Is Christianity Worth the Cost?
Have you ever bought something that you thought was going to revolutionize your life only to get it home and realize that it never lived up to your expectations. We are getting ready to move for the 2nd time in 6 months, so we are going through again and finding stuff that I would rather throw away instead of move. As we start this morning I figured that I could share a few of my disappointments with you.
First I have a mini blind vacuum attachment. I paid $4.99 for this marvel of modern technology. After years of taking the blinds down and washing them in the bathtub, scrubbing each and every blind with a toothbrush, this was the answer to a prayer. I just knew that I would get home, slap it on the vacuum and be Trista’s hero. He only problem is that once I got it home I realized that it doesn’t work. And if you use it vigorously you have to go back to the store and buy a new set of blinds. So I threw it in the trash.
Next I have this book that a well respected preacher and friend of mine said that I really needed to buy and devour. It would make me a better preacher and teach me how to connect with you in ways that would change your lives. So I readily paid the $14.99 sticker price and sat down with a cup of coffee. I was so excited, and then I started reading. Four chapters into the book I put it down and the only thing I learned was that according to the author the Republicans are the reason for famine, the destruction of the family, and he was pretty sure AIDS but he couldn’t find his research. So I threw it in the trash.
Thirdly, and this one hurts, a Craftsman Autolocking Robo wrench. For $24.99 you could get rid of every other pair of vice grips you ever owned. These self adjusting vice grips will always self adjust to the proper size of whatever bolt, screw, or nut that you need to get a firm grasp on. The only problem is that it just doesn’t work. When your get tork on the pliers they automatically release as a safety measure and you bust your knuckles. So, sadly I threw it in the trash.
One more. Back in 2001 Apple had just come out with the iPod and I was intrigued with the possibility of having a more portable way to carry music with me when I went for a run. But I wasn’t impressed with the cost of the iPod so I decided to spent $150.00 on a Sony Mini Disk player. It had these great little disks that would hold up to 6 CD’s of music. It was light weight and I thought that it fit the bill of what I wanted. The problem, it skips. And I don’t mean skips a little; it skips like a record player when you are running. So this too finds its way into the trash.
Unfortunately that’s not everything, but I think you get the picture. We have all gotten excited about the possibility of something only to get it home and realize that it wasn’t worth the cost. And instead of making our life better, we feel angry because it couldn’t live up to its promises or feel guilty because we were taken so easily.
Over the past few weeks we have been looking at some answers that demand an answer. And today we are going to finish this series by asking a question that we all need to ask. Is Christianity worth the cost?
It’s an important question that we have either already wrestled with or we will wrestle with. There are a lot of jaded folks out there that accepted the gift of salvation only to realize that they didn’t count the cost of what they were doing. They came to God in a moment of emotion, or a moment of weakness, or they got caught up in the moment and they never realized that there was a cost involved in following Christ. When life got hard they got jaded.
Jesus says in Luke 14 that there is a cost to following Him. We have to be honest enough to admit that there are some people who can only see everything that is wrong with the church because they never counted the cost of following God. Instead of life being perfect they still experience hardships and troubles in this world. They get hurt with God and poke out their chests and say that the church is filled with hypocrites.
Now I am willing to admit that the church does have hypocrites, and I am also honest enough to admit that I can be a hypocrite. But that’s a people problem not a Christ problem. When we have not fully counted the cost of following Christ we get near sighted and only look at what is in front of us.
But there are also folks who are not sure about following Christ because in their minds they are overly concerned about what they will have to give up here on earth. It’s like a teenager I was talking with once who told me he had no interest in being a Christian because he had better things to do on a Friday night than sit at home and watch Disney movies while he ate unbuttered popcorn and drank water.
That young man was not fully counting the cost of following Christ either. He had overestimated what he would have to give up and underestimated what he would receive in return. Is Christianity worth the cost is a question that demands an answer from us. If I am going to give up the pleasures of this world to have a relationship with God then I have to know that it is worth the trade.
Don’t let the question scare you. There are people that we see every day that would be interested in coming to Christ, if they believed it was worth the trade. And we answer the question everyday by the way that we live our lives. What is there about Christ’s teachings that make a real difference in our lives? What does Christ have to offer that is better than what the world has to offer.
Is Christianity really worth the hassle? Is it really better than what the world has to offer, or is it something that we will buy into and then just throw into our box of junk. Paul answers that question in the last letter he ever wrote. Look at our text this morning found in 2 Timothy 4:16-18. Here Paul is encouraging his son in the faith to keep the faith and realize that his relationship with Christ is the most important relationship that he can have. (Read Text)
In verse 16 Paul says that Christianity is worth the cost because God gives us grace for the disappointments of life
In vs. 16. Paul says, “The
first time I defended myself, no one helped me; everyone left me. May they be forgiven." Paul says, "No one came to my support, but everyone deserted me." Do you hear the disappointment in his words?
Now in other letters Paul mentions long lists of friends. So we know that there were those who could have given testimony as to his innocence. They could have stood beside him. They could have testified on his behalf, but for some reason, whether they were afraid for their own lives, or whatever, they simply weren’t there. And we hear his disappointment. "No one came," he said, "everyone deserted me."
Now how do you handle that kind of disappointment and heartache? Notice how Paul handled it, and how he had learned it ultimately from Jesus.
He prays, "
May it not be held against them." That’s an amazing attitude, isn’t it? But Paul didn’t come up with that idea on his own. He learned it years ago from Stephen while holding the coats of those who were stoning Stephen. When Stephen was dying, remember, he looked up at heaven and said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
And where did Stephen learn it? From Jesus hanging on the cross. Jesus looked down at those who had driven nails into his hands and feet, and those who were laughing and mocking and cursing Him, and He said, "
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
And the clear message is, when disappointments come, a Christian can forgive because we know what it’s like to be forgiven. If you don’t forgive, then bitterness begins to grow and sink its teeth deep into your life. It can eat you up.
Every one of us knows the sting of disappointment and the pain of having your heartbroken. Maybe it’s a spouse. You stood before your friends and family and God while you promised each other that you would always be faithful to one another, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. But then things went wrong. And the one you thought you could trust walked away, and your heart aches.
Or maybe it was a friend who promised always to be there and you could count on them. But when the chips were down, when the pressure was on, they didn’t want to be involved. So they walked away.
You know how I usually deal with such disappointments? I get angry. I seek revenge. I want to pay them back, to get even one way or another. But that’s not taking hold of what God has given us.
Dale Carnegie wrote, "When we hate our enemies we give them power over us - power over our sleep, our appetites, our happiness. They would dance with joy if they knew how much they were worrying us. Our hate is not hurting them at all, but it is turning our days and our nights into Turmoil."
That’s true when we harbor resentment, isn’t it? You see, the fruit of an unforgiving heart is bitterness. We become more and more bitter, and more and more angry, and the result is that we virtually destroy ourselves.
Christianity is worth the cost because when people disappoint us God gives us grace to face the disappointments of life so we can offer forgiveness.
Christianity is worth the cost because God gives us strength for the trials of life
Look in vs. 17. Paul says, "
But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it."
Notice what Paul says, "The Lord stood by my side." It means the Lord was there. "All my friends deserted me, but the Lord was right there by my side as I was going through this trial and He gave me strength."
Now let’s be careful to notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that the Lord saved Paul from the trial. That’s important for us to realize. You see, some people think that when we become Christians there will be no more trials in life, life will suddenly become all gumdrops and lollipops and everything will be wonderful. God will make us rich and successful and healthy, and nothing will go wrong from that moment on.
But the Bible never teaches that. God didn’t save Daniel from being thrown into the lion’s den, but He was with him and delivered him. He didn’t save the Hebrew children from being thrown into the fiery furnace, but He was in there with them and delivered them. He did not save David from the valley of the shadow of death, but He walked through that valley with him.
Christianity teaches that when we become a Christian that we will still experience the hardships and trials of life. As a matter of fact it’s taught over and over again in the Bible. Remember the Weeble principle found in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
God does not say that we won’t be hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down. What He says is that in those times we will not perish, He will make sure that we have the ability to move forward. That’s why Christians deal with tragedy better than people with no hope.
Christians get cancer. Christians die of heart attacks. Christians have automobile accidents. Christians lose jobs. Christians go broke. Christians die young. Christians experience heartache. Just like everybody else. There is no immunity. And maybe hardest of all, there are no explanations. Only this promise, found in Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isn’t that great?
God doesn’t say that we won’t pass through the waters, or that the rivers won’t overflow, or that the fires won’t come. But God says that when the floods come and when the flames of life lick at us, we will not be set ablaze or swept away because, "I will be there. I will never forsake you."
Finally we see that
Christianity is worth the cost because The Lord gives us hope for the end of life
Did you notice that Paul gives a reason for his hope. The hope that a Christian has is not a blind, pie in the sky type of hope. Not at all, look at why Paul says he has hope in verse 17 "I was delivered from the lion’s mouth."
Now since Paul was a Roman citizen we can be sure that Paul wasn’t talking about the lions in the arena where Christians were devoured. Rather he was probably talking about what Peter talks about when he says that Satan is a roaring lion, roaming about seeking whom he may devour. Maybe Paul is saying, "God has delivered me out of Satan’s power."
Satan may be the lion or prince of this world, but he is not the king. Jesus is still the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He rules.
Then in verse 18 Paul writes,
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Christianity works because the Lord gives us hope for the end of life. Our hope is not just some pipe dream. It is founded and grounded on the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus.
We have hope that as great as this world can be, it is nothing compared to the wonder and splendor of the home that Christ has gone to prepare for us with His father in heaven. This morning let’s close with one more passage found in John 14
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
We have hope because God has prepared a room for us in His Father’s house.
Questions To Consider
What was one of your biggest purchased disappointments?
In Luke 14:25-33 Jesus tells us that we need to count the cost of following Him. What are some of the costs that we must pay to follow Him?
Jesus says that we must hate our family in verse 26. What does He mean by hate? (The Greek word here is mise? [m?-se'-?] to detest, hatred, relative preference of one thing over another)
How do we carry a cross and follow Jesus?
When did you come to the realization that following Jesus was costly?
Look back to 2 Timothy 4:16-18
What type of feeling do you think Paul felt while he was in that prison cell?
What lesson can you draw from Paul’s remarks?
What assurances do we share with Paul?
How does Paul’s hope serve to inspire us today?