It Costs too Much to be a Christian

My father worked in the agronomy department at NDSU in Fargo.  He often brought home international students that he had met there.  One of those couples was from Taiwan.  Over the months and years that followed they came often for meals and holidays.  My parents became their “American family”.  They were a delightful couple that treated my parents with great respect and love.  My parents made an effort to not only share their lives with them, but to introduce them to their God as well.  The young couple listened politely and respectfully, but did not seriously consider accepting this “new religion”.  That is until the husband, Lee, became sick with encephalitis.  His condition worsened and he was hospitalized.  When he didn’t improve Jan, his wife, called my dad and asked him to come.  When he arrived she begged him to pray that her husband would live and not die.  She promised that if he lived they would both become Christians.  She was desperate.  Here she was in a foreign country and her only family member was near death.

I don’t know all that was said, but I know my father prayed with them and for them.  Lee improved and turned a corner.  It was a long struggle, but he eventually was brought back to health.  They were both grateful and thankful, but a curious thing happened.  They didn’t become Christians.  They talked about it with my parents.  They struggled with the decision.  They knew what they had promised to do, but they just couldn’t commit.  Finally, they spoke honestly and openly about the situation.  Following is a paraphrase of their words.

“You don’t understand what it would cost us to become Christians.  We would have to go against our family.  Our family would disown us.  We would have to give up everything to become Christians.  It is easy for you to be a Christian.  It is part of your culture and way of life.”

Therein lies the problem of most American Christians.  The problem isn’t that it is too hard.  The problem is that it is too easy.  It is very easy in our culture to call yourself a Christian.  Unfortunately to call yourself a Christian is not the same thing as being one.  It isn’t a life changing decision.  It is the accepted decision.  It hasn’t cost us much, if anything, and our life goes on as it has before.  We are a Christian just as much as it is convenient.  Don’t get me wrong.  Salvation is always of grace.  It is all of God and none of us.  We don’t earn our way to heaven.  But a changed mindset and life should be the indications of an inward work that God has accomplished.  if we can’t be bothered to live our lives all out for God  has there really been a change?  Are we following Christ or our peer group and culture?

As far as I know Lee and Jan never became Christians.  They counted the cost and decided it cost too much.  As our society becomes less and less Christian friendly I wonder how many professed Christians will walk away from the faith.  How full will our churches continue to be when persecution comes?

What has it cost you to follow Christ?  How is your life different because of that decision?  Are you following out of convenience or conviction?

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,”  Philippians 3:7-9 (NASB)

(Originally posted May 8, 2014)

Feasting on Crumbs

I’ve been thinking about my friend, Sharon the last few weeks. We had been friends since college in North Dakota. We had cried together and laughed much.

She moved to West Virginia. I moved to Wisconsin.

A couple of years after her third baby was born, she was diagnosed with cancer. We kept in contact over the phone and I would meet her in Zion, Illinois when she went there for treatments. She died much too soon after various surgeries and treatments. She left behind a husband and 3 boys. The youngest only 4.

One of the last times I talked to her on the phone she said, “thank you for the crumbs.”

She explained, “Every day I ask God for crumbs to get me through the day. He knows I can’t eat a big meal but need to survive on crumbs.” She related how every day she watches carefully for the crumbs God would provide. She looked forward to each one knowing they came from her Father’s hand.

I thought back to when I had visited her in the hospital. As we talked first one fellow patient, and then another would wander into her room. I watched as she greeted them with a smile and asked if they wanted to pray with her. Turns out this was a regular occurrence. This mild-mannered North Dakota farm girl was impacting dozens of people.

As I watched her live each day, knowing her time was short, I was amazed at the grace God gave her.

She was learning that the most valuable thing in her life was the moment by moment presence and provision of the God who loved her. He was walking with her through the darkness that was enveloping her. She was learning to let go of her children, her husband, her family and friends. She was drawn ever closer to her God.

So, today, we can look for crumbs…knowing that our God is carefully laying them out for us to find.

Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”