"Count the cost." I heard this phrase multiple times a few weeks ago at the Assemblies of God network conference for our region. I have been ruminating on it ever since.
Brad and I, after years of being licensed, became ordained. Many have asked us what that means. We joked and said it it means we have a new glow of Jesus.
Really, though, in many ways it's a piece of paper, but it's the heart of surrender that matters the most. It's a piece of paper that states we are in this thing for the long haul, we are giving our life to ministry. We are serious about it.
Yet, at the end of the day, the paper means nothing if our heart is not moment by moment surrendered to the will of God. We were told, as newly ordained ministers, to count the cost.
Whatever the paper or certificate, there was a beautiful moment in that time of prayer - a blessing they call it - over those being ordained. In that moment I knew I would count the cost. I was willing, fully willing to give my life to God and to loving His people no matter where it takes me. It was a special and memorable moment.
Realy what does that mean exactly? Count the cost. I heard this often even as a young child in the church. Imagine it. Long, mousy brown hair, squinty eyes due to bangs that were too long, swinging feet because of legs that were always too short to touch the ground. Little hands and little feet, Sunday morning kids church..."count the cost" they said. Those are big scary words for a little one.
I didn't understand it so much back then. Did I want to give my life to God? Sure, I did. I genuinely loved God. Did I know what it meant to follow Him? Did I know what "count the cost" would mean?
In hindsight, nope. Do I even know now? Not really.
I have experienced an amount of unexpected crisis that most do not experience in their first 30 years of life. Yet, things in the last few years have become safe. Quiet. Calm. Even stable. For years, I didn't know what that would look like. Now I do, and I like it.
Sure, there have been moments where "safe" was redundant and calm meant little faith. But really, though, compared to the dark painful storm of loss...I am good with safe.
Yet, He calls us to "count the cost". He calls us to give everything. Surrender it all. Which means, at some point, safe will turn and no longer be a close trusted friend.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV
Count the cost. How much value do I place on safe? How precious to me are the very things that make me feel safe? Or really, is God the only true "safe"? Is it that the rest of those things and people are only illusions of safety?
I actually know this. This question has been answered for me. It was answered when my dad died suddenly at age 47, and when mom died a long and slow death at age 50, and when I almost died giving birth to Cavin, and when we lost our job in Boston after moving everything out there just a few short months before. The list could go on. A controlled, safe life is only an illusion.
The point is, I have answered this question. Yet, when I think as Paul "but I do not account my life of any value", I second guess my willingness of surrender. I question my will to truly and really surrender my life. That takes big faith, and many times I have small faith.
As Paul states, Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
Count the cost. Count everything but Christ as a loss if necessary. This is the real cost. Everything. All of me. My whole life. All that I know and all that makes me feel safe. If I lose it all, I still have Christ. Is Christ truly enough for me? Will I surrender everything, so that I may gain Christ?
I know what it is to have plenty, and I know what it is to be in want. Paul said this, and I am standing with him on this one. I do know what it is to have plenty, and what it is to be in want - on many levels.
Will my contentment be in Christ? Can I count the cost, and still choose to follow Him?
It's a daily surrender of many yes's. Whether I am shouting yes, or I am wavering and whispering yes. Yes, and yes again. Always yes. After a day of doubts and fears, when I lay my head down on that pillow it will be with a yes on my lips.
I went on a bike ride tonight. I have only ridden in my neighborhood, because I didn't have a helmet. Now I do. So, tonight, even though I was a bit nervous, I went riding on the main streets. Now I was still on a sidewalk, but it was a big deal. I didn't want to play it safe and just stay in the neighborhood. That gets boring, routine, and mundane. I know there is more. And spiritually speaking, I know there are more miles to walk and more to set my hand to. And, God has given me the "helmet" - He's given me what I need.
You see, in the end it will always be yes. Why? He is too faithful. He has given too much. He has been too good and proven too trustworthy. He has been the only one that could pull me out of the pit and keep me from stumbling back in. His love is too great and He won't let anything come between that great love. Why yes? My hope is in Him. Safety with Him will never be an illusion. It's a sure and firm commitment from Him to me. Always.