So, I warned you that the first half of the afternoon was going to be a little bit of a "squirm-on." It was going to make you uncomfortable, and it did. You could kind of feel the discomfort in the room.
At this point, you might be thinking that living a "sent" life just isn't for you, and I think that's fair. And I think Jesus would say that's fair. In fact, that's why Jesus encourages us to count the cost. If you've got your Bibles, go to Luke 14:25-33. I'm going to read it to you quickly:
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. [Jesus, the original preacher of squirm-ons!]
"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'
"Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (ESV)
If you want to live a safe life, you cannot live a sent life . God doesn't sugar coat it; there's no "bait and switch" here. He clearly tells us what He's calling us to do-to deny everything that we love, everything that matters to us if that's necessary-to take up our cross-otherwise we can't be His disciple.
"But, wait!" he says. "You should count the cost. Don't be like a builder who goes to build a tower and says, 'I think I'll throw a couple of two-by-fours here, and a little concrete here, and . . . oops, I ran out of money. It looks terrible!' And everybody makes fun of him for it."
Then He gives the example of a king with another king is coming at him. He says, "You need to figure out how many troops he has and how many troops you have, and if you're outnumbered two-to-one, then you send a peace delegation . . . because you've counted the cost of the war, and the odds are not in your favor."
So, if you're wrestling with this idea of fruitfulness and the Great Commission, and living "sent," and changing the world, there's no guilt in that. I don't think Jesus would guilt you. He would say, "Good, girl! Count the cost. Because otherwise you're going to get halfway through this thing-halfway through this project of making things for the homeless, halfway through this project of starting a neighborhood prayer group-and you didn't count the cost; you just got jazzed up. You half-finished it, and it didn't help Me."
He doesn't want us to be builders without a plan. He doesn't want us to be warriors without a strategy. He does not trick us, but make no mistake- He does want us to be builders, and He does want us to be warriors. He just wants us to count the cost.
To help you wrap your brain around what that might look like, let's look at the life of Elisha. Elisha was a loser-one of my favorite losers of all time. My oldest son is named after him (that's a long story for a different day that I won't tell you here). I want you to get that Elisha makes being a loser look pretty cool.
Turn in your Old Testament to 1 Kings. (Listen, sometimes when you're in a group like this and can't find the passage and you get embarrassed, just use your Table of Contents. There's no shame in the Table of Contents! First Kings is right before 2 Kings, so . . . it's kind of easy.)
First Kings 19:19-21. Does somebody want to read it loud and proud? Right there. That sweet thing (that just raised her hand) went to Africa this summer and dug wells. Cool, right? [applause] You're a tiny little thing! Can you read loud and proud? Okay-go!
So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you."
And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?" So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen's equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant. (NKJV)
Very good! You can do loud and proud. Nice!
Okay, I know you're like, "What's going on?" I'm not sure if God did the Elijah/Elisha thing just to mess up all Bible study people for all of time. But there are two guys: Eli-jah and Eli-sha. One of them is plowing and the other one comes up and talks to him, and he boils the flesh of his oxen.
You're like, "What's going on?" Did you know that the Bible says that, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful" for our instruction (2 Tim. 3:16 NIV), so every word of it has something to say to us. This story is a jewel! We could just mine this story, and mine this story, and mine this story. It's useful as we're talking about living a sent life.
Let me give you a little bit of the backstory. Elijah was a powerful prophet. The calling that God put on his life was to preach against the false gods in his nation. Elijah's mission was to call people back to a pure worship of God. Elijah is the one who called down fire from heaven.
Elijah is the one who didn't die; he was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. I mean, this dude is awesome! He sees some awesome stuff; he lives a crazy sent life. But in 1 Kings 19, just a little bit before this, Elijah has a little nervous breakdown. He gets super stressed out because of the cost (because there's always a cost).
The leaders of his nation wanted to kill him because of his preaching, and so Elijah vented all of that out to God. And God's response was to tell him to anoint Elisha as his successor, and that's where we pick things up. Elisha is out in the field plowing, and Elijah comes and throws his cloak over him and keeps walking.
I don't know what that is-I think it's like a Jedi, "The force is with you"-some sort of a Jedi-type trick (laughter). Suddenly, Elisha's just plowing, and all of a sudden he knows. God wants him to change the world! His mission becomes super clear. How did he respond? Let's go back to verse 20.
"And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, 'Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.'" Then he destroyed the oxen, and he headed off into a sent life. He didn't hesitate; he didn't play Twenty Questions with Elijah to try and figure out all the details.
All of you control freaks, c'mon, I'm talkin' to you right here! He didn't do a risk assessment. He didn't say, "I'm too young." He kissed his old life "good-bye" and watched it burn. That's what the Bible says. He kissed his parents good-bye, he burned his oxen and his plow, and he said, "Yes, Lord!"
Elisha chose to live a sent life. So did Abraham, so did Noah, so did Moses, so did all twelve of the disciples. But here's the million-dollar question: "Why should we? Why should we choose to live a sent life?" Why should you as young women choose to live any differently than you did on the Thursday before you came here?
I know it's a little weird to have a fishing theme at a girls' event, but we're going to have to head back into the fishing boat where we've been hanging out for the past hour or so in order to understand the answer to that question. Go back with me to Matthew 4, to the right, at the beginning of your New Testament. (If it helps at all, it's on page 1141 in my Bible.)
Remember this story? The two sets of brothers are fishing, and Jesus appears and He says, "Follow me." The Bible says immediately they left their nets and their fish and their dad and followed Him. Would you describe these disciples as hot, cold, or lukewarm? (Not "hot" as in, "Ooh, they're hot!" because you can't see them there-they're Nazarene.)
Cold? They weren't anti-God. Lukewarm? No, they weren't ambivalent toward God. They were hot, right? They were fired up; they were willing to do what God asked them to do. So we can read that story and think, Yeah. I want to be like that! So why are we more like the church that we read about in Revelation?
The reason that lukewarm Christianity is so tempting is because it requires so little from us. To keep a cup of water lukewarm, you do nothing. You just sit it on the counter, and it's lukewarm. If you want hot water you have to add heat; if you want cold water, you add ice.
If you want the water to stay hot, you have to keep adding heat. If you want it to stay cold, you have to keep adding ice. It requires effort! If you want it to stay lukewarm, you don't have to do a thing! Lukewarm Christianity requires no time, no effort, no energy, no sacrifice-and I understand, that sounds pretty appealing sometimes, to me, too.
It kind of sounds like a vacation: "I could be a lukewarm Christian, and it would be just like laying on the beach! God wouldn't require anything of me." But we need to think about what's really at stake, because it's not like a vacation.
Peter, James, John, and Andrew are fishing, and Jesus appears on the shore and says, "Follow me." What if, instead of jumping out of the boat like the Bible says, what if they dragged their feet? What if they looked at their "iStuff" and pretended it was really important?
What if they decided, "Yeah, I am going to do that. I am going to follow Him because He's going to do something big. But I'm going to do that someday, because right now I need to do this." What if they said they were too young? What if they said they were too old? What if they decided they were going to follow Jesus when they stopped sinning?
What if they decided they were going to wait until they knew the Bible frontwards and backwards? What if they decided they were going to wait 'til their schedule cleared up-because they're really busy right now. What if they decided to talk about it with fifty-two of their closest friends first?
What if they decided to post it on Facebook to see if anybody "liked" it and responded to it? (I know there wasn't any Facebook, but you know, I'm drawing some parallels here.)
What would happen if by the time they decided to obey, Jesus would no longer be standing on the beach .
Think about what would have happened if Moses would have responded with a, "Let me think about it," when God spoke to him out of a burning bush. What would have happened if Esther refused to believe that she had been raised up "for such a time as this?" What if Noah had waited to build the ark?
What if Paul had put off his missionary journeys until he had accomplished everything else he wanted to do in his life? What if, instead of saying "Not yet, Lord," the disciples had said, "No." What then ? What if you do count the cost of living a sent life and you say, "It's too much! You're asking too much of me. I can't do that." What then?
Well, in the disciples' case, their lives would have gone more smoothly-people might have made fun of them a little less. But on their best day (their best day!) all they would have to show for their lives would be a boatload of dead fish. Great day in the lives of these disciples, and all they would have to show for it would be nets full of dead fish. That's it. No lives changed, no earth-shaking mission, no intimacy with Jesus, just day after day after day of dead fish- comfortable dead fish. Fish they knew how to catch, fish they understood how to sell, fish that gave them a comfortable living. But for ten years or twenty years or thirty years-or a lifetime-day after day after day of dead fish.
What about Elisha? What if he said, "No, I've got some crops in the field, I've got a family." Modern translation, "No, I've got a plan for my life. I don't want to disappoint anyone. This is not what normal girls do (or guys, in Elisha's case). What would he have done with his life-day after day after day-year after year after year? He'd have looked at the backsides of oxen, day after day after day.
He'd plow the same rows, and he'd look at oxen's hind ends for his whole life. And you know what's funny? A lot of us are looking at an "ox's hind end." And you think, Well, I know this hind end, and I'm familiar with this hind end, and it's comfortable. Maybe this analogy's getting weird, but it's okay. "I want this because I'm afraid of a sent life." That's all Elisha would have had to show for it!
Your homework is to go home and read about what happened in Elisha's life. Crazy stuff! God used Elisha to do crazy, radical stuff. If Elijah had thrown his cloak over him and Elisha had said, "No! I want to live a safe life," all he would have done would have been to plow the same few rows his whole life.
If you want to live a safe life, you cannot live a sent life. Why should you say, "Yes, Lord?" A sweet girl came up to me during the break. Her family has a calling, and it's hard, and she doesn't want to do it. And I don't blame her. She's counting the cost, and she's saying, "Whoa. Whoa! That's a big cost!" But she's going to miss the greatest adventure of her life. She's just going to be a fish shuffler, an oxen chaser, if she doesn't do it.
Being a fish shuffler is a wasted life. So is being a sand-collector. There's a woman that I know who collects sand. She has jars of sands from probably hundreds of beaches: white sand, black sand, pink sand, coarse sand, fine sand. Her living room is full of these beautiful jars of sand.
But she lives right in the middle of Missouri, which is landlocked-smack dab in the middle of the United States. She's never seen the ocean with her own eyes-never been to the beach because the risks of traveling seem too great. She's too busy maintaining the status quo.
So she's content to look at sand through a glass jar. How many of you have ever been to the ocean? Oh, most of you! I got married barefoot on the beach at sunset. I know! Super romantic! And I looked . . . beautiful (just sayin')!
Okay, so let's just imagine that we girls are all going to the beach, right now, our first trip to Hawaii. We're all at the beach, and it's a perfect day-like eighty-five degrees-hot enough to warm us up. The water is warm, but we're not swimming. It's perfect! We're on the perfect beach! The sand is beautiful and the waves are crashing in, but they're not too big. There are seagulls. We all look fabulous in our bathing suits! So that's us. We're all on the beach. How does that compare to looking at sand in a jar? It's not even close! It's not even the same experience at all! It may cost you something to get there, but the benefit of digging your toes into the sand and experiencing the ocean that God created is worth it!
My family and I took a trip to Michigan this winter to see the frozen waves on Lake Michigan. It was a trip that cost us-it cost us money to get there, it was hard to pack the suitcases, it was a lot of time in the car, but it was worth it!
I'd seen pictures of the frozen waves on Lake Michigan, and they looked cool, but compared to actually walking out on Lake Michigan and seeing frozen waves taller than I was-those are two totally different things! A sideline mentality says, "I can't do something for God because there's a risk. When God says 'go' I say 'no' because I'm afraid. Instead of a sent life I'm going to live a safe life, because I've counted the cost, and the cost is too high."
The girls that I talked to for my book, they were stuck. They had a huge fear of loss, and it paralyzed them. What were they afraid of losing? Their friends, primarily.
Listen, friends are great. I like friends. But stop living your life to impress your friends. The Bible calls that a snare. They were afraid of losing their reputation, they were afraid of losing their comfort. They were afraid of losing their dreams, they were afraid of losing their plans for their life, they were afraid of losing the applause of man.
When we refuse to let God use us, it's like looking at sand in a jar; it's like shoveling dead fish day after day, like looking at the hind end of oxen year after year after year. We miss out on something so big and so powerful that-here's the interesting thing-we haven't missed out on losing at all. We've lost big time! We've lost our opportunity to be on the front lines.
So where are you today? Are you lukewarm? Content with the status quo? Are you still in the boat shuffling dead fish? Are you sand collecting, looking at the kingdom of God like sand in a jar thinking, That's really neat! See this little piece of it that I have? See this little piece of God's work I have in this little jar of sand? and missing out on the big picture.
I don't know what living a sent life means for you. I can't wait to read all of this because I want to know what your sent lives are going to look like. It doesn't all look like this. It doesn't look, necessarily, like what we do . I'm not sure who you're supposed to tell about Jesus, but I know that God's plan for you is to change the world.
Jesus wants me to change the world! Most of us will miss Him, standing on the beach. We'll stay in our boats and shuffle dead fish; we will keep farming the same rows year after year after year. Many will keep trying to get Jesus to follow them.
He'll say, "Follow Me, baby girl," and you'll say, "No, You follow me into my plans." But I'm hoping a few of you will be like Elisha-and Peter and James and John and Andrew and Esther and Moses and Noah and Mary Magdalene and Paul and on and on and on-the people who've said, "I've counted the cost, and it's high, but I've decided to live a sent life."
So it won't be everyone in this room, and that's okay. Don't let peer pressure pressure you at all. I would rather you would think this through and not respond. It would never, ever be easier to say, "I want to live a sent life," than it is here. This is about as easy as it gets.
I'm wondering if you say, "I want to change the world; I want to live out the Great Commission," if you'd do something really scary. I wonder if you would stand up on your chair-not yet-as an individual, not as a group and sing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."
This was not my idea. I was an event once, and the pastor gave that altar call, and you know when your heart starts going-and I knew the Lord wanted me to be first. I knew it as clearly as I know my own name; I was supposed to be first. I gripped my seat and I bowed my head, and I refused.
The room stayed silent. Finally, I sat up, but I still didn't do it, and the Lord was saying, "I want you to sing." And I wouldn't do it. And finally, I did this. [Erin sings the song very quietly, sounds like her mouth is closed, it's almost just a humming. Girls laugh.] Didn't do it.
Then all of a sudden, this woman stood up and just boldly sang, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." And you know what, it wasn't embarrassing. I was in awe of her. It was awesome! If I had that moment to do over again, I totally would, and I would stand up first.
If you want to live a sent life, don't wait for everybody else, don't sing it together. But if you've counted the cost and you're willing to live a sent life, I would just ask you to stand on your chair and sing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."