The Cost of Being a Disciple

By Pastor Teck Uy

The mark of a disciple is selflessness. He is willing to dispossess himself of anything that will hinder him from serving the Lord fully. Jesus emphasized this truth when he said, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). This divestment that Jesus was talking about does not only refer to our material possessions, but our relationships, as well. Earlier, he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (v. 26). Jesus was not teaching us to hate our loved ones, but to put things in the right perspective – that we need to love him more and love others less. In this way, we can fully obey his command to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). If we are able to love Jesus more, we will end up loving our brothers and sisters more than we used to, because Jesus’ teaching on loving one another will be so alive in us.

Becoming a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is not easy in the sense that there are costs that we have to pay. Jesus likened a disciple to a builder. He said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30). Indeed, there are costs involved in following Jesus. To be a disciple is not merely confessing our faith in him and then following him on our own terms. It requires our full attention and dedication. We need to consider its implication not only on our time and resources, but also on our relationships. When Peter and Andrew were called into the ministry, they quickly left their boat and fishing gears and followed Jesus. In the case of John and James, they did not only leave their boat, but their father also. They had to leave behind their livelihood and loved ones to be able to follow Jesus fully.

The reason why many are not willing to divest themselves of their possessions is because by doing so, their very lives will be threatened. However, if they will only put their hope in the Lord and not on their possessions, they will find out that God can sustain them through the challenging times. This was the case of a poor widow from Zarephath. When the prophet Elijah asked her to give him bread to eat, she responded, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (1 King 17:12). What she had was just enough for her family’s last meal and for her to give it up meant that death would come sooner. However, she gave up what she had because she pinned her hope on what the prophet said: “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land’” (1 King 17:13-14). True enough, her jar of flour was not used up, her jug of oil did not run dry and she and family had food every day. She counted the cost and was convinced that it was worth trusting in the Lord, even in the most severe and challenging times.

Many who fail to count the cost of following Jesus quickly turn back when they encounter difficulties in their Christian walk. They have the wrong notion that following Jesus is always smooth sailing. However, the truth is that though there are challenges in our Christian walk, we overcome them all if we consider all the cost that is involved. Jesus set a good example for us to follow when he gave himself up for us. It was made easy for him to face the cross because he had already counted the cost while in the Garden of Gethsemane and concluded, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). Unless we are able to do the same, we can easily change our mind and stop following Jesus when the going becomes rough. But after we count the cost and we still decide to follow him, just as the old widow did, we will certainly be blessed in a way we cannot even imagine, because God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Hallelujah!