I’m reading “Something Needs to Change” by David Platt. It was just released and, from what I have heard, all the proceeds from the sale of this book is going toward Great Commission initiatives focused on reaching the most unreached peoples.
I was asked the other day if this book is similar to Platt’s well known book “Radical” (also a great book). My answer is Yes and No. It has been a while since I read Radical but I will say that it’s in the same genre yet still different.
A little background on me. I’ve been a missionary for 19 years. I have seen God do incredible things over these years, things only He can do. I just had a front row seat. I witnessed first hand a whole church in Asia establish in less than 10 days with 19 new believers that none on my team planned for or ever expected to see happen on that particular trip. I’ve seen poverty and homelessness like I’ve never seen in the USA. I’ve sat next to demon possessed people and I once walked right past a man in Asia who looked like he had the devil in his eyes (literally). Looking into his eyes, I felt every hair on my body stand straight up. I was part of a small team of men who launched an international church in Asia that continues to thrive. So yes, I've seen God do incredible things but I haven’t seen it all on the mission field, not even close. I mention all this because while Platt’s book is not the Bible (not even close), God is rocking my missionary world as I read it. In fact, I just read a portion and had to jot down my thoughts so I thought I'd share them with you.
Platt writes on page 147 of his book, “I praise God that I was born into a family where I’ve heard the Gospel since the day I was born. I praise God for parents, friends, and a church who have loved and cared for me so that it didn’t cost me my life or possessions to follow Jesus. But if I stop there and keep my life and possessions for myself, then I need to ask the question, Am I really following Jesus?” These are his thoughts as he considers what he is encountering in South Asia while simultaneously reading Luke 14:25-33. If you ask me, I think his thoughts are spot on.
Jesus is telling the crowd around him that they must deny themselves to the core for God’s glory…PERIOD! Jesus specifically says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and ever his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (ESV).
Whoa! Hold on Steve. Jesus isn’t telling us to hate anyone is He? Absolutely not! That would go against the second greatest commandment He gave us to obey. But Jesus is neither telling us to put God first and everyone else 2nd, 3rd and so forth as if we divide our time each day into categories. NO! Jesus is telling us that we must give ALL to God.
This means we must be willing to leave our family circles and go to those who desperately need Gospel access even if it means battling our emotions. Let's face it, we will miss parents, grandparents, sibling and even our grandchildren because we moved far away from them for the sake of the Gospel. For some of us, this means leaving a middle or upper class suburbia neighborhood and spending time in low income neighborhoods working to meet needs and present the Gospel. This absolutely could mean that we send our young, our best and ourselves, along with our families in tow, to places where sharing the Gospel might get us, our family or our friends killed because we opened our mouths to share the Gospel. This means giving sacrificially of our time, money, resources and even traveling to communities and countries very different than our own to ensure people do not enter eternity never hearing the Gospel because we refused to go to them out of fear, discomfort, an unwillingness to sacrifice the American Dream or simply missing our families.
Something Platt said about himself that is also true about me and many others in similar positions is that we are asking people to do something for God’s Kingdom that could cause them to loose their lives, cause others to lose their lives because of our decisions, and cause everyone to be uncomfortable. I’m not talking about the level of discomfort we experience when we lose our electricity momentarily. I’m talking about extreme discomfort. Living in a place that is radically different from our own that forces us to learn a new language, eat strange foods and live a life that can cause anyone to give up and return home because it’s simply too difficult in the early years on the field. Yet, I fear that many in the West have taken Luke 14 and twisted it to a point that we have changed it’s meaning (not that anyone can change God’s Word). We’ve re-calibrated the meaning to ensure it’s fits into our own national, social and political ideology that ensures our personal comfort, health and safety.
Jesus has never called us to or promised us comfort or safety nor has He ever guaranteed a particular lifestyle or asked us to give sacrificially but not too sacrificially. Following Jesus will lead to discomfort. I promise you that. It will not always lead to our death but it will lead to troubles. Yes, following Jesus will give us the greatest joy we could ever experience but it's not all about joy and happiness. Jesus promised us in Matthew 10:22 that if we follow Him, we will be hated. When we are hated, people will do bad stuff to us. That’s the real Christian reality because serious spiritual warfare is guaranteed. But regardless of all the so called bad things we might encounter, Jesus is worth it. His glory is worth it.
He calls us to follow Him in this way because He knows that by following Him, we are living the best life on earth. This is not the pseudo best life that certain preachers write and talk about. It is the best life God designed for us. Even if this best life includes the worst case scenario in our mind, like the death of our kids or spouse or even ourself. Let's think about it. The best life God desires for us is ultimately with Him in His presence. Isn’t that what we all desire? I know we say it, but do we mean it? Following Jesus is not about getting into heaven while escaping hell. It’s about worshiping God, being with God and living for Him. If we mean it then why do so many Christians appear to seek to preserve their earthly life as long as possible only to ignore the calls of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations?
Let’s remember that Jesus is worth any and every sacrifice we make. He’s worth every sacrifice our kids make or grandparents make or anyone makes for His glory. Why? Because Jesus alone is worthy of our worship. He's worthy and He deserves it. Jesus alone alone is who we live for. It is for Jesus that we do, go and give anything and everything for.
In closing, let me end with this quote by my pastor Richard Smith at HopePoint.org that he shared few weeks ago. “Does following Jesus cost you anything? Something’s wrong if it doesn’t.”