The Cost of Discipleship

What price are you willing to pay for what you love? This is the common question usually asked of people when purchasing something or regarding those they love. Are they willing to sacrifice themselves for what they love? Are they willing to pay any cost necessary to save what they love? In most cases, the answer is usually yes. The mother is willing to sacrifice her life for her baby to live, a selfless act of love. The father is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of his family even though he will not be rewarded for it, a testament to his selflessness. The husband is willing to die to protect his wife, a selfless act of bravery. The soldier is willing to die for the good of his country, a selfless act of patriotism, and so on. All these actions are excellent and praiseworthy. 

However, the reason for highlighting these costs many are willing to pay is to compare them to the cost that many aren’t willing to pay, which is the cost of discipleship. Many are eager to offer their lives for their loved ones but hardly for Christ, who is infinitely greater. Many are willing to praise those who sacrifice their lives for their country and loved ones yet chastise those who sacrifice their lives for Christ. There is a reason that Christ said that if one is to follow Him, one needs to lose their life, deny oneself and take up their cross (Matthew 16:24-28, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:25-27). He knew that compared to everything else I have mentioned, it is easy for man to seek the profit that the world offers, for it has an immediate reward compared to suffering for something whose reward is a ‘not-yet’ kind of reward. Even for Christians, it is a huge temptation. Thus, it is easy to praise what, compared to eternity, is less risky. In this article, I will seek to show you why bearing the cost of discipleship is more rewarding than any other price you could ever pay. 

What is this Cost?

Before explaining why it is more rewarding to bear the said cost, we need to define this cost. Let us look at Paul’s life from two specific sections of his letters. First, we shall look at all that he was willing to forsake for the sake of Christ in Philippians 3:1-16, and secondly, we shall look at the costs he bore for forsaking all for his sake in 2 Corinthians 11:22-29. 

The Cost According to Paul

Coming off Philippians 2:19-30, where Paul gives the example of Timothy and Epaphroditus as men worthy of emulation, he enters the third chapter intending to show why Timothy and Epaphroditus were indeed such men. However, before he got there, he used the example of his own life to drive this point home. From other scriptures, such as Galatians 1:11-14, Acts 22:1-5 and 26:1-11, we see what manner of life Paul led, which is what he reiterates in the first six verses of chapter 3 to make the cost even more profound. From these verses, it is clear that in Hebrew culture, Paul was considered a man of high standing in society. He writes that he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). As he wrote before he even began, if there was anyone who had any reason to have confidence in himself, it was him (Philippians 3:4).

Yet, that wasn’t the point he sought to make. Instead, he uses his former manner of life to show what the cost is. According to him, the cost involved regarding all his great accolades, like being found blameless according to the law, as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:7-8). For him, everything that he had ever done didn’t compare to Christ. Not only did he consider them loss, but also as rubbish (Philippians 3:8). The term rubbish already sounds far off, but the Greek word he uses means refuse or dung. In short, the life that most Hebrews could only dream of, Paul considered it the same as animal faeces compared to Christ. 

The Costs He Bore

He not only considered all he had achieved as rubbish but was willing to suffer the loss of all of it, and suffered he did (Philippians 3:8). The same people who considered him one of their own were going out of their way to try and kill him, so much so that he had to appeal to Caesar for his safety (Acts 23:12-15). However, it went further than that. Paul wrote concerning the costs he bore for regarding everything as loss for Christ’s sake to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:22-29). In writing this, Paul was defending his apostleship, which had come under scrutiny. 

The contrast here with Philippians 3:1-6 couldn’t be more evident as here he boasts in his weakness for God’s glory, but in Philippians 3:8, the reason he said that his accolades were rubbish was because they weren’t done for God’s glory, rather, it was for his own. In short, he already bore the cost by denying himself, taking up his cross and following Christ (Mark 8:34).

However, he bore these costs physically as well. We read in 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 how he was stoned, his fellow Jews beat him 39 strokes on five different occasions, beaten with rods three times, and he was shipwrecked and imprisoned on very many other occasions. All of these sufferings, as he recorded here, and some are recorded in detail in the book of Acts, culminated with his beheading at the hands of Emperor Nero. He willingly forsook the life of luxury and earthly pleasures that he might have had as a Pharisee for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus and suffered greatly for it. Yet, he remained joyful in all these sufferings because he knew the prize that awaited him if he continued to press on (Philippians 3:14, 20-21). 

How This Cost Manifests

The big question, dear saint, is whether the same is true for you. Are you willing to regard everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ? Are you willing to regard everything as rubbish and count it all loss for his sake? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ? Your answer may be yes if it was based on the generalities I have used. 

However, Jesus in Matthew 10:25-39 raises the stakes for how this cost may manifest. In Matthew 10:34-39, the question is, are you still willing to count all as loss and regard it all as rubbish, even if that means giving up your family? If your family seeks to put up barriers between you and Christ, are you willing, for the sake of Christ, to break those barriers even though that will drive a wedge between you and them? Are you willing to be so radical in your knowing of Christ that you will be willing to leave the dead to bury the dead (Matthew 8:18-22)?

Other places where you can face costly decisions are in your workplace, friendships, etc. Will you humble yourself when you need to, or will you allow your pride to take over? When it requires you to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), will you look out for the interests of others or just your own? The question boils down to this: will it still be all of Christ for all of life? If your answer to any of these questions is no, I implore you to pray as you seek God’s help in this area without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Read and study the scriptures, for they are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (1 Timothy 3:16-17). Finally, fellowship with people who will stir you up to love and good works, all for God’s glory (Hebrews 10:23-25)

The Cost’s Delightful Rewards

If your answer is yes, then many rewards await. As Christ said, “…everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). Those who joyously lose their lives for Christ’s sake will find it (Matthew 16:25). Those who fight the good fight are promised a crown of righteousness in the age to come (2 Timothy 4:7-8) in which your lowly bodies will be transformed to be like Christ’s. 

Dear Saint, does paying the cost seem hard to do? Take heart, for we are promised that this light momentary affliction produces a weight of glory beyond all else (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Your toil will never be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Take heart for the sinless Savior who endured all manner of shame for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:1-3) has now made you heirs with him (Romans 8:17). Since this is true, just like Paul, we are to regard everything as loss for Christ. Even though we are still on the not-yet side of eternity, we are to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), paying whatever cost we will have to.

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