Counting the cost

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish'” (Luke 14:28-30 NKJV).

A congregation in the U.S. made a commitment to help a church in Asia with a building in which to meet for worship. It has been a little while since I was involved in constructing a church building there and costs have increased considerably during that period. I was very concerned, therefore, with developing a plan which could be finished with the fixed amount of funds that were available. I did considerable shopping and consulting before the final plans were drawn and construction began. The last thing I wanted was to run out of money, leaving a partially finished but still unusable building to deteriorate in bad weather.

Jesus used that exact situation as an illustration for those who were thinking about becoming his disciples (Luke 14:25-33). His lesson was preceded by an announcement – following Jesus is neither free of cost nor is it easy. If one is unwilling to sacrifice, he cannot hope to be successful (verse 26). Christianity is not designed to be convenient.

This observation was seconded by Paul who said, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Another apostle, Peter, also testified,

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

Salvation in Jesus is a great prize given by God’s grace. It cannot be earned by human effort or merit (Ephesians 2:8-10). But though it is not earned, it nevertheless requires effort on the part of those who receive it. As innocent, forgiven recipients of grace, we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (verse 10). Salvation is free, but the saved become workers of God from love and gratitude.

This is easily illustrated and understood. A student was given a car by his grandfather. The car was free. Yet in order to receive any benefit from the gift, the car must be licensed, insured, filled with oil and gas, and maintained. Those were the student’s responsibilities. In no way did he pay for or earn the gift, yet he was still required to pay a cost.

As individual lives are much different, even in the same time and place, so the cost to be paid will vary. Some will be persecuted. Others will leave homes and families to spread the gospel to other people. Some will give generously, even sacrificially, to do the work for which Christ built his church. But the nature of our calling is that everyone must pay a price. If we have not fully understood the cost involved we must do so now, and commit ourselves to do whatever is necessary so that our previous efforts will not have been wasted and come to nothing.

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