Berry gets to grips with three of his favourite passages on the cost of following Jesus. Spend a while having a look at his suggestions and thoughts, and send us your own too (email@example.com>!
1. Jeremiah 1:6-7
Then I said, “But Lord God, I don’t know how to speak. I am only a boy.”
But the Lord said to me, “Don’t say, ‘I am only a boy.’ You must go everywhere I send you, and you must say everything I tell you to say. Don’t be afraid of anyone, because I am with you to protect you,” says the Lord.
To follow God is not always easy: the things he asks of us will not always be easily done and we may hurt along the way. But as Christians, we can cling to the promise that God does everything for a purpose, and in our favour. If He tells us to go, we must go; if He says stay, we must stay.
If only it was that easy! Although Christ died so that our past could be forgotten, there is an enemy who will do all he possibly can to sway us from God’s path. The devil can deceive us into thinking that we are too weak or unworthy; reminding us of the sins of our past. In the passage Jeremiah believes the lie that he is too young to speak in front of masses of people. But that doesn’t matter. Because our God is the God of the impossible. He has both created life, and raised the dead. He not only can help you, but He’s longing to help you; so just ask Him. Don’t be afraid.
2. Matthew 16:24-25
Then Jesus said to his followers, “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me. Those who want to save their lives will give up true life, and those who give up their lives for me will have true life.
Are you prepared to sacrifice a high salary job? A nice car? What about a family member, or someone you love dearly? So often we turn away from God when the cost gets too great. We want to follow Christ, provided that we can keep certain things, and he won’t ask us to give them up.
But being a Christian doesn’t work like that. The minute you say ‘yes’ to God, you say ‘no’ to anything that can get in the way. You become free of those things. Nothing can hold you back. There is nothing but the love of Jesus, and the freedom he provides. Which will you choose?
3. Acts 7:54-60
They were so mad they were grinding their teeth at Stephen. But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right side. He said, “Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at God’s right side.”
They took him out of the city and began to throw stones at him to kill him. While they were throwing stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell on his knees and cried in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” After Stephen said this, he died.
Your sacrifice may hurt, and seem unexplainable; but you have no idea how it has affected those around you. We are here to serve, not to be served.
This passage shows the death of a young man sent by God; one of his chosen, and dearly beloved children. Stephen can see heaven. He is full of the Holy Spirit. But the people are not listening!
Yet, I find this one of the most encouraging passage of the bible. Why? Firstly, notice how Christ isn’t sitting, but standing. It is a reminder of God’s promises, for when we are going through the heart of persecution; when we are fighting the devil in our heart, and temptation in our hand. A reminder that Christ isn’t only with us, but that He and all of heaven are standing behind us; cheering us on.
And it is a reminder that when we don’t seem to win, He has already won. That grace is enough, and that because of the cross, our failures are already forgotten. He is on the move with a force more powerful than any on earth. No one can stand up to Him. He has the army, and you have the ability to call upon Him. So in the heart of battle, cry out, look to Him, as Stephen did.
Secondly, not everybody will welcome you in with arms open wide and heart accepting. The sadness is that so often, they do the opposite. But the key is to tune in with God. It may not stop the stones from flying and death from coming. But you will die with Christ beside you, and I cannot think of any greater way to go.
Lastly, it was Saul who held the cloaks of the men who stoned Stephen. We have no idea how it affected Saul, but he was to become one of the greatest evangelists the world has known. Your sacrifice may hurt, and seem unexplainable; but you have no idea how it has affected those around you. We are here to serve, not to be served.