Before she died my mother use to say, Old age isn’t for sissies! I’m sure that it wasn’t original with her – someone probably said something similar thousands of years ago. But it does express a certain generalization, i.e. most people struggle with the aches and pains brought on by age. Old age is hard.
In the same way it’s true to say that Christianity isn’t for sissies! Over the years there has been a vein of evangelical Christianity that has soft peddled the cost of following Jesus (often referred to by the term discipleship). At the very least, people are not exposed to the cost, at the very worst they have been misled and perhaps even told that following Jesus will be easy.
But following Jesus is a life of counting the cost – it may be a life of hardship and it’s certainly a life of surrender. That’s Jesus faith.
The cost of discipleship will be different for each of us. Throughout history some Christians have had to pay with their lives (see Hebrews 11) while others have been, in the words of Isaac Watts, carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease (Am I a Soldier of the Cross).
Why is it that some suffer greatly while others hardly at all?
The cost of following Jesus isn’t necessarily measured in terms of the magnitude of the suffering experienced. It’s measured in the willingness of the heart.
In a podcast called, Following Christ is Costly – But How Do You Count the Cost? Pastor John Piper, commenting on Luke 14:25-33, one of the hard passages of scripture, says this:
“How do we count the cost in advance when we don’t know what the cost will be in advance?” The answer is, you assume the cost could be total. All possessions given up, all relationships given up, all of life given up. That’s the expectation that Jesus calls for.
When you decide to follow Jesus, the expectation is that you surrender all to Him. The reality may not be that for you but the expectation is. The willingness is what counts.
Piper goes on to say there’s no negotiating here with Jesus. It’s all or nothing. Disciples are all in, or they’re not in (Piper). That is true even if you didn’t understand it when you became a Christian.
But don’t run from the hardships because there’s good news coming. I want to end with this lengthy but encouraging quote from Piper.
Disciples are all in, or they’re not in. That’s what the text is saying. But let’s make sure . . . [we] get this in right perspective, because just a few paragraphs earlier — in this same chapter — Jesus said, after he laid down some pretty high costs, “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).
In other words, “There is no cost that you can pay in following me that won’t be made up to you a thousand fold in the resurrection.” And we need to remember Matthew 13:44, which says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” A man sees and sells everything he has — everything he has! — to get that treasure. In other words, all the so-called costs and all the so-called losses — everything — are nothing compared to the gains of having Jesus, the greatest treasure.
So yes, we must count the cost in order to be a disciple. The cost is total in principle and may be total in actual experience. In the end, having Jesus means gain, like Paul says: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
Stay in the Word