Chapter 1: the quest for fulfillment

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The cost

Though underemployment can be agonizing, the greatest horror is when the pain subsides. We begin to feel safe in our hole and imagine all sorts of horrors are poised to savage us should we step into the security of God’s will. Such fears are largely Satanic bluff,a doomed never to materialize.

Nonetheless, heaven’s assignments aren’t always a piece of angel cake. There are times when the only thing more frightening than doing the will of God is not doing his will. We have as Leader and Supreme Example, One who suffered immensely.b

When people came to Jesus desiring to serve him, you’d think he would have smothered them with praise. But he knew the human heart. His blunt response shocked would-be followers into a painful realization of the great cost involved.c ‘Sell all you have and give it to the poor.’d ‘Wild animals will better shelter than you’ll have if you follow me.’e

‘To serve me,’ he declared, ‘you must take up a cross.’f Two thousand years later, it is easy to romanticize that brutal statement. Carrying one’s cross involves nothing less than anguish and devastating humiliation. It is suffering inflicted as a direct result of serving God; torment you could avoid by compromise. Jesus wasn’t looking for adherents; he was looking for martyrs. He wanted not admirers but imitators – volunteers who could shoulder a gibbet of pain.g The person more concerned about his neck than the exaltation of God, is unworthy of ministry.h

Many are called, but few rise to the challenge. ‘Let me first establish my business.’ ‘Let me first raise my family.’ ‘Let me first . . .’ Not surprisingly, few are chosen.i

Those who shrink from hardship or danger shrivel up inside; dead, long before their hearts stop. Don’t throw your life away, enslaved by the allure of opulence; lazing while suffering humanity floods past your door. The easy path leads to destruction.j

How would you like the incomparable thrill of being greeted by the strains of native voices singing ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name’ on the very spot where twenty years before you had been driven off by a frenzy of spears aimed at your heart? Imagine savoring the ecstasy, the satisfaction, the triumph. That was George Grenfell’s reward for putting his life on the line; for boldly defying a hostile government; for suffering bereavement after bereavement until finally his young wife and four of his children were buried; for serving in a place so dangerous that three out of every four missionaries died before completing their first term.k

‘Count the cost,’ ordered Jesus, using parable after parable to hammer the point.l Will you pay the price and take the risks, or become a laughing stock, melting away when the heat is on?

The cost is exceeded only by the glory. So immense is the glory, in fact, that the cost fades, totally eclipsed by the reward.m

Why should serving God involve humiliation, hardship, and toil? ‘Writing is the work of a slave!’ lamented C. H. Spurgeon – the man who wrote 135 books, edited 28 others and whose 3,500 sermons were published as 75 additional books.151 Why must missionaries waste years wrestling with a language that God could miraculously impart to them? Why does uplifting music demand hours of irksome practice? Why do church floors get dirty? Why . . .? Because it frees us to express the depth of our devotion. Moreover, it’s the cost that produces the exhilaration, the fulfillment, the honor. Look at any field of endeavor: we admire heroic achievements; people who overcome the odds, who endure hardship and succeed where others would have slunk away. That’s the glory of Christ-likeness. There’s no honor in being swept along by a godless throng; no satisfaction in fleeing at the sight of a challenge; no glory in being dominated by fear or frozen by doubt. Limp-willed, lily-livered pretenders turn God’s stomach.a We either walk through the curtain of fear or end up a broken shell of the person we could have been. To choose the soft life is to turn our back on our bleeding Savior and lose ourselves in Satanic deception. It’s those who sow in tears who reap in joy;b those who endure who win the crown.c Insipid, half-hearted ‘Christianity’ is sickening to God, the world and the devil.

That’s not for you. You belong in heaven’s hall of fame. You were born with the desire for it; born-again with the power for it. You were made for daring persistence, stunning triumphs, awe-inspiring excellence. While others wallow in the mud of mediocrity, sentenced to eternal obscurity by their half-heartedness, you’re changing the face of the planet, bringing honor to the One who redeemed you.

If you’re crazy, they say you ought to be committed. I reckon if you’re not committed, you’re crazy.

Fired by the love of God, live life to the full.

Christ’s Champions

In a heart-stopping display of skill, Blondin pushed a wheel-barrow along a tight-rope over Niagara Falls. ‘Who believes I could carry someone across the falls?’ he asked. The crowd went wild. Of course he could. So he asked for a volunteer.

Shocked silence.

Ministry is like that. Anyone can slip into Christ’s embrace and be carried to startling conquests, but when the call comes, knees begin to quake. The weakest saint who dares follow Christ will excel; the strongest who stays behind will be crushed.

There are many different callings, but no one is called to be a spectator. There is a cost and a degree of involvement in being a spectator, but higher things are expected of you.

Spectators pay at the gate. They have read their subject until they’re self-declared experts. They clap and cheer. They view the victory celebrations. But there’s seldom sweat on their brow. They know nothing about bruises and aching muscles. They are foreigners to the thrill of personal achievement, the exhilaration of record-breaking performances, the satisfaction of a job well done. Their greatest accomplishment is to guzzle a drink in the midst of a jostling crowd without spilling it. They are potential champions pouring their lives away; non-achievers who love their bed more than success.

There’s a world of difference between these Walter Mittys and players on the bench. Players kept in reserve are red hot in a tepid world. They don’t flinch at pain. They have toughened their minds and hardened their bodies; drilled to spring into action the instant they are needed. They are champions in the making.

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