Article of the week: Counting the cost
17 July 2021
Major Ray Hobbins urges us to accept the challenge of costly discipleship
WHEN you began your Christian journey did you count the cost of following Christ? Do you count the cost still?
In Luke 14:27–30 Christ says: ‘Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”’
The initial cost of trusting Christ is to lose our sin, to forsake our old way of life and follow him. It can be costly to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, to be obedient to his rule, to take up our cross and to go through the narrow gate to the road of holiness – and stay on that road, come what may. Costly discipleship involves adhering to the word of God, living to his glory, preaching the gospel of salvation, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ and loving our neighbour as we love ourselves.
Trusting in Christ alone, enabled by the Holy Spirit and constantly drawing on the grace of God, we can be obedient to his call and cause – we can build on the foundation of our faith with the wisdom of the spiritual materials God has given us. As we grow in faith, our one desire should be to finish the course, despite the personal cost.
We live ‘in a world of shifting values’, as song 34 in the Army songbook reminds us. The values of the world can change as quickly as British weather. But the word of God does not. There will inevitably be spiritual battles, clashes of opinion, misunderstandings and calls to compromise or dispense with the truth. Taking a stand is costly, and many are not prepared to pay the price. Realising the narrow road is not as easy as when we began, the temptation to opt out or compromise can be strong.
In our own strength that road proves difficult, indeed impossible. Only in God’s strength are we able to make a stand, continue the journey and fight our cause. We need to pray when the going gets tough or when we feel weak.
In Leviticus 10:10 and 11 the Lord challenges Aaron to ‘distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean’ and ‘teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses’. These words come amid a harrowing chapter, following an incident when Aaron’s sons disobeyed the Lord’s expectations of their priestly office. They did what the Lord had not commanded.
This chapter warns us that the sins of commission and omission are not taken lightly, as Aaron’s sons learnt to their cost. Doing our own thing outside God’s will, whatever the reason, always has consequences.
Jesus lived and died to give glory to his heavenly Father – at great cost. He prayed when things were overwhelming. He did not flinch or compromise. He fulfilled the law and preached the gospel without fear or favour – and he taught and challenged his disciples to do the same, whatever the cost.
Jesus gave his life for the salvation of the world – a world that rejected and crucified him. He loved the world that stood and defied the living God. If the world will not accept God’s Son, it will not receive his followers.
Even so, God is loving, merciful and gracious. We are saved on his terms and called to live according to them. Jesus warned his followers to expect the same treatment as he received. Yes, people will embrace and applaud our good works, but they will not do the same for the gospel. They may admire us, but when we stand our ground and challenge the shifting values they hold, people will aim to pull us down.
Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Resurrection and the Life, is on our side. He will return. The cost for us, as it was with him, is high – it is sacrificial. Let’s not sell ourselves short, but pray, believe and keep building, by the grace and power that he gives.
MAJOR HOBBINS LIVES IN RETIREMENT IN ABERYSTWYTH