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A gain or a loss?

Weighing the costs and benefits of faith in Christ

by John Zuck

Following Jesus: We value wholehearted obedience to Christ Jesus through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

I remember expecting as a child that following Jesus would be costly. I’d need to turn my back on all that was fun and instead lead a hard life with many sacrifices involved. No wonder I struggled for years, counting the cost of receiving the “free” gift of salvation!

Eventually, I decided that, though it would be a great sacrifice, I would just grit my teeth, bite the bullet, and follow Jesus. But I discovered, as you likely have, that life in Christ does not doom us to lifelong misery and suffering. Jesus has offered joy, even in sorrow; peace in the midst of turmoil; fulfillment, even in frustration; and life with meaning and purpose in an aimless society.

Now, I admit, it has not always been easy or fun. And make no mistake: Many, many of our spiritual brothers and sisters have paid dearly for their decision to trust and obey. In fact, Christian evangelist Billy Graham equated Jesus’ charge for believers to “take up the cross and follow me” to “come, and bring your electric chair with you.”

Christ calls us to forsake our self-obsession and publicly bear the cross, even when it’s not to our advantage. And we’re to do this daily for the long haul of life!

This might sound like a terrible loss, but, in truth, it’s a gain. When we choose to die to ourselves, the empowering presence of the Spirit enables us to live beyond our greatest expectations.

As I have observed (for more decades than I care to admit), it’s better to follow Jesus than anyone or anything else, even in the midst of life’s most profound pain and sorrow. It really is, as Proverbs 13:15 says, the way of the unfaithful that is hard!

By learning to say “no” to our own plans, perceptions, and timing, we discover how to say “yes” to God, through whom we have everlasting life and a future with hope. The Apostle Paul explains this reality in Philippians 3 when he says, “Whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. [...] I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

This article originally appeared in the fall 2010 issue of In Part magazine.
John Zuck

John Zuck has served as bishop of the Great Lakes Conference since 2004. He and his wife, Connie, live in West Milton, Ohio, where he enjoys woodworking, gardening, and taxidermy. John is also known for his unusual hobby of driving north, following routes to their northernmost points.

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