Disclaimer: This post was hard to write, and for some it will be hard to read. I prayed before I posted and I do believe that it is what the Lord would have me say. This is my blog, a place where I share my private thoughts and I invite you to remember before you comment that no one has forced you to read it.
She was eighteen years old and she had never been in love with anyone she could touch before. I mean, she had been in love with Jesus since she was little, but this was different, touchable love.
In her eyes he was perfect. He loved the Lord, not to mention he was pretty darn cute. He went to church with her and joined her on silly errands and at family dinners. He made her giggle by saying things that only she found funny. He made her heart flutter when he swept that one always-stray piece of hair out of her eyes.
They were the “perfect couple.” They were desperately in love; one lit up as the other entered the room. They could see their beautiful future together. After high school, they would go together to college, get married, work a bit, settle down and have children with his eyes and her big smile. They would grow old together, laughing at secrets and kissing each other goodnight.
And then God asked her to move to Uganda. At first it was just going to be a year. They could do a year. She would come back and they could still go to college together and all their dreams would still come true. When the Lord asked her to adopt her first children, it became a bit more complicated. She rationalized that her youngest was 7, so in 11 years, she could move back home and be with him. But her children kept getting younger and His call kept getting stronger. She would go back in 13 years, in 17 years, in 20 years. Finally she came to terms with the fact that God was just asking her to STAY. And that when He said He wanted ALL of her, He meant all. She would live in Uganda. But she held on to her love because remaining comfortable was so much easier than dealing with the hurt and the emptiness would be.
Her eyes were opened and her life was changed. She couldn’t pretend to be the same person. She couldn’t sit still in his would anymore, it made her head spin and her heart ache. And still she held on because she didn’t love him any less. She knew God could move mountains and she prayed He could change his heart. After all, such a love must have been God orchestrated.
He made her feel beautiful as she walked through life as a single mom covered in dust and spit up. He appreciated her even when everyone else forgot to say thank you. He believed in her when the rest of the world said raising eighty thousand dollars or adopting ten children was silly. Even from the other side of the world, he cheered her on and he picked her up when she just didn’t feel strong enough. His voice on the other end of the phone turned a rough day right around.
They were moving in opposite directions. They both new it, but they both refused to let go.
So she asked God for a very specific sign. For something that she thought very unlikely if not absolutely impossible. And then something devastating happened. God gave her the sign that she asked for. So she kissed him goodbye and drove away and cried so hard that she doubted she would ever breathe again. She tried not to wonder if anyone would ever love her like that again or how she would do this all alone.
And that’s when He reminded her that she wasn’t. That HE would make her feel beautiful as a single mom covered in dust and spit up. That He appreciated her even when everyone else forgot to say thank you. That He believed in her when the rest of the world thought everything she did was crazy. That He would cheer her on and pick her up when she just didn’t feel strong enough. That His voice whispering in her ear would turn those rough days right around. That He would ALWAYS be faithful. That His love would be unconditional. That He, her ONE TRUE LOVE would never leave or forsake her and would give her heart’s desires. That He would make all things new, ever her shattered heart.
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A few days ago an American woman who had spent about three days of her life in a third world country looked at me and said, “I would SO love to do what you do. I would do it in a heartbeat. Oh, I would take 14 kids in a second!” It is a good thing that I was having a graceful day, because I said, “Aw that’s nice.” But my not so graceful heart was angry. And the not so graceful voice in my head wanted to say to her, “Ok then, do it. I can have you 14 orphaned, abandoned, uncared for children tomorrow. So here is what you have to do: Quit school. Quit your job. Sell your stuff. Disobey and disappoint your parents. Break your little brother’s heart. Lose all but about a handful of friends because the rest of them think you have gone off the deep end. Break up with the love of your life. Move to a country where you know one person and none of the language. And when you are finished, I will be here waiting with your 14 children!” I wanted to ask her what was stopping her, knowing that the answer would be her comfort. I wanted to look at her and tell her that my life was full and joyful and WONDERFUL, but I also wanted to tell her to COUNT THE COST. Because my life IS full and joyful and wonderful, but it is NOT easy. My life is NOT glamorous. I do not expect it to be. I do not think that anything about carrying a cross was easy or glamorous either.
Which brings me to my point. I am not actually that angry about what that woman said, it was just an offhanded comment. But it got me to thinking… How many times to we grieve our sweet Savior’s heart because we refuse to COUNT THE COST? How many times do we choose comfort instead of the cross?In my NIV Bible, the header above Luke 9:57-62 says, “The Cost of Following Jesus.” Here it is, plain and simple, laid out for us by the Lord. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my Father.” Jesus said to Him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts His hand to the plow and looks back will be fit to enter the Kingdom of God.” THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF. A little later in Luke 14:25, “The Cost of Being a Disciple,” Jesus tells the crowds gathered around Him, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry His cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to complete it; everyone who sees it will ridicule him saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first consider if he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
In Luke, in the days of Jesus, He expected EVERYTHING of his disciples. Do we believe that He requires the same today? We sure don’t act like it. If you ever read my blog or have heard me speak then you have heard me reference Matthew 25, the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus basically looks straight at the crowd and tells them that when He comes back, those who have seen the needy and met their needs will come with Him to heaven. He also says that those who have seen the needy and done nothing will be sent away to “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Right, hell. This is heavy, I know, but I believe that it is TRUE. I believe that the words of Jesus are timeless and therefore still apply to anyone desiring to be His follower today. (Oh, and in case you think you can get away with saying that you have not seen Jesus naked or hungry or thirsty or in need and therefore you are off the hook, let me help you. 30,000 children will die today because of hunger or preventable disease. There. Now you know. Now you are responsible too.) Faith without good deads is DEAD, my friends. Yes, I believe fully in salvation by His grace alone. I do not believe that anything we do or work for will save us. I also believe that if we are indeed saved, meaning that He lives inside of us, we will desire to do what is pleasing to Him. That if we really love Him with all our hearts and all our strength, NOTHING will feel like sacrifice in light of the promise that one day we will get to be with Him forever. Automatically, we will help those in need, we will give our all, we will love our neighbor as our self, because our heart is aligned with His. But so many don’t. This then begs the question: If we are not walking in the words of Jesus, do we truly know Him? Do we really know and believe in the Jesus of the Bible. Because if we do, if we believe what He says is true, our lives will be powerfully, unimaginable, radically different than the lives of those around us. He requires EVERYTHING.
I wonder today if I had been one of the people listening to Jesus as He spoke in Luke 9 and 14, if Jesus would have convinced me to follow Him or if I would have walked away. I believe I would have really really wanted to say goodbye to my family. I wonder about “Christians” today. We wear Jesus on our T-shirts, we wear His cross around our neck and a bumper sticker with His name on it on our car. Have we just laid the foundation without being able to build the building? Does Jesus feel like I did when a woman I didn’t know told me she would love to do what I do but I knew that she never would? Do we claim the precious name of Jesus Christ without counting the cost? Without being willing to REALLY give it all? And does Jesus, in His infinite grace, look at us and say, “Aw, that’s nice,” but really with the furry that he flipped over the tables in the temple want to spit our lukewarm selves out of His mouth?
This is heavy on my heart. I have spent hours typing it to get the words out right and still I feel like I am rambling. If you would like more references on God’s heart for the poor, try Isaiah 56-58, Proverbs 14:31, 21:13, 28:27, Matthew 19:16- 30, Luke 6:20-25, 18:18, James 5:1… Please feel free to add more in your comments! If we believe that these words are true, the way we are living is not tolerable. How can we live in willful disobedience and claim to know Jesus Christ?
I do not claim to have the answers. I do not claim to be doing it right. I do claim to believe that the words of Jesus are absolutely true and apply to me, right now today. I want to give EVERYTHING, no matter the cost. NO MATTER THE COST. Because I believe that nothing is sacrifice in light of eternity with Christ.
Please take an hour of your time to listen to this sermon my David Platt of Birmingham, Alabama. I pray that it would drastically change your life: www.brookhills.org/media/series/radical