WHAT COST HAVE YOU PAID?
"I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing" (2 Sam. 24:24)
What a saturated sermon David preaches to us in this statement! David wanted to build an altar and offer burnt offerings to God. God graciously provided a man who willingly gave his land and oxen and firewood free. But, this man of God did not immediately salute him and accept it as you or I would have done, but flatly refused it saying, "I will not give to God that which costs me nothing." He paid the price before he gave his gift to God.
The Lord is pleased with giving which costs us. But we would give, as long as it costs us nothing. If it looks costly, we think twice. No wonder, we don't make progress in our life. We are stale and stagnant without revival in our religion.
Take for example, the GIVING of money. The Lord was pleased with the widow's mite because it cost her her living; it cost her a meal; it cost her her children's satiated smile. Why was He not so happy about the rich folks, big though? It cost them nothing. When we give to the Lord, does it ever pinch us at the end of the month? Have we ever given so much that we suffered financially? Have we anytime not been able to buy fish or meat because we had to spend more for God? "Have we ever spent so much money for the poor that we had to go without our Christmas dress? Try to provide a meal for some beggars this birthday of yours and go without your birthday dinner. You will then know the perfect joy of giving and God will be pleased.
There will be no revival in giving if we are satisfied with what we do now. Simon gave a great dinner. But no word of commendation is recorded. The sinner woman came and broke a perfume bottle, and, to the jealousy of the host, Jesus went on enjoying the fragrance of it more than the flavour of the dishes. Why? Because He compared the quality-the one given at the cost of nothing, but the other cost the giver her future. That perfume bottle was supposed to be the dowry of a virgin. Who knows what dreams lay behind it? Mary might have lost a prospective proposal because she laid at the feet of the Lord her earnings of years of laborious service, that which she saved for her marriage. What virgin is there who would throw at the feet of the Lord that which makes her an attractive bride?
I was touched by a money order coupon in which a student had written, "Brother, I send you this two rupees by saving my bus fare by walking to school." The smile of God will rest on this boy forever, for the cost he paid for his gift.
How is it that what is impossible towards the Lord becomes possible towards the world? If we want to build a house or buy a car, we straightaway take a loan and get it. Then we cut down our expenses, even on food, and pay back the loan. May God bless us with such an experience with Him. Let us vow to the Lord, cut down our expenses and pay it off. The Lord is not pleased with the gifts of many of us because we give Him that which costs us nothing!
Has our HOLINESS cost us anything, or are we just practising a convenient holiness? Have we conveniently neglected costly obedience and given a nice covering of excuse? I know of people who have lost their jobs because they refused to bow down to the sinful demands of their authorities. Have we gained black marks for our practice of holiness? It may be that a pressing situation is prevailing in our family due to division of property. We may use two tools. We may either use threat, abuse and strife, and gain that bit of land or jewelry; or we may lose it to preserve our holiness. That is costly holiness. The Lord is pleased with it when we pay the price.
You can react to backbiting in two ways. You can be furious, boiling over and confronting the backbiter. You can meet all his contacts and justify yourself. Or you can keep quiet and allow your name to be defamed. That is costly holiness. The Lord is pleased with the latter. "Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?..He who swears to his own hurt and does not change." It is the kind of holiness that hurts you that pleases the Lord. Bye to our convenient, comfortable, casual holiness! Away with such a cheap religion. Let us be ready to pay the price for our holiness. Joseph paid in terms of prison sentence to preserve his holiness and earned the favour of God. The Lord is not pleased with the holiness of many of us because we try to be holy without any cost.
Has our SERVICE to God cost us something? Alas, we seek convenience in that too! No wonder, there is little fruit! Do you remember a day when you had to witness so many times that you developed a sore throat? On the other hand, we can quote so many occasions when we developed a sore throat after a celebration or a party, because of chatting and merrymaking through the night!
One day the Lord prompted me to talk to my neighbour in the train. I started my usual argument: "Lord, I really want to. But last time I did that, I lost my throat. Because, you see the train is so noisy." The Lord left me alone. Next time I was travelling in the same train with my husband. I was chatting, chatting and chatting from the start to the stop, forgetting that the same Lord was watching me! As I alighted, the Lord jokingly said, "Oh, you seem to do fine with all the din of the train." Oh, I was ashamed! How many lies we tell the Lord to cover our cowardice! How many times we cheat Him!
Has someone slapped us on our face for sharing the Gospel? The Lord had instructed us to turn the other cheek. When no one has slapped us on one cheek, where is the question of turning the other? Poor Jesus! He expected so much of us and taught us such high stuff. Paul says what he has written is just milk because we have not grown enough to eat meat, but to us even his milk seems stronger than meat! Beloved, let our preaching cost us something!
Have you ever got a cramp for walking to a village to preach the Gospel? Has it cost you some clothes? One missionary requested a few more sarees because she said her sarees were being torn by thorns when she walked through the forest-not to mention how much her skin and flesh were torn. Some of our missionaries have to change chappals every two months because of long walks and climbs. Have you a testimony like this? "Jesus therefore being WEARIED from His journey, sat thus by the well" (Jn. 4:6).
Practising The Gospel
Missionaries have died of malaria, yellow fever and dysentery. Many of them have buried their children on heathen soil with their own hands. What has it cost us to serve God? We keep praying, "Lord, raise missionaries for the land of India, somehow, Lord." One fine morning our son announces, "Mummy and Daddy, I have heard the call of God. I must go." What is our reaction? Do we expect the Lord to raise up missionaries out of thin air? Do we know what it cost God to save us from our sin? His only begotten Son!
Has preaching of the Gospel cost us our name? I have heard of George Verwer, the Founder-Director of Operation Mobilisation, that till today he is found distributing tracts in the streets of England. People think he is funny; some wonder, if his method is correct. But he has challenged my heart. It reminded me of David who danced before the Lord. It was alright for David to dance before the Lord when he was a shepherd boy. It cost him nothing then. But what a high cost he had to pay to dance as a king before his servants! The cost of decency and decorum! Did we not distribute tracts, or stand on street corners, or walk to villages, or stoop down to enter huts in the early days of our Christian life? What heights have we reached today that we consider tract distribution or personal soul-winning too low for us?
David was vile in his own eyes. But his wife Michal was high in her own estimate to dance before the Lord. She was blessed with the curse of barrenness! Beloved, some of us are barren because, we think, we are now too old (mature or high) to bring forth children. We expect our followers to do that and dandle grandchildren on our knees. Or, we put a velvet cloak to cover our sterility and say, "My ministry is teaching," or "I can give missionary challenge," or "I am working in the office," and so on. No. If you cannot count the souls you have won this year, you are barren. Something is grossly wrong with your spirituality. To your knees to locate the disease-please! Don't try to decorate your lethargy with beautiful words. One day God will expose all our false excuses. What pathetic religion!
Finally, let us search our PRAYER LIFE. We want to pray only when it is convenient. If the electricity fails, we want to postpone our prayer time because we cannot pray in the dingy room. It is always either too hot or too cold for us to pray. But it cost Jesus "great drops of blood." That costly prayer was answered with the salvation of mankind. It cost Him many nights of sleep. What has it cost us? No wonder, we experience no visitation from the Lord.
It cost Jacob his thigh. He wrestled all night and cried, "Unless you bless me, I will not let you go." He got what he wanted because he paid the price. Has our prayer caused us to limp the next day? Have we cried all night to the Lord to bless us with the gifts of the Spirit that the Lord could no more manage us that He blessed us with what we wanted and made us tired that we will leave Him alone? If He spoke a parable to tell us not to faint in prayer, that means fainting goes with prayer.
I heard of a man who tied a tuft of his hair to the roof which would jerk him awake if he slept and slumped in prayer. We have been caught sleeping many times for many reasons, but anytime for praying all night? Have we ever asked our friend to go away and come some other time because we were praying? It was always poor God who had to go away and come again some other time. We have taken leave for a wedding or an excursion trip. Have we taken a day off for prayer? Have we ever prayed overtime to get an extra spiritual blessing?
Have we ever suffered a headache for prolonged crying for souls? I believe David learnt the value of souls at the death of Absalom. Thousands perished in the war. But David did not cry. But when his own son perished, tears gushed out and his heart burst out automatically. I used to ask the Lord, "Lord, what were You praying all night? Tell me the truth, was it boring, or did You enjoy it? Did You not feel sleepy? Then, how did You go about preaching the next day?" His answer came in the most unexpected manner. Our daughter was afflicted with brain tumour. There she lay in front of me. Eyes sunken, sullen, still, groaning, dying. And there I was on my knees as never before, wide awake! "Now do you understand?," the Lord said."So many of My children are perishing all day. Can I get a wink of sleep?"Oh, that was a great and precious lesson for me. But I paid a costly price!(Our daughter was miraculously healed).
For worldly wisdom, we lean over heaps of books and burn the midnight oil. When we feel sleepy, we have a face wash and freshener. Inspection in the office means a cup of coffee and all night clearing up of pending work. But, as for prayer, the slightest feeling of sleep itself is enough to decide that we are too tired to pray! Have we no judgment? Let us not deceive ourselves.
We are using blunt knives on sheep. Our time and energy are wasted. The sheep cry, scream, argue and run away. Try whetting the Sword in prayer and souls will be slain then and there for the Lord. Our ministry will come alive. Three times a day is the Scriptural plan for prayer. But we conveniently make it twice a day because we are "working" folk, and that too, short and sweet! "If I don't get a nap, I get a headache" is our lame excuse. Beloved, better to have a headache and a revival than no headache and no revival!
The prophet's complaint: "There is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You" (Isa. 64:7). The Lord does not need 10,000 people to stir up our country. He needs just one person who will stir himself up to take hold of Him to stir the nation.
How about FASTING? Does it cost us anything, or is it just a routine? The worldly people go on hunger strike to achieve their ends and even die in the process to get their demands. Wanted, hunger strikers to get God moving!
God is not pleased with our religion which costs us nothing. It cost the apostles their lives. It cost the disciples their home and country. It cost Paul his fame, name, education, decency and everything. How about us? We throw the Lord some biscuits and expect Him to come after us. We say indirectly, "Lord, here is 50 rupees. Do Your work." "Lord, I have given him a tract, save him." "I have prayed half hour, fulfil this." "I forgo a meal, give this." "I have stopped going to cinema, take me to heaven."
Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Are only these His doings? No, Never! The Spirit is not a breeze, He is a mighty rushing wind. The Spirit is not a spark, He is cloven tongues of fire. The Spirit is not a whisper, but a sudden sound. He is not a drop, but a shower! It is our religion that is straitened. Expand it, lengthen it, broaden it, deepen it. Add and multiply. True Christianity demands blood and sweat and tears and all that kind of stuff. Can we pay?