Monday, August 08, 2005

Are You Able to Finish?

Jesus Christ is looking for a few good men and women. Ultimately, He seeks all those He created to join Him in everlasting happiness. But He has to start, it seems, with a picked group of die-hard disciples who know the cost of discipleship and aren’t afraid to pay it. Then hopefully others will be attracted by the good fruit that their faithful and devoted lives bear. It doesn’t help Jesus’ cause to have timid or half-hearted or worldly disciples (see the parable of the sower) or those who quit because they didn’t know or couldn’t accept the demands of genuine Christianity.

The Lord speaks of this in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. He reiterates some of the conditions for discipleship, like bearing one’s cross, self-renunciation even unto poverty and detachment from family ties, etc. He knows that it is demanding to follow Him. He also knows that it is ultimately the only thing worth doing, for eternal life is at stake. The Kingdom of Heaven is worth whatever it takes to enter it, and Jesus gives us the conditions in many places throughout the Gospels.

In this chapter of Luke He gives us the example of a builder who laid a foundation but was unable to finish the building because he did not first “count the cost” of completing the building. If he is not clear on just what it takes to finish the building, and if he is not prepared to put forth the money and the effort to complete it, “when he has laid a 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 14:29-30).

Jesus uses that as an analogy for our life of faith and discipleship. Do we know what it will require of us? Are we ready to give our all so that the “building” may be completed on time to stand before the judgment of God? If we begin our spiritual life with only vague ideas or unrealistic wishes about what it means to be faithful in all things to Christ, then we may give up when things get difficult. We may look for an easier way (though there isn’t one, if you’re interested in heaven) when it becomes clear that the Christian life is not easy and that it costs much to stand up for the truth in a world of lies, to embrace the Only Savior in a world that offers the “cheap grace” of do-it-yourself spirituality. Then we are like people who lay a foundation but can’t finish the building. All we can expect after that is well-deserved mockery.

The Christian life is both all-demanding and all-rewarding. No half-measures will work. Jesus tells us from the start about a life of faithfulness to Him: “first sit down and count the cost, whether [you] have enough to complete it” (Luke 14:28). Are you up to it? Are you willing to invest in the future—your eternal future? God’s grace will always be available, but our full co-operation is required to finish. The one who endures to the end will be saved, He said elsewhere. Are you able to finish? Give it all you’ve got, for the Lord gives all He’s got. Be willing to make the required renunciations, and God will reward you a hundredfold—and more.