Two deadly diseases? I want to hear about uplifting, positive things, not anything negative like disease, and certainly not deadly ones. Yet there are times we must act as a watchman in a tower, warning the citizens of impending attacks by the enemy. Suppose the lookout said “I don’t want to put anyone on a bummer by announcing the enemy is coming, so I’ll just let them sleep a little more”. If a lookout did that, they were not doing their job. Sometimes we have to deal with some unpleasant things for our own good.
These diseases are opposites, yet equally infectious and contagious. Satan will be happy to infect you with either one; he has no preference for one over the other. In either case, the result is the same - you are ineffective as a Christian soldier. And never forget you are involved in the fight, whether you want to be or not. If you think you can avoid the warfare around you, we have a special word describing you: casualty.
As a network administrator I evaluate many new technologies for possible use. Recently I evaluated an e-commerce package. The vendor had a great display and the technology was easy to use and readily available. In short, it would do the job. But as always, the question comes up:
What’s it gonna cost me?
It’s imperative in the business world to perform return on investment analysis to determine if the proposal is worth doing; we constantly evaluate the costs of doing a specific solution - it’s a reasonable course of action to determine the cost of something before wildly going off in some direction. We use this principle every day in worldly life, yet we ignore it in our spiritual life. Yet the same question looms: What’s it gonna cost me?
Christians are frequently infected with a disease Walter Martin called “easy believism”. You know the symptoms - some evangelist stands up and says come to Jesus and all your problems will go away. Are you an alcoholic? Just walk down the aisle and your problem is over. Marriage problems? No sweat. Just walk down the aisle. Finances in ruin? Just walk down the aisle. Jesus will cure all your problems and from now on life will be easy.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? There is only one problem with it - it’s just not true. I don’t mean to imply Jesus won’t heal you, or fix your marriage, or your finances or anything else. He has the power and the means to do anything He wants. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but I’ve found the disease of easy believism rears its ugly head in many ways, at many times. No Christian is immune and there is no vaccination for it; just like the common cold it comes around again any time you let your defenses down.
Let’s look to Jesus and see what He said about this disease.
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” (Luke 9:57)
That sounds great! Here is someone who wants to be completely devoted to Jesus. But it’s the next verse that’s interesting. You’d think Jesus would immediately send him over to John for his rations and sign him up, after all, Judas would be making an exit soon - they needed someone to fill his slot. But Jesus rarely responds the way you might think - He always challenges the motives, intents, and the sincerity of the person. In this case, Jesus responds curiously.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58)
Why didn’t Jesus immediately sign him up? Jesus is responding if you want to follow me, be prepared to give up everything, even your house. In short, you must face the question - What’s it gonna cost me? Good intentions are just that - good intentions. Without a sincere commitment it doesn’t count for much.
Let me give an example. Our daughter (as I write this in June 2000) is currently at a Christian program called U-Turn for Christ. As you could imagine, it’s designed for people who have problems with drugs, alcohol, run-ins with the law or other problems that need a concentrated, intense program to cure. So far, that doesn’t mean much - many of these programs exist, with many people attending them. But remember our question, “What’s it gonna cost me”.
She had been there for about six weeks (about 3/4 complete) when we got a call from her in the middle of the night. You might not think of that as strange, but when I tell you during this program the people are not allowed to use the phone you should immediately figure out what happened
- she quit. Walked off (literally). Gave up. Caved in. Kaput. (You get the idea). She didn’t want to do it any more. You see, when you have a problem in their program, you dig holes. Lots of holes - then fill them back in. She’d been digging for a while, and didn’t want to do it any more (the blisters add up you know). In any event, she didn’t want to go back. As I spoke to her, I got the idea she was looking for me to tell her it was O.K., she gave it her best effort and we were proud of her for trying.
But if you know my character, I couldn’t let her off the hook so easily. All I could do was keep repeating myself - “You don’t have a choice, you have to go back”. And all she said was “You don’t understand, I can’t do it anymore”. Neither of us budged from our positions. So you could imagine after ten minutes or so of this, we both decided to end the conversation. Naturally, I was quite heartbroken. She would rather go back to jail than stay in the program. What was her error? Could we have improved her digging technique so it would be easier? Hardly. Her problem was simple - she hadn’t answered the question “What’s it gonna cost me”. (By the way, she did decide to go back and finish [Thank you Lord!] - even though it meant starting over from the beginning. She learned a valuable lesson in counting the cost). Jesus spoke Himself of the need to consider the cost of what you start - will you be able to finish? (For more on the program U-Turn for Christ, see the end of this article).
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it; “lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, “saying, ’This man began to build and was not able to finish.’(Luke 14:28-30)
You see, following Jesus Christ is not easy. Living in the world, that’s easy. If you follow along with the world, everyone seems to be going your way. Cheating? No problem. On your wife? No problem. Dishonesty? Unethical? Immoral? We don’t have to look any farther than the current administration (and the response of the public) to see for the world, you don’t ever have to take a stand on anything. What does “is” really mean anyway?
Oops, we wandered slightly off topic there. But to get back to the issue, not everyone who claims to accept Christ is a Christian. Jesus gives a parable in Luke to further explain.
“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. “Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. “But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 8:5-8)
The seed is the Word of God. Nothing is wrong with the seed - it grows fine. But something is wrong with the soil it’s planted in. When the sun comes up, it withers away because it lacked moisture (The water of the Word). You know the type - “Yeah, I tried the Jesus thing for a while, but it didn’t work for me”. You’ve got to count the cost.
In this country we’ve developed an especially big problem with the disease of easy believism. This country is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the church for most of the last two thousand years has been persecuted and killed. Just ask a Christian in Sudan - who probably has a life span of about two minutes. You see, in Sudan you accept Jesus under penalty of death - they hunt you down and kill you. Don’t you think those people have counted the cost?
But before we continue, we must address a situation that arises. We are not talking of some “martyr complex”. You’ve seen them before, anything that happens bad to them they consider religious persecution. That is NOT what we are talking of here. You don’t need to be a jerk to suffer for Jesus Christ’s sake - just walk out in the mall and start sharing Jesus and you’ll find just how much resistance there is.
If you want an easy life, it’s not to be found as a follower of Jesus. There are forces at work behind the scenes whose only goal is to bring you down. When you accepted Jesus Christ you joined up in the army. But how many times do you hear that talked about? Imagine the U.S. Army recruiting and telling people about the places you can see, but ignoring the service to your country, wars and the possibility your life could end before you wanted it to. Suppose they never told you that. Would you be upset?
Yet we continue to tell people that life as a Christian is easy and a rose garden. Why don’t we ever tell them about the warfare, the enemy and the armor they need? I don’t know. I do know many people don’t want to talk about it. After all, we are all just supposed to love one another. Gush gush gush. Tell people about the forces against them if you’re going to be honest. Imagine a help wanted ad along the following
Men and women wanted for difficult task of building Christ’s church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy, and often from those whom you consider partners. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come until after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.*
Kind of a bummer, huh? But that’s not the whole picture. It’s true, of course, but if that’s the only thing we say, how many people will join up? But suppose we add the following to our hypothetical job posting.
You will possess a worldwide mandate, and enjoy compelling advantages over all competition. You will be able to tap into unlimited resources from your headquarters’ support, and the retirement package is out of this world!*
Sounds a little better, doesn’t it? Both statements are true; it’s only fair to inform people of what they are getting into. If we don’t we are being deceptive. The only way for the enemy to win is for us to quit. As an analogy, imagine before a football game both teams being told the outcome was certain - one team would win. During the game, they certainly could be injured, and it doesn’t imply the game will be easy, but as long as they continue until the final quarter, the victory is theirs. The only way to lose is to quit. What would the strategy for the losing team be? To inflict enough pain, suffering, and discouragement the other team would quit; for the only way for them to win is by forfeit. Satan’s strategy is the same - he knows he can’t win.
You must also remember something you probably learned in elementary school when doing your math problems - the answers are in the back of the book. The Bible is no different, the answers are in the back.
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)
Jesus said to pick up your cross daily (Luke 9:23-24). You must be totally submitted to Jesus - there is no other way to follow Him. A half-hearted commitment won’t do it. As an example, turn to the book of Isaiah.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Sounds great. Isaiah signs up for what the Lord needs. But how easy will the going be? Anyone can sign up for this program, but how many will stick with it when the trials come? Consider later in the book.
But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)
Everyone loves these verses, but it’s easy to miss a point. The passage says “When you walk through the fire” - not if. It implies (actually guarantees) there will be tough times. In other words, have you considered the question “What’s it gonna cost me?”
But it’s important to remember during these trials the Lord will be with us. The disease of easy believism has a related disease: hopelessness and despair. Just as it’s an error to believe everything will be easy as a Christian, it’s just as serious an error to give in to fear, and think that since satan and his cohorts are against us, it’s not worth even trying. After all, too much is against us.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
“Power” in the Greek is dunamis or dynamite. The Lord has given us considerable power, do we avail ourselves of it? Or do we just quit when the going gets tough? Let’s put this all together with an example from the book of 2 Kings.
And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver. Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” And he said, “If the LORD does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?” Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ’Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ “So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, ’Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.” (2 Kings 6:24-29)
The situation looks pretty desperate - they’re reduced to cannibalism. It was a common tactic of warfare in that day to just encircle a city and wait. Eventually the people inside would run out of food and have to surrender. But you can imagine it got pretty desperate inside the city during that time. At this time of desperation, Elisha steps onto the scene.
Then Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD: ’Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’” So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, “Look, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” And he said, “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” (2 Kings 7:1-2)
By tomorrow, this will all be over. The officer’s response is understandable. This siege had probably been going on for quite some time, and this wacky prophet says tomorrow it will be over? But the officer forgot who Elisha’s boss was, as we pick up the story again.
So the king arose in the night and said to his servants, “Let me now tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, ’When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.’” And one of his servants answered and said, “Please, let several men take five of the remaining horses which are left in the city. Look, they may either become like all the multitude of Israel that are left in it; or indeed, I say, they may become like all the multitude of Israel left from those who are consumed; so let us send them and see.” Therefore they took two chariots with horses; and the king sent them in the direction of the Syrian army, saying, “Go and see.” And they went after them to the Jordan; and indeed all the road was full of garments and weapons which the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. So the messengers returned and told the king. Then the people went out and plundered the tents of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD. Now the king had appointed the officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. But the people trampled him in the gate, and he died, just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. So it happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, “Two seahs of barley for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, shall be sold tomorrow about this time in the gate of Samaria.” Then that officer had answered the man of God, and said, “Now look, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate, and he died. (2 Kings 7:12-20)
When the word of the Lord comes, don’t doubt it. Too often we only look to ourselves and our own resources as the disease of hopelessness and despair impair our ability to fight - and make no mistake, you are constantly involved in a spiritual battle.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; (1 Peter 4:12)
So how do we avoid the disease of easy believism, yet avoid the just as dangerous disease of hopelessness? These diseases are opposites, yet satan will be happy to infect you with either one. What you need is exactly what satan wants to take away from you: balance. We need balance in our Christian walk. How do we get balance? By answering one question, Who’s in your boat? What? What does a boat have to do with anything?
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:35-39)
The disciples follow the words of Jesus to go to the other side. But in the middle a storm arises, so fierce they think they are going to perish in it. So they wake Jesus up and rebuke Him! Can you imagine rebuking the creator of the universe? You call that chutzpah. I can see Jesus waking up, and thinking to Himself, “This is what you woke me up for? Didn’t you hear me say we are going to the other side?” Jesus says three words, and the storm is over. Following Jesus is not easy; many storms will come your way as a direct result of your decision to follow Jesus, but it only takes three words from the master and it’s over. Never forget who is in your boat.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. (Psalms 27:13)
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9a)
So I’ll cling till my heart stops, And my worries here are through**
For anyone interested in the U-Turn for Christ program - It’s an eight-week program for men, women and youth who have problems with drugs, alcohol or behavior. They’re located in Perris, California at 20170 Patterson Ave. You can reach them at http://www.calvarychapel.org/uturn4christ/ or call them at 909-943-7097
- Personal Update (The news Journal of Koinonia House) October 1999, page 31
** From the CD “Something Fierce” by Forty Save One. Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. Used by permission.