I remember some years ago talking to a dear friend who was just on the edge of giving his life to Jesus. I was talking about what it meant to become a Christian. As he reflected on the choice before him, I remember him asking me a very sincere question, “What will it cost me to follow Jesus?” My every instinct was to play down any potential cost and reassure him that the benefits would immeasurably outweigh any cost. But I also knew I had to tell him the truth, so I replied, “It could cost you everything, but it’s still worth it”.
His experience reminds me of the story of the call of Elisha in 1 Kings 19:19-21. Elisha’s call involved a cost in several areas of his life.
Firstly, there was the cost of leaving his family. He knew that following Elijah, effectively being his disciple, would mean giving God his ‘everything’ and going wherever He led.
Secondly, there was the cost of his security. His use of twelve pairs of oxen suggests that his family were comfortably well off. By walking away from that comfort to follow the lowly man of God, such worldly security would be lost. Burning his equipment was a sign that he was ‘all in’ with the surrendered life and there was no going back.
Thirdly, there was a loss of his familiar circumstances. It’s likely that Elisha had only ever known life on the family homestead, and to follow Elijah would mean an end to all that, with an uncertain outcome. Who knew where it might lead?
Yet, despite these sacrifices, for Elisha, the call of God on his life had to be first above anything, anyone, and everything else.
When Jesus called His first disciples, He was so clear that to follow Him meant they would need to lay down all that was familiar, safe and secure. He was, in effect, asking them to replace everything with, quite simply, Himself. Yet as Jesus told His first disciples, whatever the cost, the benefits of following Him made any such sacrifices trivial in comparison.
These are powerful words, a profound promise. ‘Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life’ (Matthew 19:29).
Thankfully, my friend had been anticipating the answer that following Jesus could cost him everything, and soon afterwards he did indeed commit his life to the King of kings. And that decision was the first of many subsequent ones, as the sheer adventure of putting Jesus first has unfolded over the years.
So, I wonder, if we are hearing the call of Jesus to follow Him, even for the first time, or to step out in faith in a new venture or undertaking, should we imagine that the essence of that call has changed for us? It seems to me that He is always calling us further forward, deeper into love and trust, whatever that might look like in the practicalities of our lives.
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