Counting the Cost

“But don’t begin until you count the cost ….”. Luke 14:28a (NLT)

Goals.   Have you ever set a goal for yourself and then backed away from it? Maybe it was about running a race, or maybe it was about starting a new dietary regime, or maybe it was about developing a new habit or quitting an old one. You were excited when you started, but somewhere along the way it got more difficult than you realized it would. You failed to count the cost. You failed to count it accurately. I do it too sometimes.

 

Some goals do not have a very high cost. Others do.  And usually the bigger goals — the higher goals — have a higher cost.

 

But the best things are worth it, aren’t they?

 

As I sit on the eve of one of the highest goals I have ever dreamed — one of the biggest assignments God has ever given me — I am soberly counting the cost.  Extremely grateful to have the chance, but not wanting to arrive at midpoint, realizing that I failed to count the cost accurately.   There are things I have to die to … and things I will have to carry … to do this journey well.  Am I really willing?  Really?  For the long haul?

 

As a follower of Jesus, I look to Him as my example. He had the highest goal of all — to redeem and save mankind.  He also paid the highest price.  And for Him, it was  worth it.

Am I willing?  Yes.

Am I scared?  Yes.

And having counted the cost to the best of my ability, I claim and cling to the truth of Philippians 4:13, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And so can you.

 

Victory

“But the people who know their God will firmly resist ….”  Daniel 11:32b (NIV)

Have you ever tasted victory?  The thrill is achieving, of conquering, of overcoming?  There’s no other feeling quite like it.  Knowing that you beat whatever it was and came out on top.  Sweet victory!

But victory often comes at a cost.  Victory usually comes after hard work, serious investment and continued dedication.  Any kind of race — especially the big ones like a marathon, triathlon, or iron man — requires tremendous training of the body and mind.  Weeks and months of training, working through injuries and pain, learning to fuel the body properly, getting adequate rest, denying body and mind of things it might rather pursue in the moment, etc.   Just completing the race is a victory of sorts … and it comes at a cost.

Other parts of life are like that too.  We all face trials and temptations of various kinds and sizes.  Things that get in our way, make us stumble and fall, draw our eyes and our hearts away from the true and right things that (deep down) we really want.  Sometimes the things that lure us are actually good things, but as the Lord says, they are not the best.  (See e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:12). And the victory of saying “no” — while ultimately sweet — hurts.  Sometimes it hurts deeply.

Victory can be bittersweet.

I don’t know what you are going through right now.  I don’t know where you are seeking victory (or where you may be tempted to admit defeat).  But I can tell you that I understand.  I can affirm that sometimes it hurts.  A lot.  I can also tell you that it is worth it … that the Lord will provide a way out and the strength that you need.  The God we know is waiting to supply what we need to resist.  That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but it does mean that you will taste the (bitter)sweetness of victory.  It does mean that you will feel the joy of the Lord’s good pleasure upon you (as well as your own satisfaction that you did it).

So the next time you see a runner cross the finish line, with tears running down his face, collapsing in pain and relief … remember the bittersweetness of victory.  Remember the bittersweetness of God’s own Ultimate Victory … and praise the Lord for each and every victory He has enabled you to experience.

And may that fuel you to continue pursuing victory-in-Christ in whatever your face today.

War

“If any of you wants to be My follower, you must … shoulder your cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT)

I met yesterday with a friend who lives with chronic pain. It’s a world I don’t live in, and one that I want to better understand. I get injured and sore and occasionally have odd aches and pains, but I don’t live with chronic pain.

Jesus encountered many people with chronic, debilitating conditions. He healed many of them. (Oh, to have the faith and the power to do that for my friend!). But whether He healed them or not, Jesus loved and understood and encouraged all of them. He saw them, heard them, empathized with them and encouraged them.

The truth is, we live in a fallen world. And the fallenness of that world and the sin that pervades it affects all of our lives. Some of us are affected mentally, others emotionally … and people like my friend are affected physically. And those “wounds” so-to-speak become part of the “cross” we each must carry. We all have different burdens to carry and consider as we run our race towards Jesus. (See Hebrews 12:1.) They are some of the defining characteristics that make each of our “races” unique and our own.

My friend tells me that living with chronic pain leaves her feeling “at war” with her body much of the time. And as she was describing this to me, I felt great compassion for her. Much of the time, she experiences her body as the enemy. Now, as I write this, I pray that the Spirit might turn my compassion for her into personal compassion for herself. (And, I am convicted that we all have areas of our lives for which we also need greater self-compassion.)

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Even if we live with debilitating conditions, our bodies remain awesome creations of God. Our “races” just look different. Harder? Perhaps. Definitely different. And stewardship looks different too.

So I am praying for my friend today and for everyone who is living with chronic pain or other debilitating physical conditions. And while I pray for healing and relief, I also pray for encouragement and self-compassion … and for endurance to run the race set before them …

As we all run with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.