Counting the cost

It seems a peculiar expression to consider when thinking about pursing Jesus, are we prepared to pay the cost? We know that our salvation comes as a free gift from Jesus so where is the cost?

During the process of trying to lose weight I pleaded with God to show me what it would take, I was prepared to do anything to have this burden taken away.

The answer came back: give up alcohol and chocolate These were the two things that brought me comfort when I was tired, fearful, celebrating… whatever the emotion. I couldn’t image living without either.  When I was first married I would hate being at home alone, so I would say to my husband that he could go out if he bought me the biggest bottle of wine and the largest box of chocolates.  These became my means of comfort, my abatement of fear, my means to numb the loneliness.

In Matthew 19:16-22 the rich young man asks Jesus that whatever eternal life will cost him, he will willingly pay it.  Jesus speaks to the young man knowing that because he is dependent on his money he would find it difficult to choose between the new life Jesus offered or a life separated from God but united to his money. When faced with giving up his idol (his treasured possession) it was too much for the rich young man to pay.

This is the cost and the choice before us.  The question is: Are we willing to pay the price?

For those of us who have struggled between the desire to overeat and the desire to lose weight we have probably made many promises to ourselves or with others or even tried bartering with God. In our moment of despair, we promise that we would do anything to end this turmoil.  There are times where if we thought it would help we probably would do a deal with the devil!  We often use expressions of ‘I would chop off my right arm’ and other over exaggerated claims. But the truth is when push comes to shove we aren’t prepared to change, the truth of the matter is we want it all.  We want to be able to eat what we want when we want to, without the consequence of putting on weight.

Jesus knew this when he challenged the rich young man and Jesus knows this when he looks at our own hearts.

So, what did it cost me?  Well, I was to find out that it wasn’t just about the alcohol and chocolate. Other things I need to willingly let go of are, gossip, slander, unforgiveness, bitterness, revenge… the list seemed endless and sobering (Galatians 5:20).  I was to learn over the years that the craving for alcohol and chocolate was just a mask for what was hidden deep within.  The sin was so ingrained in me that I didn’t even know the extent of it.

King David knew both the cost and benefit of pursing God : Psalm 139 :23 – 24 ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’.

But it’s alright for him he’s a king! How on earth can I even begin to get my head around pursuing Jesus when all I have known is following my own ideas, my own purposes? It all sounds too difficult and too alien how can I give up all that I have known so far?

Jesus gives us the solution, when we choose to put our faith and trust in Jesus, he gives us a helper, a guide, a teacher…The Holy Spirit.  This is God’s gift to us to teach us how to trust and obey Him.

The prayer of David was a prayer I prayed just over two years ago and what turmoil followed.  Jesus turned my life upside down and inside out.  He exposed roots of bitterness and an unwillingness to bend.  He exposed the root of shameful sins that were too horrific to confess.  He exposed a desire to control and a reluctance to submit. He exposed a propensity towards slander and jealousy rather than a desire to love and serve.

He also showed me that I still had a choice to make, I could still choose to stay with the sin or I could choose to follow him through the refiner’s fire to be purified.

Isaiah 48:10 ‘See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction’.

It is our instinct to seek after things that bring us comfort, not many of use choose to go into an area of affliction, we assume if things feel difficult then our circumstances need to change.  However, I have learnt that, what appears to be a mess to us, is the very place that Jesus prepares our hearts to change. It is through these times of affliction that our hearts are turned towards Jesus, it is during these times that we are humbled to hear from God and his word, it is during these times that we truly see God’s power.

When life gets messy, we start arguing with those we love or life just seems too difficult to handle, are the times the devil uses to persuade us that God has abandoned us in these moments of despair and trial.  The devil wants to swamp us with self-pity and draw us further into ourselves so that we lose all hope of ever coming through it. It is during this time that the devil wants to start the blame game and encourage us to become angry and defensive.  We all have sinned and we all have fallen short of God’s glory, so instead of blaming one another if we pray the prayer of David, desire a change of heart, then we will see God’s hand, not only on our lives, but on the lives of all those around us.

This is where hope comes in, the hope that comes from Jesus who by the power of the Holy Spirit has something to teach each of us through every one of life’s circumstances. Romans 8:28 tells us that God will use all things for our good and for our benefit to grow into the image of Christ.  When our hearts are open to change and have a desire to put the past behind us, we begin to see our relationships and our circumstances through the lens of God’s grace.

Matthew 16:19 tells us we can’t have our cake and eat it we need to make a choice.  The choice isn’t between eating or not eating it is between giving up control of our lives to Jesus or depending on our will power.

So, what is stopping us why do we find it difficult to face up to the choices we are making?  We have already thought about sin and its control of our lives however we need to consider who Jesus says He is.  When we begin to understand who Jesus is and the choices he has made for us we gain a different perspective; a different way of viewing our lives.

Jesus made a choice for us, incredibly He came down to earth from his honoured position in heaven to take our place so that we could spend eternity with him.  He willingly died on the cross to make the payment for our sin.  Why did Jesus do this, to appease an angry God, to enable us a means to continue to sin?  Absolutely not, he did it because he loves us.

Our skewed thinking stops us from truly believing that Jesus did all of this out of love.  His sole purpose is to draw us into a loving relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to restore us to the perfect relationship that God designed from the beginning of time.

However, the cynic within won’t allow us to believe it, this cynical view can be for a variety of reasons, maybe we don’t know what true love is, maybe our past human relationships never met with our expectations, maybe our trust has been misused or maybe we consider ourselves unworthy to be loved.

For many years I have been crying out to Jesus to rid me of the burden of weight gain, the burden of the uncontrollable cravings, to take away the guilt and shame. Jesus has demonstrated to me on numerous occasions that my weight problem was one with the heart rather than a physical one.  The physical outworking of weight gain was a sign of the hurt within, was a sign of the misuse of the body God had blessed me with.  These moments of purification are so that we become more Christ like, that we desire things that he desires, that we crave to spend more time with him in his word, that we have a passion to share with others who Christ is and how he wants to love and transform their lives too.

Moment by moment, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am learning to live in the freedom that Jesus has provided and I constantly pray for a willing heart to learn what it takes to follow Him.

Won’t you join me?

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