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At A Cost - By Pastor Thomas Engel

Like most kids, my nine-year-old great-niece wants a hamster. So, my niece, trying to teach a lesson about responsibility, gave the usual talk about the daily feeding of the hamster and the weekly cleaning of the cage.

My niece also took my great-niece to the pet store for her to calculate the start-up and monthly costs of having a hamster and to see how those costs fit into the family budget.

For my nine-year-old great-niece, it is a good way to put those math skills to work and to begin seeing how if she wants one added thing, it might mean settling for the loss of something else.

I am for families to have some kind of pet, depending on allergies and city ordinances, from a goldfish to a Shetland pony. Having a pet not only gives companionship but also teaches responsibility.

Taking care of a pet is just the beginning of a life-long lesson on how everything that we have that is worthwhile comes at a cost.

Taking a leap here, let’s go from childhood to adulthood where we get much deeper lessons about how the good things in life come at a cost.

In 1940, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England, Germany had just invaded Poland, and the war was starting. Churchill in a speech said these now-famous words, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

This quote brings to mind other famous words of one of our Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry, who said these well-known words, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I can just wonder how Churchill and Henry with those words would do as politicians in today’s climate, or even John F. Kennedy with his inaugural speech when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country.” In 1960, Kennedy barely won the election, but after those words, his popularity soared.

The exhortations from these famous speeches challenged people to make changes for the good at the expense of individual sacrifice. We want changes today, and rightly so, for every generation as it moves forward needs to make changes for a better world.

Patrick Henry also said these words, “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.

As I look at this quote, the strongest words are “For my part....” Henry is looking at himself and at what he needed to do for the cause of freedom. If the truth be told that freedom could only come at a high cost, he was willing to provide for it, even if that cost meant his own pain and suffering, and even more, the giving of his own life.

Knowing that good comes at an often painful cost is a hard lesson of life. To be sure, pain is not good, but from anguish, sorrow, and heartache, good things can come.

Since this lesson of the cost of a good is a hard but also essential for moving forward to a better life, let’s take a look at some places in Scripture where we see God trying to bring good to people through some hard times.

In the Old Testament, we sorrowfully see too often the unfaithfulness of God’s people. God wanted them to return to His own goodwill for them, but they often disobeyed Him.

God sends prophets to warn them to return to Him. If they do not return, they will see and feel His judgment.

To illustrate this time of judgment, we can look at when God gave His own people over to their enemy, Babylon. God sends His prophet Jeremiah to warn them of some really tough stuff that will be coming their way like war, pestilence, and famine.

But another prophet, Hanniah, says that things are not so bad and that the people can expect a big turnaround soon for better times.

Wanting the people to know the truth, Jeremiah does not call Hanniah a false prophet; instead, he is willing to see what happens. Jeremiah knows that peace is going to come, but it will take a lot longer than what Hanniah says. Jeremiah warns that the people better “buckle down” because tough times are coming.

I have a question for you. It is a kind of bad news or good news type of question. When there is bad news, do you want it “sugar-coated,” or do you want the news with the full weight of its severity?

Going back to the quote of Patrick Henry, he wanted the news for all it was, so he could face it with all that he had.

Scripture has some more places where there is some tough news. When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to suffer and die, Peter said that it should never happen. Jesus responded with a strong rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Jesus’ answer seems like a strong response to Peter, one of his most passionate disciples. But Peter still was not getting God’s plan to save the world from sin. Unwittingly, Peter was speaking for Satan. The last thing that Satan wanted Jesus to do was to suffer and die because he knew Jesus’ death on the cross would defeat him and everything that was evil.

Peter was thinking in a worldly way. To his credit, he did not want to lose Jesus, his friend, and Lord. But, in his knee-jerk reaction to Jesus’ news of his coming death, he lost the basic life lesson that things of value come at a cost.

As much as this world is having a tumultuous time, and as much as we should have concern for it, we have to be careful not to get caught up in it.

Like Peter, we can lose sight of God’s plan for the world. It is not that we are to idly sit and not be active in trying to help in the struggles that this world is having, but we have to be sure that we do not let the troubles of our lives and the world take away the peace and the joy that we have in Christ.

Any worldly matter is answered when we first are seeking what God has for us. And what we first receive from God is our salvation. The lasting peace and joy of our salvation are in every situation. If we do not have this peace and joy in this day, we are not valuing the high cost that it took to come to us.

In our confession of sins, we say from 1 John: 8, “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This news is hard to hear that we are sinners, but as we face this news, we go on to say the next verse, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God so loves us that He was willing to give His very own Son, Jesus. In taking the punishment for our sins by suffering and dying on the cross, we have forgiveness of every sin and the gift of eternal life.

The cost of our salvation comes all from Jesus, for he alone has paid the penalty with his own innocent life. Although we receive what Christ has done for us as a gift, the cost of having this gift as Jesus’ disciples is high for us.

Peter and the other disciples did not at first fully “get” God’s plan for the salvation of souls, but they did eventually did come to deeply believe and went out to proclaim the Gospel to the world, even at the expense of suffering persecution.

We are to share the good news of our salvation with others. It would seem that all people would want to have this free gift of eternal life, and some do want this good news for themselves. But, others will hate us for sharing the message of the Gospel. Jesus says that these people might even be in your own family.

So, sharing this news might come at a cost to us, but telling others is what we do because it is God’s will for all to be saved.

In a world of so many voices of so many causes, which is okay, but as people of faith, we are to be sure not to get distracted from our main purpose to share the Good News of salvation in Christ. This sharing of this Good News may come at a cost to us, but we know it is all well worth whatever the cost it is as we see the end results in Revelations 7:9-10 where John says:

“After this, I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

As citizens of a free country, we are blessed to have a voice in how our country moves forward to make a better place for all to live.

It seems like talking about any historic person is controversial these days, but I will take a chance here and keep talking about Patrick Henry. In the research I did about him, it did say he was a Christian. Maybe in knowing how his salvation came at a cost, he exclaimed those inspiring words about “Liberty” and “Death” when it came to a country’s freedom.

And this country did get liberty but at the cost of many lives.

Everything good comes at a cost-sometimes an extreme cost-like the giving of ones’ own life. For the best of what we have-our salvation-and lasting peace for now and forever-Jesus gave his life.

So, in turn, we, in these days, making this our first duty and not counting the cost, proclaim God’s will for people that they should come to Christ and receive salvation of their souls and the peace that can only come from that salvation.

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