Years ago, after making a budgetary change that resulted in our family having a few more dollars each month, I asked my wife what she wanted to do with the extra money. Without hesitation, she said, “Alaskan cruise!”. Years later, after saving up, we were able to treat ourselves for an anniversary, and visit that unique wilderness. (If you would like to get a sense for God’s creativity and power, that is a great land in which do to so.)
In the end, we had countless photographs, a few souvenirs, and a lot of memories. We had spent some money to do so, but I don’t think that my wife or I would have traded that time for a nicer car, nor an equivalent amount of fancy dinners. There was a choice involved, and the money spent on the trip could have been used elsewhere, but it was worth it!
Have a look at this passage from when Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew:
Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
Matthew 4:20 NASB
We may have heard this verse before, but it is easy to overlook the choice that had to be made, here. While it was certainly an honor to be called as a follower of a rabbi in that culture, leaving one’s nets meant leaving an occupation – a source of income and security. While Jesus’ disciples still fished in the future, they walked away from their vocation that day, and ended up sacrificing much more than just some earnings in order to remain faithful to that choice.
Shortly thereafter, Jesus called two more brothers:
Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Matthew 4:22 NASB
James and John not only left their boat, but their father as well. Today, even some of those those who strike out and make a major career change will still seek to remain close to family. (And, that’s a great thing, especially when one’s family can provide wisdom, emotional support, and even the occasional child care.) However, there are times when it is necessary to take a different path to follow the call of God.
Life with Jesus would prove to have its ups and downs for His disciples. I’m sure that there were a lot of good times, and plenty of good food. Over the years, though, the cost of following Jesus included persecution, hardship, and – for most of them – martyrdom.
Still, these four men, along with many others, followed Jesus to the end of their lives. They had learned that Jesus was more than “just” a rabbi. He was the Son of God, and the promised Savior of the world. They found that selflessly loving others, and sharing the message that Jesus had given them, was more rewarding than living for themselves. In the end, their reward – both in this life and in eternity – was worth far more than the accumulated cost of every challenge that they had faced.
We are not all fishermen. We don’t all live next to the ocean. However, we are all invited to follow Jesus. When we do, though, following Jesus means leaving something behind. It may involve sacrificing our pride, and exaltation of ourselves. It may require us to set aside sinful behavior, whose excitement lasts only for a moment. It might even result in us giving what we have to others, to show them love like Jesus has shown us.
Still, it is worth it. There is no greater purpose than living according to how we were created. There is no greater mission for us than the one that Jesus gave. There is no greater accomplishment we can aspire to, compared to hearing God tell us, “Well done”.
Walking in the steps of Jesus isn’t free, but it is most definitely worth it. Like a great treasure discovered in a field, the reward of a life well-spent for Him is worth whatever it may cost us to take hold of it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46 NASB