Our neighbors in Alaska wanted the joys of a fishing boat so they bought one. Within a few weeks, they realized they should have given this purchase more thought. They discovered that putting a boat into the salt water of the ocean meant giving it a good rinse with fresh water every time they took it out. This requirement took all the fun out of sailing and fishing. They quickly sold it.
Counting the cost is usually wise. I do it with everything, maybe because I have Scottish blood in my veins. I weigh the cost of one can of tomatoes against another brand, the cost of buying a shirt against sewing one. Over the years, this cost-counting began aggravating my husband who often says, “If you need it, buy it. We have the money.”
However, counting the cost is a biblical concept, about more than spending money. Jesus said to the crowds:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:25–28)
Later, Paul wrote more specifically about what a Christian must abandon as a ‘cost’ of following Jesus:
“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:5–11)
Tozer gets even more specific by pointing out that not only must I turn away from the “unfruitful works of darkness” but also self-sins such as self-love, self-pity, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement and self-defense. He says, “If the Spirit takes charge of your life He will expect unquestioning obedience in everything.” That means God can ask me to leave behind whatever pleases me to something else that pleases Him.
Tozer says self-denial consists in the voluntary renunciation of everything which is inconsistent with the glory of God and highest good of others. That could be very costly. He adds that before I can be filled with the Holy Spirit, I must be sure that is what I want.
Jesus, it seems almost blasphemous to ‘count the cost’ of obedience rather than being delighted to surrender every detail of my life to You. I do know that being filled with the Spirit brings great joy and purpose. It means a life of surprises, adventure, answered prayer. You do not ‘rob’ me of anything but instead give great meaning and fulfilment to life.
My struggles are not usually about the cost but more about trusting You and being consistent in that trust. It is also about expectations because I sometimes have a notion of what abundant life should be like (surprises, adventures, answered prayer) when it can also be routine that calls for daily faithfulness and for times of not really knowing what You are doing about my prayers. Nevertheless, I’ve done a bit of counting and know that giving You everything is totally worth whatever it might cost.