“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost….” >Luke 14:28
When Jesus called the people to follow Him, He didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t promise that life would be easy. In fact, He told them it would be a challenge. He told them there would be a cost.
When we begin to walk with Christ, and to truly grow spiritually, we must consider the cost as well. Because the reality is that with the Christian life, there is a relational cost, a time cost and even a financial cost. The great news, though, is that the benefits we receive—joy, forgiveness, peace, and the blessing of a relationship with God—far outweigh any cost we may encounter!
Have you considered the cost of following Christ? Are you getting the most out of the benefits of those costs?
Pray that God will help you understand the true cost of following Him and that you can see past the cost to the benefits beyond.
Consider the time cost of following Jesus. Commit time each day to praying, reading the Bible and journaling what God is doing in your life.
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 ESV
<Sigh>…That’s the sound I make when I step onto our porch. It’s the sound of frustration because after 4 months it is still not finished. The construction is beautiful. The carpenter was skillful in building but not staining. The machine he used malfunctioned and now there is stain on our siding. And let’s just say, well… I’d rather not say.
Porches have always been important to me. As a child, I sat on our porch in a wrought iron swing with my father as he waited for his ride to work as a night watchman at the local mill. He told me stories and we sang songs. My mom and I snapped green beans on that porch in the summer months. My boyfriend, now husband, and I shared our first kiss sitting in that swing. That same swing is now freshly painted and waiting to take its place on our porch.
Though it isn’t finished, I decorated it for Christmas anyway. And as I was decorating, I tried to not see the unfinished parts. I tried to see it as still in progress. Lemons into lemonade if you will. And of course, a spiritual lesson was being learned as well.
I realized that completion is important to God as well. God surveyed all He created and deemed it “very good (Genesis 1:31)”. Genesis 2:2 states that God finished His work on the seventh day. Fast-forward to the day our Savior Jesus spoke the words that sealed His purpose on this earth—our redemption, “It is finished!” Paul glanced back at the life he lived after his conversion. As Christians, we should all strive to repeat what he said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Back to the porch… As I stroll across the deck, I try envision what I hope it will look like when it’s finished. I try to overlook unsightly spots on the siding and other areas that will need to be corrected by someone more experienced. Being patient in this situation takes effort—lots of effort.
God knows my every flaw and short-coming. He has seen my feeble attempts to do the work in my life that only He can do. He not only sees me as I am, He sees what I am becoming. When I relinquish the brush, He can make the corrections needed. He knows exactly how to remove the stains that I inflicted. And He won’t stop working on me until I am complete and have finished my course here on earth.
What about you? Are there unfinished “projects” that need the Master’s touch? Are you frustrated because it doesn’t seem that God is working fast enough? Have you grown tired of trying to change yourself? Put the brush down, Sister and allow the Creator to do His work in you. He promises to finish!
Father, I surrender all to You. Please form me into what You want me to be. Continue to do Your good work in me. May I run the course You have placed me on. Help me to finish well! Amen.
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This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,… I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Father, I will that they … whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me. — I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. — He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. — Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.
The Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee.
If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. — O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD uphold-eth him with his hand.
I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. — I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is humbling that I cannot be anything I want. I don’t get to create myself. I accept myself as God’s gift to me and accept becoming that person as God’s task set before me. Inside your soul there is a battle between a flourishing self–the person you were created to be–and a languishing self.
Jesus made staggering promises about his ability to transform human lives:
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:37–39, NIV)
This life is not something we produce; it exists independently of us. It is the Spirit of God. If we turn to any book in the New Testament, we see a picture of amazing life offered by Jesus through the Spirit.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. (Acts 1:8, NIV)
Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him . . . and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. (1 Peter 1:8, NIV)
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29, NIV)
Would you say this describes you? Are you filled with inexpressible joy? Do other people comment from time to time that your belly is flowing with rivers of living water and that you have more or less mastered humility?
I think that often people are moved by the vision of Jesus, they are overwhelmed by the hope and beauty of his promise, and they say yes to it. For a time, there is a kind of spiritual honeymoon period. They are filled with love for God, and they are drawn to the Bible. They want to tell other people about their faith. They love to worship. And some things change. Maybe coarse language gets cleaned up. Maybe certain habits get overcome.
But over time this sense of progress stalls out. Instead of life flowing with rivers of living water, I yell at my children whom I love. I worry too much about money or my job. I grow jealous. I use deception to get out of trouble or to get what I want. I pass judgment on people easily, casually, arrogantly. My prayer life is up and down. I am stuck in a gap. God’s plan is for you to become the best version of you, but right now there are two versions of you. There is the you God made you to be–and there is the you that currently exists.
What do you do with the gap?
People think it is our job to bridge that gap by our effort. But we can’t. This gap, too, can only be bridged by grace. Self-improvement is no more God’s plan than self-salvation. God’s plan is not just for us to be saved by grace–it is for us to live by grace. God’s plan is for my daily life to be given, guided, guarded, and energized by the grace of God. To live in grace is to flow in the Spirit.
What’s in me… the Spirit of God flowing through me like a river of living water, or my own efforts at self-improvement?
Do you see the gap between the counterfeit you that you sometimes choose and the you God made you to be? How often are you tempted to pretend that gap doesn’t exist–that you are spiritually more mature or “in the flow of the Spirit” than you really are? What do you do with the gap?