I am not a fan of puzzles. Never have been. Sometimes I feel like living the spiritual life is like trying to put together a puzzle without the box top picture. Often in my spiritual walk I’ve had to simply let go of what I falsely think is control – and say, “Lord, you know the big picture of my life. Help me to trust you and to go with the next piece as you provide it!” The ironic thing about that kind of surrender is that it’s much less anxiety-filled. When I think I have any kind of control over my life – I’m mistaken and the striving really gets me nowhere. When I trust the Lord to guide my steps and my decisions, I experience confidence and peace because He really is in charge.

One of the biggest puzzle-pieces in my life was deciding what to do after college. I thought I had the cover to the box of my “life puzzle” and was moving along ready to place the graduate school piece into place. Until God rocked my world! Long story short – I heard a speaker in January of my senior year give a very simple illustration that changed the trajectory of my life. He told us to think of our lives like a contract. Did I have the contract all filled out and signed and I just needed God to sign off on my plans? Or – was I willing to place a blank contract before God, sign it and have him fill it in? I walked out of that meeting fighting back the tears before anyone talked to me, and I raced back to my dorm room. As I wept before the Lord and fully released my plans, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that what He had planned for me would be better.

My favorite definition of surrender is “to abandon rights to something.” I thought I had a right to choose what to do with my life! Surrendering my career choice to the Lord and following His plan for me has resulted in 27 years of ministry and unspeakable blessing! Surrender is a common theme in the life of a disciple of Jesus. Laying down my rights on a daily basis is not always easy and I fail often. I think one of the most important ingredients of following Jesus is this concept of surrendering our lives by laying down our rights – DAILY. Along with surrender comes cost.

The most recent RGM podcast includes teaching on the topic of discipleship and Marian shares that a disciple of Christ leaves, learns, and loves. I love how Marian teaches that a disciple of Christ has to LEAVE: “We say “goodbye” to the things we formerly put our hope and security in…We turn away from whatever we found our identity in before. There is a leaving behind of something. We find that Jesus is always BETTER than whatever we feel like we’re giving up –which would’ve ended up empty anyway.”

Leaving carries with it loss and surrender. There’s always a cost when you leave anyone or anything. So it is with discipleship. There is a cost to discipleship. We get to see exactly what Jesus has to say about this in Luke 9:23-25,Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

A disciple simply means a follower – someone who follows Jesus Christ. To follow Jesus, we basically leave our old way of life as we surrender to God’s way. To be disciples of Jesus, we turn away from following the world and it’s ways and turn to following Jesus and his ways. We get to see what this looks like from the Luke passage. To be a follower of Christ I have to —

  1. Turn from my selfish ways: surrendering my desires is hard! I want what I want when I want it!
  2. Take up my cross daily: this means dying to self and my old way of life; it is TOTAL surrender.
  3. Follow Jesus: as a follower, I go where he leads – not the other way around!

Jesus was a straight shooter – he never watered down what it meant to follow him. He made it clear that there is a cost to being his disciple. Luke 9:24 paints surrender well by telling us that if we try to hang on to our life, we will lose it. There’s no hanging on to my life and my desires as a disciple of Christ!

What is the cost of discipleship? 

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

Discipleship is costly because it costs a man his life. And now it requires you and me to lose ours in order to follow him. Following Jesus is not always easy. It has not been easy for me to live many miles from my family and closest friends. It has not been easy to hold fast to my standards and remain single until God sees fit to provide a partner to do life with. It’s not easy when the world pushes sexual fulfillment any way you can get it and I remain steadfast waiting on God’s best. It’s not easy to be lonely. It’s not easy to depend on others for financial provision. It’s not easy to have to think before I buy. It’s not easy to hold my tongue. The list could go on – but the reality is that easy isn’t what it’s all about! Following Christ means I surrender to his desires for my life on a daily basis and that my life is fulfilling and filled with joy as a result of obedience to His will.

It’s healthy to consider the cost of following Jesus – of being his disciple. Ponder the following questions and get honest with the Lord about them. Notice that the word in the questions below is “willing” – this is important because Jesus doesn’t always require such things – but are you willing to allow him to if he chooses? I encourage you to add your own specific questions to these, too.

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means moving away from a place you love?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means ridicule from co-workers?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means opting out of certain activities everyone is doing?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means less pay?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?

So what is the cost of discipleship? Oh – just your life. But what you seem to be giving up here and now is so minor compared to the blessings and fulfillment that obedience brings. The cost of what Jesus did for us cannot be given a value – his sacrifice for us is priceless.

As Bonhoeffer said, “’Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.” I wouldn’t trade one thing that appears to the world to be a “cost” of following Christ with my life! It’s worth it to me – it’s actually priceless!

Stay tuned for next week’s podcast where Marian teaches crucial questions we all have about the Bible!

Millie Welsh, Director of Development

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