Be prepared for what you ask for …


I know – the saying is normally “be careful what you ask for because you might get it.”  In my case, it’s “Be prepared for what you ask for because you might get it.”  Actually – it’s not really my case, so much as it is Jesus’ case.  You may remember this passage from Luke –

Lk 14:28 “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? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

It only makes sense.  Failure is bad enough.  Such a public failure is even more embarrassing.

When we put this statement in context, we find that Jesus wasn’t talking about building a physical building.  No – Jesus was talking about making a promise – a promise to God – and then not being willing to follow through on it.

Here’s the entire section –

The Cost of Being a Disciple

Lk 14:25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “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. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Lk 14:28 “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? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
Lk 14:31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

At this point, you may be wondering – why is this under the “peace beyond understanding” series?
Keep reading – you will see why.  It’s about having this amazing level of peace in circumstances under which you couldn’t have imagined it was possible.  Seriously.  If you haven’t read part one of the series, I encourage you to do so.  Like many people just seeing a doctor makes me nervous – and having a needle stuck in me is way beyond that.  Given that, being told by my doctor to go to the Emergency Room immediately should have been very scary.  I wasn’t even a little nervous.  That’s what the series is about – a peace from God that is way beyond understanding.  For this one segment of the series, it’s about how I finally – after more than 50 years – felt that peace I had wanted ever since I was little.

We see three different examples here related to the cost of being a Disciple.  

One is about our willingness to leave behind everything and everyone – if we are asked to.  While it looks like Jesus is saying we need to hate our families – that can’t be true.  If we’re supposed to love even our enemies – how is it that Jesus could possibly want us to hate the very people who are most likely to be the ones who are closest and most loved to us?

Luke 14:26 “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. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Let’s look at that word – “hate” – how it was used at the time and in the culture at that time –

88.198 μισέω: to dislike strongly, with the implication of aversion and hostility—‘to hate, to detest.’ οἱ δὲ πολῖται αὐτοῦ ἐμίσουν αὐτόν ‘and his fellow countrymen hated him’ Lk 19:14. Expressions for ‘hatred’ frequently involve idiomatic phrases, for example, ‘to kill in the heart’ or ‘to spit at someone in the heart.’  1)Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 762–763). New York: United Bible Societies.

If you’re not sure what an “idiomatic expression” is, here’s a definition of “idiom” from dictionary.com to help –

an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one’s head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language, as the table round for the round table, and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics.

So we see that “hate” in the context of what Jesus said really doesn’t have to mean to literally hate the people he mentioned.  A better way to look at it would be to consider Luke 19:14 – which is noted in the definition of the original Greek word from the Bible.  It’s part of the Parable of the Ten Minas, so let’s look at the whole thing.

The Parable of the Ten Minas

Lk 19:11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
Lk 19:14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
Lk 19:15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
Lk 19:16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
Lk 19:17 “ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
Lk 19:18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
Lk 19:19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
Lk 19:20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
Lk 19:22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
Lk 19:24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
Lk 19:25 “ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
Lk 19:26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ”

I think every time I’ve heard this parable talked about, in a sermon or book, it’s about the three servants and whether or not they did anything with what was given to them.  It’s about a lesson that we need to do something with the gifts that God gave to us.  And that’s fine – it’s important to talk about.

However – there’s more to it.

Notice verse 14 –
“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

This man was their king.  Whether they liked him or not – that didn’t really matter.  He was still their king.  
Even if most of the people didn’t want this person as their king – it didn’t matter – because he was the king and nothing could change that.  
As we see – while the king had certain expectations, he did reward those who wanted him as king and did what he asked.

You may not be happy with the last verse – where the king says to kill his enemies.
However – even here – looking at verse 22 and 23 sheds a new light on verse 27.  The first two servants were proactive – investing what the king had given them.  That takes time and effort.  The third servant did nothing – although he did take the time and effort to hide what the king had given him.  He could have done something as simple as put the money on deposit – like putting it in a bank today.  But his expectation of the king was that he was a far harsher person than the king apparently was.  Yes – the one who took the time and effort to double the value got the biggest reward – but is that unreasonable?  Hardly.  The third one – the one who was afraid of the king and did pretty much nothing – he lost both his reward and his life.  Had the third one had a more realistic vision of the king, and had he done even a little bit – he could have had a small reward, but kept his life.  

The lesson here is to not listen to “most” of the people and just go with their hatred of the king.  Notice, in the end, it was the third servants words that were used to judge him.  Words that he had picked up from the general feelings most of the people had about the king.

In this case, I believe, the cost wasn’t anywhere near as high as the third servant thought it was.  True – by putting in a little effort and gaining a small amount of interest on the king’s mina, this servant could have had a small reward.  But he would have lived.  It’s like Paul wrote –

1Co 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Any one of us can decide where we would like to be here – building a lot – building a little – building only enough to actually believe in Jesus – but still live.  Or we can choose to reject Jesus and therefore build nothing – and die.  It’s not like we don’t know this.  And it’s not like we don’t know the results.  The king has told us all about it.

And what Jesus – the King – is telling us in this passage is that if anyone, including any member of our families, tries to tell us that the King is a horrible person and we should try to not have Him as our King – we should not let them influence us.  We should not let them keep us from earning whatever reward may come to us – and especially not let them lead us away from eternal life.

The second segment under the cost of being a disciple has to do with what we are willing to commit to.

Lk 14:28 “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? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

A few years ago, my church had a sermon series about how we progress as Christians.  The first level is what’s often called The Seeker – someone who is curious about Jesus and wants to learn about Him.  It’s where we all started.  The fourth, and most advanced, level is where we try to live our lives as Christ Centered people – where Jesus is at the center of everything we do / make decisions about.  That leaves two more levels in between, as we progress in both our knowledge & faith, and our ability to live our our faith.
At the end of the series, the pastor asked anyone who thought they were at level three and wanted to try to go to level four to come to the front of the church and be prayed for.  People started walking up there.  I’m sitting there – essentially counting the cost.  Do I really want to do this?  It’s not as simple as walking up.  And it’s not just a case of people see us and think we’re really great people for walking up there.  No.  To me – this was real.  This was a commitment to God.  I’m pretty sure I’m at level three – but I’m even more sure I’m not at level four.  Oh yeah – I do believe in Satan – and I know this commitment won’t be lost on him.  Ultimately – I went up.

I think it was last year – we also had a sermon on something I’ve wanted to do, although not literally – Peter walking on water.

Jesus Walks on the Water

Mt 14:22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Mt 14:25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
Mt 14:27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mt 14:28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Mt 14:29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Mt 14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Mt 14:32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When Peter was focused on Jesus – he could walk on water.
When Peter was afraid – he started to sink.
With the peace from God – there was no fear and Peter could walk on water.
I can’t help but believe the same is true for us – not to literally walk on water, but to peacefully / calmly walk through circumstances where we would ordinarily be terrified and “sink” – because our focus is on Jesus.

There are so many other things I could include here.  I’ve been through enough to know there is a cost to following Jesus – and I don’t take it lightly.  But even knowing that, I felt it was more than worth whatever might come.
As the title says – I had to be prepared for what I was asking for.  That’s not to say I didn’t have second thoughts – didn’t wonder if the cost was getting too high.  I did have them.  I even ran away a few times.  Fortunately, I always returned.

The third and final segment has to do with really sitting down and examining our alternatives.

Lk 14:31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

One might think there are two alternatives – believe in Jesus or reject Jesus.  This is an especially appealing option, given that two kings are listed here.  However, I suspect there are really three choices –

  • reject Jesus – which includes the claim that one is choosing not to decide, since any choice that doesn’t include accepting Jesus is a choice against Him.
  • believe in Jesus.
  • be a disciple of Jesus.

As J. Vernon McGee points out, a believer isn’t necessarily a disciple –

A person can be saved by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, but a person will never follow and serve Him until he is willing to make a sacrifice. That is what this passage is teaching. There is a difference between being a believer and being a disciple. Unfortunately, not all believers are disciples.  2)McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 4, p. 311). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

You may be wondering about something here – why do anything if believing is all that’s necessary?  As Paul wrote – both the believer and the disciple get eternal life.  But – as Jesus said, our task is to make disciples –

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

When we choose to make that decision to move from believer to disciple – it’s not our own strength that we’re evaluating here.  The battle isn’t between us and God – and it certainly shouldn’t be between us (alone) and Satan.  The question seems more one of our love of God – our faith that Jesus really did defeat Satan – our willingness to actually pay the price to become a disciple.  We have to be willing to take whatever comes – to give up whatever things of the world that we may want to cling to, just because Jesus asks us to.  Giving up things may even include giving up our own life.

It feels like, on some level, this battle between two kings is a battle within us.  Is our faith / love of God strong enough that we will be willing to do the things that God asks?  Or will we falter at some point – and decide we really aren’t willing to do what it takes to be a disciple?

So – where does all this lead to?

As I said, all of this started a long time ago – my desire to follow Jesus.  Maybe ten years ago, I started writing.  A few years before that, I started leading Bible Study classes.  Looking back – those were probably my first steps towards becoming a disciple.  But they were steps taken without really fully considering the cost.  I knew it in my head – but not in my heart.

However – the last few years, the cost has been made more and more obvious – it’s become something I’m very conscious of – and it’s something I’ve considered and decided I still want to walk on water – I still want God’s peace – and whatever it takes, I want Him.

If you look at some of my past writing, you’ll see that things haven’t been easy the last few years.  Among other things – I was forced to retire by my boss, who was trying to save his own job.  My favorite four-legged “kid” – Dewey- got lymphoma and after 8 months of chemo, we had to put him down.  And now I ended up in the hospital with a staph infection that was putting me into septic shock with my kidneys shutting down and lungs filling with fluid.  

I had a really hard time with the job thing.  

With Dewey, I had a hard time when the cancer went to his brain and could no longer be treated – but along the way, I learned so much from watching him and being with him – looking at how he went through it and hoping that if anything happened to me, I could enjoy people and life the way he did while he went through his eight months (like 5+ dog years) of fighting the cancer.

And then I ended up in the hospital – a place where I should have been scared half to death just by being there.  And I felt no fear at all.  It was like all that stuff I went through was being used by God to prepare me for this.  If I hadn’t retired, I wouldn’t have been able to spend time with Dewey – even to take him for all those treatments.  Dewey would have died after a few weeks – and I would have learned nothing.  And if that happened, I wouldn’t have gone into the hospital with a commitment to enjoy the people and my time there – no matter what was happening.  And if I hadn’t written about all this – prayed about it – used it in the classes I was leading – I don’t think I would have been ready for this hospital experience.

This is what happened, even before I knew how bad things were.  I don’t know if it was a prayer or a dream – it just seemed so real.

Lord, is it time for me to go home?

“After all the times I would have welcomed a ‘Yes’ answer, I feel like I have more to offer here”.

“If you want me to come home, I’m OK with that.  If you want me to stay here and do more for you, I’m OK with that too.  Whatever you want, I’m good with it.”

After that, Psalm 23 came to mind, especially –

Ps 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Ps 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

Yes – my decision was made.  

If it was time for me to go – I was ready.

If God wanted more from me first – I was ready.

Either way – I was – and am – at peace.

A peace I’ve waited for, as I said, for more than 50 years.

A peace that was worth everything that’s happened
A peace that I’m just not willing to give up.

When I first started this journey – I was not prepared.

But – when the time came – I was ready.  And not the least bit afraid.

Something that didn’t come to mind for me, but was pointed out by one of the pastors –

Phil 121 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

I used to be so afraid God would want me to be like Paul.  Of course, knowing that, God showed His sense of humor by having the first Bible Study class I led be the book of Acts!  And while I know full well that what Paul went through was so much that my life looks trivial by comparison – to reach this point made by Paul in Philippians – that’s someplace I never thought I’d be even close to.

That’s walking on water.  Feeling God’s peace – beyond not only my understanding but beyond my wildest dreams.

And it’s way more than worth it.

That’s why we should truly consider being not just a believer – but a disciple.

Please – think about it – pray about it.  See if it’s worth it for you as well.

Series NavigationGod – is it time for me to go home? >>

References   [ + ]

1. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 762–763). New York: United Bible Societies.
2. McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 4, p. 311). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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