Let’s talk about fear for a minute, deep, paralyzing fear. I’m not talking about the kind of fear that makes you cover your eyes in the scary parts of the horror movie. Some time I must tell you about Ervin Smith. He was sitting beside me when we were both little boys, watching this old time horror movie when suddenly the scary part came. The next thing I knew Ervin wasn’t there anymore. He had run up the aisle to the lobby in less time than it takes to tell it. I’m not talking about the kind of healthy fear that sends the adrenalin pumping through your blood and prepares you to remove yourself from the danger, fast.
I’m talking about the kind of fear that lies there in the pit of your stomach day and night and gnaws at your life and saps your strength like a cancer. What makes people afraid like that? The fear of losing something or someone valuable to them. For example, money. Money has power and I mean more than purchasing power. Money has the power to make us afraid. If we have grown up where there wasn’t enough of it we may be afraid that there won’t be enough again. The other day I heard a financial advisor talking about security. He said that he advised people not to figure in Social Security benefits as they plan for their retirement for you never can tell. Now, I am counting on Social Security and that didn’t reassure me a bit. Money has the power to make people afraid.
There are other things that make us afraid. Two of us were discussing the other day, which is the dearest relationship, that between parent and child or between spouses? It probably depends on the circumstances and the individuals involved, but the loss of either can be a devastating event and thinking about that loss can make us afraid. The loss of a child can be so devastating that marriages sometimes don’t survive it, compounding the loss. People have been known to commit suicide over the fear of the loss of a parent or some other important person. It was that sort of fear that Jesus was talking about.
The Cost of Discipleship
25 Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus. He turned and told them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as his own life, he can’t be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t carry his cross and follow me can’t be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. He will first sit down and estimate the cost to see whether he has enough money to finish it, won’t he? 29 Otherwise, if he lays a foundation and can’t finish the building, everyone who watches will begin to ridicule him 30 and say, ‘This person started a building but couldn’t finish it.’
31 “Or suppose a king is going to war against another king. He will first sit down and consider whether with 10,000 men he can fight the one coming against him with 20,000 men, won’t he? 32 If he can’t, he will send a delegation to ask for terms of peace while the other king is still far away. 33 In the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.”
You heard what he said. He said unless you renounce everything you cannot be my disciple. There were all those people following him. He was at the height of his popularity, and he said to them, “Do you know what you are doing? Have you counted the cost?”
Let me tell you what I think he was saying to us. If your world is built around anything when it fails you, and it will fail you, then your world will collapse. It is not possible to store up enough money to be really secure, no matter what your financial advisor tells you. There is no human relationship that you will always be able to count on, for human relationships are always under the power of the grave. That’s what he meant in this apparently harsh statement about hating those important persons. To be a disciple of Jesus is to build your world around him knowing that he will never fail you.
Count the cost. What is the cost of discipleship? Trust in God. Trust in the God who gives you this day your daily bread. Trust in the God who snatched Jesus from the power of the grave. What do you have to lose? Your money? Fear, that deep, paralyzing fear that lies there in the pit of your stomach and won’t go away.
So, how do you renounce everything? It was just a little tiny crucifix, no bigger than that, Leona had been given it by her Czech grandmother. She was a Methodist and a crucifix shouldn’t have meant that much to her but it did. For some reason her family had just sort of melted away. They hadn’t died, her father and mother were still together, but in the years since she had been an adult she had found out what their relationship was really like. Now her father came to pour out his weakness to his daughter and it was often more than she could bear. All this time it was her grandmother who stood firm, but last year when she died it was as if her world had nothing left to hold it together. Lately she had carried that little crucifix around with her as if her life depended on it. But one day she came into my office. She held out her hand and said, “Here, give this to someone who needs it worse than I do.” You don’t ever have to be afraid of losing what you have given away.
This sermon was preached by Bill Crouch on September 7, 1986 at First United Methodist Church in Denton, Texas. If you would like to receive notifications of new posting to Rumors of Angels, you can subscribe to this blog in the upper right corner of this page