The cost of following Jesus

Following Jesus is easy, said no-one ever! Just in case one happened to live with that illusion, today’s first reading is a stark reminder that as Christians we are constantly battling between what we want and what God’s plan has designed for us:

"My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity.
Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great.
Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him.
You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.
Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken? has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD; he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble."

In the Scriptures when Jesus says, "Follow me," and says it in the context of going to Jerusalem and having just been rejected in Samaria for going to Jerusalem, he is clearly saying two things, not just one thing. He is saying: "Follow ME." And he is saying "FOLLOW me." He is saying, ‘There is me, and there is my mission. There is a person, and there is a path. There is a sweetness, and there is suffering. There is Jesus, and there is Jerusalem.

Jesus does not promise a bed of roses or even a bed of tulips and He warns against the danger of indecisive discipleship. "No one, after putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." You can’t plough a straight furrow whilst looking back. You can’t serve Christ, that is, you can’t make Christ look great, if you are always second-guessing the value of following him. Looking back means longing back. It means that we are not really sure he is worth following, especially to Jerusalem. Divided hearts like that are not useful in displaying the worth of Christ. It is true, all of us pass through stages where we wonder if we have made the right decision. In times of loneliness we long for familiar faces and places. In times of physical, mental and spiritual suffering,we long for the pain to pass or at least for it to be numbed. In times where death seems to conquer, we long for life.
Following Jesus will always mean more than one thing. If it means for you the place of suffering and loneliness, He will be there. We need to cling to Him and the promises which He offers. This is not an easy task because this world of ours is heading in the opposite direction when it comes to many values espoused in God’s Word. Our Lord has called us to a life of self-denial rather than self-indulgence. Again we swim against the tide. If you say you are following Jesus, and your life hasn’t changed, I want to challenge you to ask yourself why. If you call yourself a follower of Christ and yet your life doesn’t reflect Him, it begs the question of whether you’ve truly turned your back on your own sin and thrown yourself entirely on the mercy of God. Maybe you’re thinking that there are things in your life you’ve done that God can’t forgive. Maybe there places of darkness you’ve wandered into where you think His light can’t reach. People, understand that the cost to follow Jesus is not about following rules. It’s not about managing your sin. It’s about saying to God, “Here I am, you can have all of me.” That’s the cost of following Jesus. That’s what it takes!