The Cost of Discipleship and the Secret of Happiness
According to some experts, happiness comes from meaning. A meaningful life is a happy life. Where does meaning come from then? Meaning comes from knowing what you believe and what you want to die for. Now it becomes a little complicated. Many people seem to know what they believe, but few really know what they want to die for.
Some people put their meaning in their job or career. You might have heard that Japan has the highest suicide rate of retired men. Japanese men work very hard and they are loyal to their companies. They work long hours and give every drop of their energy to make their companies stand tall in the world.
However, after retiring from their jobs, many of them lost their purpose of living since they no longer have a corporate goal to shoot for. As a result, some of them found their lives meaningless and ended up committing suicide. BBC reported that in 2014, 25,000 men took their own lives, averaging 70 people a day.
If you watch the news, you would have heard that, in the U.S., we also have this problem among our veterans. After they come back from deployment, they often have to deal with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which often results in depression. When they were in the war zone, they had an honorable purpose and meaning to fight for. However, when they came home, they suddenly lost that great purpose and hit the humdrum.
Experts say that the most important thing in life is to know what you believe and what you want to die for. In other words, a purpose driven life is a meaningful life and a happy life. However, not every purpose is a good one, or a good enough one.
The terrorists are purpose driven too. They know what they want to die for, but we all know that they die for a terribly wrong purpose.
We are at the 18th anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, the day that drove America to its knees and the rest of the civilized world into a shock.
It tells a great deal about what human beings are capable of in committing evil even in this modern society. Over half a century after the Holocaust, human beings haven’t yet seemed to have changed much.
9/11 proved that human sin is still so deep that no history lessons could reform their hearts. It also proves that disarmament has nothing to do with terror. Evil people can turn a passenger airplane into a weapon of mass destruction.
How dangerous is a man driven by the wrong purpose!
Jesus came to give us the right purpose—the real purpose we are created for. However, Jesus said having the right purpose is not enough, we must have the appreciation and conviction to die for it.
The Bible said a large crowd had followed Jesus. At one point, it says there were over ten thousand people following him, but a few days later, there were only the twelve of them left. Jesus asked them, “Where’s everybody?” and asked the twelve, “Do you want to leave me also?”
In today’s passage (Luke 14:25-33), Jesus told the crowd following him that they must count the cost of following him. They must be willing to give up everything, including their family, their possessions, and even their life.
The disciples of hate—the terrorists are willing to give their lives for their cause, but the disciples of love—the Christians cannot be wishy-washy.
Jesus told the Parable of the Great Dinner right before this passage which provides the context for today’s lesson:
“Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.
“The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’
“So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’
Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’” (Lk 14:16–24).
C.S. Lewis summarized this succinctly, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Lewis said that we lack imagination. God is offering us a holiday at the sea, but we rather make mud pies in a slum. Our purpose is not only wrong but also too small.
We cannot be half-hearted followers of him. Jesus made this point with strong words, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” (v. 26).
The word “hate” is used in the Hebrew tradition sometimes in a comparative manner, meaning “loving less.” It does not mean despise or abhor. Matthew’s version conveys this nuance, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37). So, the word “hate” here means to give a lesser priority.
The point is if there’s such a time you have to make a choice between loving Christ or family, you must choose him over the family because you realize that losing him is equal to losing everything and having him will save your family.
Then he said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (v. 28). This means you must be willing to die for joining his cause. You cannot be half-hearted. You cannot be wishy-washy. God is offering an infinite joy, and it deserve risking everything you have to join the party. You cannot just imagine that following him is only as good as playing mud pie in a slum.
Then he said you must count the cost like a professional builder building a skyscraper. You can’t build an Empire State Building with the mental and emotional budget of a Pizza Hut. You must count the cost like a king going to a major war.
The point here is not really about whether you can afford to pay the price, but about realizing the worthiness of the mission. Jesus is saying that you must realize that following him is worth every penny of your possessions and every drop of your blood. If you imaging following Christ is worth only a small effort, then you will not be able to finish the race.
At the end Jesus said, “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” (v. 33).
In summary, Jesus demands your love for him to be more than your family, life, and possessions. People left him not because it’s too costly, but because they didn’t appreciate it. There was a big crowd of wishy-washy followers. By the time Jesus turned around, there were only twelve left. How many Christians today follow Christ without counting the cost?
Do you find Jesus Christ is worth more than your family, life, and possessions? If not, C.S. Lewis suggested a solution: raise our imagination. Jesus is offering you a party on a Caribbean Cruise for eternity, all-expense paid. He expects you to appreciate it enough to leave everything and jump on it. He doesn’t want any excuse and give away any rain check.
Jesus used other parables to talk about the value of following him. One of them is called the Parable of the Pearl. It says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mt 13:45–46).
Jesus said he is the kingdom of heaven. To follow him is to enter the kingdom of heaven. You must learn to appreciate it like a pearl merchant that knows the value and willing to sell everything you have to buy it.
The cost of discipleship might sound sacrificial, but it is all about the infinite joy worthy of giving up everything you have. It’s not about sacrifice, it’s about seeing the value like a pearl merchant. It’s about realizing that a holiday at the sea is much more worthwhile to join than making mud pies in a slum.
This is your homework this week: raise your imagination of the infinite joy of the discipleship. Raise it to a point that you are willing to die for it. If you lack imagination, ask God for it. The Bible says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God … and it will be given you.” (Jas 1:5).
This is the most important task in your life because nothing matters more than knowing what you believe and knowing what you are willing to die for. Finding this will change your life forever because it’s finding the meaning of life and attaining the eternal happiness.
Paul said, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Php 3:8).
This is the man who found the precious pearl and he gave up everything to obtain it. If you appreciate this verse you are in heaven. If you don’t, you have work to do to raise your imagination, or you will find playing with mud pies more fun. Jesus wants us to appreciate him above all else and jump on his Love Boat of eternal joy. Let’s all jump on it without hesitation. Who wants to join me?
God bless you all. Amen!