Luke 14:25-33 records that Jesus made three statements and asked two questions about discipleship, effectively discouraging from following him any whose interest was in feasts but not faithfulness, in healing but not holiness and in miracles but not morals.
Jesus argued for careful consideration of the cost of discipleship…
“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?”
“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?”
Jesus asked, ‘Are you prepared for the cost? Are you prepared for the fight?’
John Calvin commented on these verses, “This doctrine reproves the rashness of those who foolishly proceed beyond their capacity, or flatter themselves without thinking of bearing the cross. Yet we must take care lest this meditation, to which Christ exhorts us, should fill us with alarm or retard our progress. Many persons, not having from the outset laid their account with suffering, relax their zeal through cowardice: for they cannot endure to be Christians on any other condition than that of being exempted from the cross. Others again, when a condition that is harsh and unpleasant to the flesh is proposed to them, do not venture to approach to Christ. But there is no good reason for being discouraged by a knowledge of our poverty, for the Lord grants to us seasonable aid. I readily acknowledge that, if we calculate the expense, we are all destitute of power to lay a single stone, or to wield a sword against the enemy. But as the materials, expense, arms, and forces, are supplied by the Lord out of heaven, no pretext on the score of difficulty can be offered by our indifference or sloth. The design of Christ, therefore, is to warn his followers to bear the cross, that they may prepare themselves with courage.’
A wonderful example of this attitude to discipleship comes from the autobiography of John G. Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides in the 19th Century. When a man confronted Paton with the prospect of being eaten by cannibals, he replied, ‘Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.’
Quoted from John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965, orig. 1889, 1891) page 56.
Would John Paton have answered so confidently and with such humor knowing that his wife and baby would die soon after their arrival in the islands? Perhaps that he did not know and yet survived that devastating loss, eventually to see the entire population of one island come to Christ, is evidence of that ‘seasonable aid’ which Calvin mentions and of that victory ‘at all costs’ which is the disciple’s goal..
‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.’ 1 John 5:1-5