At the conference Jerry and I attended in Tucson last week, I was reminded again of the pain and suffering that is often always required of those who sincerely and fully commit their lives to God and to His work. The price exacted from ministers and their families is extensive and if truth be known, there has not been a church staked, but what a woeful, sometimes frightening charge has been levied. Blood streaks the foundation stones. The salt of tears muddles on altars, and to the discerning who walks about in the now beautiful, filled to capacity, auditorium (or the frankly faltering, half-empty shell of a church) may be seen shifting shadows of death and may be heard the faint din of despair.
A heavy price must be paid to follow Jesus. Unfair of me, though, to suggest that only ministry pays such price, for did not Jesus say in Mark 8:34:
“…whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Deny myself? What does that mean, Jesus? Take up my cross? How? I thought living for God was the good life, the abundant life, viewed through rosy glasses that reveal only joyful and happy days. What about the power, the miracles, the healings? I thought I was getting into that, Jesus.
You are getting into that, Jesus says, for in verse 1 of Matthew 10, He speaks:
“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.”
But the price. The heavy price.
“I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves…” vs. 16
“But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues:” vs. 17
“And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death…” vs. 21
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake:” vs. 22
Expect suffering, Paul said in Romans 8:18
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The disciples rejoiced in their suffering. Acts 5:40-41
“…and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
And they (apostles) departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
And so I have this word for you…and for me…today. Let us willingly pay the heavy price; the only price by which we are admitted into the fellowship of the suffering of Jesus, that lets us share His shame, His exhaustion, His disappointment, His cross.