In Part 1 for this Transformational Change series, we covered the process of transformation using the example of Saul’s conversion to the Apostle Paul. To re-cap, this transformation process centered on verses 18 & 19 from Acts 9. There were three main takeaways: 1.) Falling: illustrated by Saul’s three days of literal and spiritual blindness and darkness, this was his rock-bottom moment. The fall can be interpreted both in the negative and affirmative sense, as it actually helped to usher in his anointing. 2.) Standing: standing is the equivalent to the redemption found when we are truly repentant and accept Christ into our hearts. We thus stand in agreement with God’s ways, truths, principles, and laws. 3.) Eating: once step two in the process has been completed, it is vital for believers to follow a healthy spiritual diet plan, where one consumes that which will edify, uplift, and strengthen one’s faith. Make sure to go back and read and/or review the full teaching, before diving into Part 2 below!
When you hear the phrase “count the costs” what comes up? What does it make you think about? Where does your mind wander?
Does the phrase induce anxiety and fear? Does it make you tense up? OR does it invite feelings of hopeful expectation? Of a path riddled with great uncertainty and yet such a bold confidence and assurance?
My personal definition of counting the costs is this: taking an audit of all the things, people, lifestyle choices, career decisions, relationships, opportunities, etc. that have the possibility of being blown to smithereens because of your decision to follow God. It's measuring out the pros and cons and coming to the realization that there is an exorbitant amount of cons, but for some strange reason, you decide to take the plunge anyway.
Note here, that the cons are not really cons, but merely have the appearance of them. Using a worldly perspective, the things that seem too great to give up pale in comparison to what we receive in return for our obedience. The costs seem too expensive and so most people will let that be the end of their journey. They somehow forget that God is the supreme ruler and master of the universe. There is no amount of money too great for him and no thing that he is not able to provide for His children. Hence, why true discipleship is not for the weak or faint of heart! You gotta be completely sold out for Christ–which can only happen with radical, transformational change.
To engage in the practice of counting the costs is definitely a sobering exercise. And one that we should be extremely intentional about when we decide to get serious about our faith walk.The cold, hard truth is that choosing a life committed to God means choosing the path paved with many trials, troubles, and tribulation. The Lord never promised that it would be easy. He never promised that with salvation came a life filled with rainbows, butterflies, and happy days all the time. In reality, the life of a true believer is one of wonder and incertitude. It's one where you have willingly relinquished the reins of your life to the Creator, which means you have also relinquished all power and control. You’ve chosen submission over disobedience, surrender over carnality, and servility over self-indulgence. Because you have undergone the first part of the process–what I like to refer to as your initiation–you have to now learn to accept the road less traveled as an opportunity for continual growth, development and maturity in spiritual matters.
Jesus makes this very clear in Luke 9:57-62; a section of text actually titled “The Cost of Following Jesus.” It reads:
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Did you feel verse 62 as much as I did? True transformational change is living a life totally dedicated to God and fulfilling the purposes of His kingdom. We can’t expect to serve Him wholeheartedly if we are trying to hold onto things that once did or will seek to take precedence.
And I’m not talking about frivolous things either. Let’s face it, sometimes it may mean giving up that relationship–the great guy that you believed to be ‘the one’; it may be severing ties to family members–could be your own mama, no one’s safe!; it could be walking away from that well-paying job that you worked so hard for and all those good benefits that came with it. But wait, there’s more! It most definitely means giving up the areas of your life that allow you to remain in your comfort zone. It’s letting go of the familiar and choosing to walk in blind faith.
And what’s the trade off?
Well, it's not so glamorous. Prosperity preachers will have you thinking that giving God your yes will quickly manifest a life of abundance, wealth, and favor. Sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but that’s actually not how it works. The bible is very clear about this. It says that we should expect to be ridiculed and rejected. I mean, just look at how they did Jesus! He was literally the kindest, most patient, caring, compassionate and only perfect being to ever walk the Earth, and they still hated him.
Let’s revisit Acts 9 to see how this played out in the previous focus of our discussion, The Apostle Paul. In Part 1, we covered Saul’s conversion in verses 18-19. Verses 20-22 review how following his conversion, Saul began to preach in synagogues. He “grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah (v.22).
Great stuff, right… Ehhh, not so fast.
It did not take long before those very same people began to despise and persecute him.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
He was able to escape and live, but then in verse 28, he is faced with the very same situation:
28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
In both instances, Saul was forced to flee under the threat of death. But, in both instances, God also provided an escape plan. Saul did not have to worry about his safety because God had already put the right people in position to provide assistance when the persecution came. It never deterred him from his focus: preaching the gospel. It never made him regret his decision or become angry at God. This is why he is such a great example for how we should conduct ourselves when we commit our lives to the Lord.
Many will use the costs associated with following God as a reason to never commit altogether. However, even for the percentage of those who do commit their lives to serving, they can unfortunately allow the hardships and persecution to get the better of them. People spread lies and gossip about them and instead of ignoring the noise, they engage. They allow these distractions–which to be clear, are sent by the enemy–to become their main focus. And, if they are not careful, they can start to internalize the lies and become resentful, unforgiving, and ingrate.
Get over it–
Yes, count the costs, but don’t let bitterness sneak in and make a home in your heart. At the end of the day, the fact is that you can’t blame anyone and no matter how bad things get, no one is coming to save you. The power lies within you because God has equipped you. Make the choice to walk it out despite the haters and naysayers.
Make the choice to heed the call despite the circumstances around you. Make the decision to forge ahead without the support of friends, family, and loved ones. It’s not about that. It’s not about them. This is about you and your journey. Your focus determines your success and ability to move from one level to the next. At the threshold of greatness lies a million thieving demons, ready to snatch the plans and promises that God has whispered into your heart. Their aim is to get you to give up, to settle, to compromise; to start to do things in your own power because the way things are shaping out are out of line with the expectations you established.
But the bible also gives us this promise from Romans 8: 35-39 NIV
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I don’t know about ya’ll but that makes it all worth it in my book. God’s love is all we need, because when we have Him, we have everything.
“No weapon that is formed against [us] shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against [us] in judgment [we] shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” - Isaiah 54:17 KJV
The costs are great, but your reward is greater. The problems that you will likely face may be daunting but God is greater. The mountains may appear big, but God is bigger. Your time on this Earth may be riddled with tribulation, but God always takes care of His children, and greater still when we pass into eternity, we will be rewarded for our faithfulness. Keep your focus on Him and on the cross and He will carry you through.