morning, I’d like to address a simple question: Is it worth it? Is the payoff worth the cost, is the potential reward worth the risk? We face that question all the time, for the simple reason that everything has a cost. Nothing is free. Even gifts usually come with some kind of strings attached. As an example, our children have been lobbying, quite persistently, for an addition to our family, one of the four-footed and furry variety. Well, lo and behold, just last week a cat down the street had kittens, and the owner was giving them away. “Dad, can we have one? They’re free!” And so I had to explain that there’s no such thing as a “free” cat. First of all, you have to take it to the vet to get shots. Then there’s the cost of a collar, bed, and squeaky toys, along with the ongoing expense of food and kitty litter. Plus the work of feeding and caring for the animal. Plus doctor visits when the little beast scratches you. Plus a new couch to replace the one that got shredded. Is it worth it? If you’re a cat lover, then perhaps it is. But it’s certainly not free.
This question of cost and value, of risk and reward, applies to every aspect of life. It controls minor decisions, like whether it’s worth the time and expense to enroll the kids in swimming lessons. And it’s a part of our major decisions as well: Is it worth it to go to college? Is it worth it to get married? Is it worth it to uproot your family and move across country to pursue a new career opportunity? In short, we’re constantly having to ask ourselves whether the things we’re seeking are worth what we’re giving up in exchange, whether that cost is in time, or money, or leisure, or freedom, or something else.
For example, every one of you had a choice today. You could have spent the morning tending your garden, or sitting on the porch drinking coffee and reading the paper. You could have taken the kids to the park. Or, if you were more a little adventurous, you could have gone jogging or hiking or bike riding. There are dozens of things to do on a Sunday other than come here to worship. Yet here you are. And I’m thankful for that. Several of you have been working since eight-thirty this morning; unloading the trailer, setting up the sound equipment, rehearsing with the worship team, making coffee. You’re all here because, for whatever reason, you believe it’s worth it. Whether it’s because of the music, or the preaching, or the fellowship, or because you believe in this church’s mission and purpose, you’ve decided that worshiping God at WestShore today is worth the time and effort.
I say all this by way of introduction, because like anything else, the Christian life involves costs and benefits. We are constantly facing the question of whether it’s worth it. Many people on the outside say, “No, it’s not. I don’t need religion. I like my life the way it is. And besides, I’m not willing to give up my independence and submit to Christ. I’m not willing to give up the pleasures of sin.” But my primary concern this morning is with those of us who have determined to follow Christ, who have set out on the path of discipleship, but who are finding the way difficult. Because at some time or other, all of us will be tempted to turn back. When we started our journey, we were full of confidence and enthusiasm. But as we go on, we encounter obstacles. The path grows steeper and more hazardous. We find ourselves growing tired, weary, discouraged. A voice whispers in our ear, “It’s not worth it. Give up.” And many do, as Jesus warned in the parable of the sower,
“The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” – Matthew 13:20-22
Many people initially respond to Christ; and they may even “make a decision” to follow Him. But as soon as they encounter any serious difficulty, their resolve disappears. They stop living for Christ and go back to living for themselves. Now, they may not publicly announce their departure. In fact, they may continue to attend church, and participate in church activities, and call themselves “Christians”. But in their hearts, they’ve wandered away from the path. They’re not seeking God, they’re not praying, they’re not repenting of sin. They’re just going through the motions of religiosity.