“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”-Luke 14:27-30
When I read this scripture, I often think of the old cliché, “Don’t change horses in mid-stream,” meaning don’t change your mind in the middle of an event or process that has already begun.
In this passage of scripture, recorded by Luke, Jesus is explaining to the crowds that desire to follow him, that unless they give their whole heart, mind, and spirit to him, they cannot truly be one of his disciples. In other words, “you have to be ALL in or nothing at all.” Once you commit, you cannot turn back. Doing so can only be detrimental to yourself, but to those around you as well.
As my own life’s journey and construction of the Spiritual Retreat continue, this scripture really struck a chord with my heart.
First, this journey began with a commitment to follow Christ. It wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly, nor undertaken half-heartedly. It began with a 100% vow to boldly follow wherever the Lord shall lead. That pledge has taken not only me but my family as well, along this path upon which would have never imagined.
There is no turning back.
Even as this is written, we continue to unpack from a move that began five years ago. We are literally still in transition. But even as this is written, the pathway is changing. The future is as unclear as it was in the first few days of that fateful decision. The difference is that now, after those arduous five years, we have seen the power of God working in our daily lives, answering prayer, and working miracles. Yes, in the deepest valleys, He is with us. On the highest mountain tops, He is with us. No matter how far we run, no matter how far we roam, our Lord and Savior is with us, he will never leave nor forsake us. There is comfort in the knowing, for as we face an unknown future, we can take solace in knowing that we are not alone.
As with the continued construction of the Spiritual Retreat, the path has altered somewhat. There had never been a bank account full of money from which to draw to pay for the materials for which it was to be built. Although it was thought out, as far as rough floor plans, the financial side was lifted up to the Lord to provide. And as such, each step of the way, He has provided. Like the parable for which Jesus was describing, a man does not set out to start a project unless he knows he has the means for which it is to be funded, lest he be mocked by his neighbors. Although the literal meaning could apply in my own case, it was with a purposeful choice that we began knowing that in faith, the funds would come. And in faith, the project has only been slowed, not by lacking the means to pay for the building supplies, but rather because of either illness or other commitments which took precedence at the time. In other words, the providential funds of faith have provided all that we have needed.
Like the choice to serve, and like the decision to begin construction without financial backing, each took a level of faith not easily obtained. Through observation of others on their journey, we might feel uncomfortable with taking on that level of commitment. It is only natural. You should never take the leap of faith unless you are willing to suffer for Christ’s sake. It is never easy, nor should it be.
Christ died for our sins.
Let me say that again, Christ DIED for our sins. He suffered a death none of us could nor would want to imagine. He even forewarned that his followers would suffer likewise, because, “If they hate me, they will hate you as well,” he told his disciples.
As the disciples followed Jesus, he took a band of men with backgrounds as diverse and opposed as any could imagine. Along the way, he changed who they were and taught them a new way to believe. Their minds were opened to an understanding never heard before. Men that had never been able to read were now recording his teachings. As this metamorphosis took place, they became the future bearers of Christ. In so doing, their attention had to be laser-focused, and pinpoint sharp as any modern-day recording device. Yet, they lived in a world of parchment and crude writing implements. One might imagine at the end of a day, they would stop and recap what all had taken place.
Visualize this one day happened to be the day in which the woman, who had sought many physicians, and yet after 18 years, had never been healed. Then, when she had heard that Jesus was to come to her town, she did, like so many others, found her way to a place that might afford her a chance to speak to him, or if nothing else, just to see him pass by. As it happened, she reached out and touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, she was healed.
She had to reach out and touch him, just as we must ask Him to come into our lives. The opening comment about changing horses in mid-stream is a comment made about what happens once you have received Christ and are now ready to act upon whatever calling He has given you. Once you have been saved by grace, your life will change. To fully receive Him is to no longer seek the old ways, but rather, the new.
Yes, the woman touching his garment and being healed spoke volumes as to who Jesus actually was; God and man. As Jesus shared this with his disciples that evening, imagine now, if you will, that the multitude that had been gathered had more than once touched his garment. We are only familiar with the one story, but think of the comment at the end of the gospel of John, where he says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” What if there had been numerous healings? What if after the first story, your hand is now starting to get numb. You can no longer keep up as he continues to tell you moment upon moment of people touching his garment that singular day and the testimonies behind each healing. How blown would your mind be at that point? Your head would be spinning as the untold amount of disbelief mixed with faith rattled around in your brain until your head felt as if it might explode.
There could be no distractions. There could be no turning back. You would literally have to hate your old life and be immersed in your walk with Christ to handle the brutal commitment to serve.
There was no lukewarm faith allowed.
You were either all in or nothing.
No retreat, no surrender.
Like each choice, both require an oath of servitude that cannot be stopped once it is started. To stop in the middle can not only be disastrous financially, but it can also be morally repugnant. How many times have you heard of a preacher or pastor quitting the ministry or falling from grace, and at the same time, felt your heart sink knowing that another soldier for Christ as fallen? Not only can it be a demeaning choice, to turn back, but it can affect others as well. Like those other little boats on the Sea of Galilee, all watched as the boat that Jesus was on was being tossed in the storm. What if Jesus’ boat had turned back? What if he never caused the raging seas to cease? How much less would the scriptures had been impacted?
As I already stated, my future is unclear. While one door closes, somewhere God is opening another door. Like that choice to start laying the foundation for the Spiritual Retreat, so is that foundation of the future being poured. While I cannot see the door, nor what path it is He has chosen, I can trust that like those funds that have found their way into our lives to continue the Retreat’s own construction; likewise, so will He provide for us in the future.
As many have asked, “Can I pray for you to find a job?”
“No,” is my response, “for J O B is a book in the Bible.”
Then I humbly reply, “Rather, please pray that God brings me to a door where I may serve Him fully.”
In the end, faith is not only the substance of things hoped for, but there is actual evidence in things unseen from which we can trust. These foundations of faith continue to build, one upon the other as we grow closer to Christ. We may have questions. We may have doubts. These are our natural tendencies. When we trust in Him, these quickly fade away as we remind ourselves of how those stories in the Bible, of blind faith being rewarded, have come true in our own lives. We may not have the funds to continue the path, but if it is the door through which God has chosen, in the end, we shall find that God will provide.
Never make a choice in faith-based upon what is seen, for if it is truly a God-given path, He will provide.
So remember, don’t change your horse in the middle of the stream, keep the faith.
Accept Christ into your life, and the journey will have just begun.
Thanks be to God.