May 29, 2014

Counting the cost . . .

. . .  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

On a flight from Toronto to Edmonton, we were delighted by a family with thirteen children. The youngsters were lap-size to late teens, well-behaved and a pleasure to see. I complimented the parents as we landed. Building obedience and serenity in a family that size takes patience and skill and much wisdom.

This morning I’m remembering them and how God demonstrates His grace and wisdom whenever His children follow His lead. We are not always serene and obedient though. For me, realizing He knows best still requires His grace plus some personal experience.
The psalmist figured it out. He knew that God was wise and that following Him was a testimony to His goodness . . .

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1–3)

He added that doing the will of God was his pleasure, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

Jumping to the New Testament, a rich young man came to Jesus wanting to know how to have eternal life. Instead of enlightening him with the Gospel message, Jesus said things that were designed to show him what was keeping him from trusting the Lord. It became obvious that this man trusted his own riches. At that, Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24–25)

A year ago I asked the Lord to bring me to a place of absolute surrender to His will. I didn’t want anything to come between and thwart my obedience to Him. The past year has been a battle as God showed me the things in my life that were doing just that. I read a quote this week from Martin Luther that said if you want to get closer to God, you need to read the Word and meditate and then fight with all your heart a host of temptations and trials. It works, but it is not easy nor what I expected.

Perhaps all Christians have this idea that following Christ will result in new songs of praise and constant delight. This happens, and I am thankful, but this is not all that happens. In the life of Christ, absolute surrender led Him to Gethsemane and then to the cross.
And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:40–44)
The garden was a small window into what was going to happen next. In following the lead of His Father, He sweat blood, but also shed blood, giving His life so that we who believe would have eternal life. He was willing to do whatever God asked, no matter the cost or the results.
Jesus entered into suffering and endured the shame of it “for the joy set before Him” and I understand that. However, I am not able to see ahead like Jesus could, and any endurance God calls for must be based on total trust and believing His promises. One of those says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
Eventually, obeying God will be seen as a wise thing, for God is a wise God. Nevertheless, absolute surrender is not entirely delightful as I hoped. There is a battle to fight and a cost to count, ending only when life ends and I see Jesus face-to-face.

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