It is of immense value to occasionally and somberly reconsider the cost of following Jesus Christ. Of course, from the onset, the cost has been counted; the first profession of faith in Christ as LORD and Savior is the moment that a true believer dies to himself and picks up his cross to follow Jesus. Yet the costs, for many, grow increasingly clear and stark the longer one is on the road of sanctification, discipline, and joy. And, in our reflection, we must, again, consider the costs, and again, by the Lord's grace, pick up our crosses and follow Him. How shall we do this? By this truth: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; all costs in His service are but rubbish compared to knowing Him, and all costs as His bondslave lead to never-ending joy. Let the infinite worth of the Beloved be put on display! What are the pains of childbirth compared to the joy of the child? What are the trinkets and trifles of this world compared to the treasure of eternity? What are the tribulations to enter the kingdom compared to the joy of knowing the King? The joy overwhelms the pain.
Here is my brief reflection. In the service of my Lord, I expect many hard and painful things. I expect my marriage to be strained because of sufferings without and struggles within. I expect endure hardship with my wife because of a chronic illness. I expect that the Lord will take her away from me early in life, leading me to depression and loneliness once again. I expect to have a child and lose her at a tender age, and thus be forced to bury her tiny frame with my own hands, weeping to see a life so short ended so soon. I expect enemies of Christ to attack my family as a cowardly attempt to hurt me. I expect to not be able to have a 'normal' American family experience.
I expect to be forced to move away from closest and dearest friends for the sake of serving the Lord at a local church. I expect to serve in a foreign land away from my parents, siblings, and extended family, unable to join them for weddings, birthdays, celebrations, or other because of the distance. I expect to feel very alone, as my friends live very different lives than my own. I expect to have infrequent fellowship with the saints on this earth because of my ministry among unbelievers.
I expect to lead a church whose members blame me for their sin. I expect to be abandoned by those in the church for whom I have labored and cried and prayed over. I expect the church to be the source of my greatest agony and grief. I expect to be betrayed and abandoned by a close friend, thus incurring damage to my heart which will never let me be the same. I expect to love and be hated in return. I expect to be hungry, poor, hurting, cold, tired, unappreciated, and depressed often. I expect to doubt my calling to ministry because of the pain caused by the church.
I expect to be rejected and insulted as foolish and irrelevant. I expect my enemies to slander my character without evidence. I expect the world to scoff at my teaching and laugh at my efforts when the church is small, and then to retaliate in fear when the church begins to gain influence. I expect to bear the responsibility for something I had no part in, and be unjustly persecuted for it.
There are more, but that will do. Of those things I've listed, I will be surprised if these things do not happen. I will be immensely thankful to my Lord for being merciful on me if these things do not happen. But, still, I expect them. This is my call to suffer, and I gladly take it.
But, why do I expect these things? Because this is the life that Christians live, especially those that serve Him in greater capacity. The Scriptural support is overwhelming. The book of Acts is woven together by the gospel and suffering. Almost every single book of the New Testament testifies that suffering for believers must come, and that this is normative. Look at the life of Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, James, Timothy, Silas, Titus. Look at the life of Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the other prophets. It is impossible to think that these sufferings are extraordinary. They are merely normative for God's bondslaves. It is not radical to expect them. It is merely biblical.
Yet the question still remains: What shall I say to these things? His Spirit compels me to say, "Thank you LORD Jesus! You purchased my life when You died for my sake. Who am I to complain when things become difficult? Blessed are You! I kiss the rod that You hold for my discipline; I embrace the suffering that You use for my sanctification and good and Your glory. I run quickly to your bosom for heavenly comfort and bliss; I hide myself in You as my closest Friend. Take my earthly all and grant me riches eternal! For to live is Christ and to die the beginning of true life. If I live, it's for You; if I die it's for You. You are good to grant me work to do on this earth, and whatever You have predetermined to happen, for Your own glory, may it happen. The cost of following You remains the same: everything. But O, for the reward of a crown of righteousness! I'm no fool; I'll take what lasts throughout eternity. May I join the faithful ones of the past in glory - soon - my LORD. Until then, may I be faithful to the call of God! Glory be to You for redeeming this wretched soul."
Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ my Savior. And that is enough.
[Original from a journal entry on 2013.06.28; expanded upon in 2013.07]