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Going Deep, Over Our Heads

We have been talking about experiencing God and increasing our faith for quite some time.  And our focus has been on the what and how of the Higher Christian Life or of becoming a Faith Prepper, and not necessarily on what happens when we decide to actually jump into the deep end of the faith pool— without water wings.  But that all changes today.

Over the next few posts, we’re going to look at the exposed underbelly of committing all to Christ, the things nobody wants to talk about, or the personal costs and sacrifices involved in actually following Him to that extent rather than just saying we want to.  Jesus referred to this as counting the costs, and we let Him begin our discussion in Luke 14:28-33.

What Does it Mean to Count the Costs?

Several times during His ministry, Jesus seemed to thin the crowd of those following Him by revealing His true standards for salvation and discipleship.  We see this in John 6, for example, where after teaching about total commitment and the requirements for eternal life, He says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).  Ouch.  That came out of nowhere.  Then, after explaining this was not some preacher ploy or a slick play on words, “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand (or accept) it?’” (John 6:60).  And finally, a few verses later, when they truly understood what Jesus was saying but refused to accept His requirement for discipleship, they packed their bags, waved goodbye, and headed back home (John 6:66).  Their adventure with Jesus was over.  Why?  Because He did not live up to their standards, and they refused to accept His.

In other words, they failed to count the costs of following Him.  What they thought He demanded from them was far less than what He actually demanded, and they were not willing to pay His price or meet His standard.  And what was His price for discipleship?  The same as it is today— all or nothing.  Jesus requires everything of us, not just the part we choose to give Him.

Remember, He sets the requirements for discipleship, not us.  And as with just about everything in the Christian life, it’s a choice between two extremes— life or death, hot or cold, light or darkness, the narrow gate or the wide road, walking by the Spirit or by the flesh, bearing good fruit or bad fruit, you get the idea.  He says to follow Him, we must first deny ourselves and then die to ourselves.  There is no third option.

The Costs of Discipleship

And this brings us to the Luke 14 passage.  Here, we see Jesus adding another level of commitment to those who follow Him, or as He said, “If anyone comes to Me.”  In two verses, Jesus clearly reveals the level of devotion He requires of His disciples. And on the surface, they look daunting.

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot (is not able and does not have the power) be My disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot (see above) be My disciple” – Luke 14:26-27.

And to add insult to injury, Jesus follows this seemingly impossible command with two examples of those who confidently intended to begin a task, only to discover they did not have the resources to complete what they started or didn’t have what it takes to finish strong— or finish at all.  As with the entrepreneur who wanted to build the next Trump Tower or the king who decided to expand his kingdom, Jesus’ warning to us is the same:  Don’t be like them!  Don’t flash and fade.  Count the costs, or don’t start in the first place (Luke 14:28-33).

What To Expect When You Go All-In

This brings us to the topic at hand.  What can we expect, or what costs will we endure if we fully commit our lives to the Lord?  Or, to make it personal, what will happen to us if we die to ourselves and surrender everything to Him?

The answer to this question will take several posts to unpack fully.  But today, we are going to look at just one of the unanticipated and unintended consequences of burning our ships in the harbor and fully committing everything to Him.  And that is simply this:  On this side of eternity, while we still “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12), you will experience unexplained pain, suffering, trials and temptations, and often unfulfilled expectations and disappointments with God— or at least disappointments in what you think God should do in your situation.

Does that sound troubling?  Then consider the following.

“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”

God tells us in James 1:3-4 that His chosen method of making us “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” are various (many) trials and the testing of our faith.  And how is our faith tested?  Just ask those spiritual heroes we see in Hebrews 11.  God included each of them because they persevered through trials, some unimaginable and horrific, and yet held on to their faith in Him.  He did not give them a pass, provide an easy way out, nor did He supernaturally keep them from their hour of testing.  No, God allowed Satan and the world to pour out its wrath on His children for their ultimate good (Rom. 8:28) and as a testimony to others who will go through the same, yet without the benefit of graduate-level faith.  In essence, God allows us to experience truly difficult times in order for our faith to be proven genuine and worth more than gold— all to the glory and honor of Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).  Read the 1 Peter passage yourself.

But there’s more.

God also seems to wait until the 11th hour and 59th minute before He acts.  Why?  Because the longer we remain in a state where it’s only our faith in Him that will sustain us, the greater our faith will be when we emerge from the crisis.  This seems to be His MO for forging ordinary believers into saints He can use to change others.   For example:

   Paul and Silas in the Philippian Jail – Acts 16:25-34.  God waited until they had been beaten and condemned before moving to free them with a great earthquake.  He could have moved before “they had laid many stripes on them” (Acts 16:23), but chose not to.

   Abraham and Isaac – Genesis 22:9-14.  God waited until Isaac was bound on the altar, and Abraham had raised his dagger to plunge it into the chest of his son before speaking (vs. 11).  God could have spoken sooner, much sooner, but chose not to.  And in doing so, He waited until all hope was gone before providing deliverance to each of them.

   Lazarus (John 11:1-44).  Jesus intentionally ignored the request from Mary and Martha (vs. 3) and let Lazarus die (vs. 6), and his two sisters wallow in their grief and disappointment for four full days, before doing the impossible.  He could have healed Lazarus from a distance, but chose instead to raise him from the dead.  And the result?  Greater faith for all, and four days of suffering for Lazarus and his family.

Remember, wanting your faith to grow has a deep cost associated with it, and we must count that cost before moving forward. But there’s more.

   Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego – (Daniel 3:8-25, 6:10-23).  In both cases, God could have rescued them before they suffered the fiery furnace or the lion’s den— but He didn’t.  Instead, God performed an even greater miracle by rescuing them during the storm rather than keeping them from experiencing the storm altogether.  It is God’s choice, always— and He seems to choose to grow our faith through trials and sufferings rather than allowing us to avoid them (James 1:2-4).

And let’s not forget the years of rejection and injustices suffered by Joseph before God exalted him to power in Egypt (Genesis 41).  And the taunts and ridicule Joshua endured at the hands of his enemies while waiting for the walls of Jericho to fall— God’s way (Joshua 6).  Then we have Moses and the children of Israel boxed in with the Red Sea on one side and Pharoah and his chariots on the other, with no place to go (Exodus 14).  And again, God protected them, yet let them wait before answering their prayer and parting the Sea.

The Take Away

One cost you must embrace when asking God to increase your faith is that your faith grows when it is tested— and testing often comes in the form of extremely unpleasant circumstances we’d really rather not experience.  And when we cry out to God for Him to remove this crisis in our life that He has allowed for the growth of our faith, we must realize He usually waits until all hope is gone before stepping in and saving the day.  Yes, He could have responded sooner, long before things got bleak.  But He didn’t— and He obviously had a very good reason for waiting.

And it is in the midst of the storm while patiently waiting that graduate-level faith develops.

One final thought.  If you want some examples of God allowing His children to suffer when He could have prevented it before it happened, but didn’t— look no further than the closing verses of Hebrews 11.  For it is here, in this crucible of tribulation, that true faith matures.

Women received their dead raised to life again.  Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword.  They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy – Hebrews 11:35-38a.

Note the last statement: “of whom the world was not worthy.”  I pray you will join me in asking the Lord to give us this kind of faith, even if we must accept unjust trials and persecution along with it.  Because, after all, what follows is a “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1), who are cheering us on in our journey as we, like them, look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

Let’s count the cost and embrace the prize, which is so much better than our suffering for a season.  And I’ll see you in the deep end.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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