At one point Jesus told his followers that before following they needed to count the cost. He didn't tell them this so they would not follow but so that everyone would be aware of what to expect:
"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 finish 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 sit down and consider whether 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 will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-33)
Pretty harsh? So is actually following Jesus. I don't care what anyone has told you, we have not been called into fine clothes, big houses, nice cars and easy times. That is the Western and African gospel. It seems the rest of the Church is facing exactly what Jesus warned about. Perhaps that should tell us something. Perhaps it is telling us in the West that we are doing it wrong.
Consider for a moment what Paul gave as his credentials. It certainly was not his easy life. It wasn't success in this world. It wasn't having a large following. It wasn't anything attached to this world at all:
We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. vs. 3-10
These are quite the credentials. It makes our service look pail and lifeless in comparison. Yesterday, in our worship service we highlighted a couple of people who were willing to set aside personal concern for themselves in order to be obedient to the Spirit. Some may call them risk takers, speaking hope into people's lives regardless of any personal cost. They are willing to be ridiculed, to be labeled as weird, or odd or even "religious" by those they are trying to give hope to. It is at these moments that the words of Jesus "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do", become real to us. These people, who are lost to God, do not have a clue what they are doing, so for this reason we do not hold it against them. Regardless of their actions and words we recognize that it is a natural reaction for a blind, drowning man.
Why are such risk takers so few in number? Because the rest of us have not count the cost. We have looked for privilege under God's grace. We have wanted to be spoiled as his children. We desire only for ourselves. We have not counted the true cost of following Jesus because we are not really following him. We are chasing after the teachings of demons. We are chasing after half-truths, this world's philosophies mixed with the gospel. We are doing everything but following Jesus as he called us to follow him. Life is too comfortable. We can't identify with these words of Paul, and almost look upon them as a form of poetry or a testimony of an age long past.
Each year it seems to get worse among believers. The enemy has successfully spoken to our vanity, or pride and our desire for comfort. The Western Church needs to be broken by the whole Spirit. We need to sit in sack clothe and ashes and cry out to our God in anguish and great repentance for what we have done to the gospel. We need to confess our self-centeredness and repent for our lack of true Kingdom work. There is a cost and we need to be made aware of it.
I implore you, today, when you hear the voice of the Spirit prompting you to action, do not hesitate and hide in your comfort; obey him. Even if it costs you embarrassment. Even if it makes you somebody's joke. Even if it will cost you financially. Obey. It is they only way that you are going to find true joy in your service to Jesus. Count the cost so that you are aware of what to expect, and then do it.