You will enjoy this excerpt from Ed Cyzewski’s new book entitled Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus. We encourage you to share it with your ministry team so that children grow in Christ-likeness.
Many of us think of Jesus as a nice guy who blesses children, pats lambs on their heads, serves up bread and fish for breakfast or dinner, takes quiet walks on the ocean and heals those who are sick. Jesus wants us to believe, to have eternal life, to be happy, to read our Bibles, to pray, to do good deeds and to spend time with other Christians. Fishermen find favor with the Son of God, sinners encounter a gentle Savior who carries them along the beach, and children always recognize Jesus in pictures because He’s wearing a white bathrobe and smiling.
And Jesus really is like that—well, to a certain degree.
It’s true, Jesus wants to bless us. He isn’t out to get us. Jesus reveals God the Father as a loving and compassionate Parent who cares for His children. That’s all true. However, it’s just not the whole flannelgraph.
While following Jesus brings unfathomable blessings and benefits, there is a very real surrender that must occur, a letting go of practices, possessions, goals—and even ourselves. There is a loss. When Jesus spoke of entering the kingdom of God, He was introducing a whole new way of life, a redefining of reality and a set of standards encompassing far more than attending synagogue once a week. It’s true that Jesus wants to be our Savior by welcoming us into His kingdom. However, when we enter His kingdom, we cannot challenge His role as King—Jesus is both Lord and Savior, and you can’t have one without the other.
This is where things get sticky for “followers” of Jesus today.
It’s tempting to reduce Christianity to a doctrine that followers believe. But this mindset completely fails to capture the full biblical picture of discipleship. Discipleship is defined as not only learning from a teacher and spreading his teachings, but also imitating this teacher’s way of life. When we sign on as disciples, we, like trusting lambs, expect everything in the pasture with the Good Shepherd to be peaceful and abundant. If peace and safety is what we expect, we won’t know how to process the dark nights of the soul or the material and relational costs of discipleship. Those who begin with faith must follow with faithfulness in good times and in bad.
We just don’t talk about it very often.
However, this isn’t fine print in the Bible. In fact, it’s often in “red letter” ink. It’s not tucked away in an appendix or hidden in an apocalyptic story about multi-headed beasts and dragons. The cost of following God is apparent throughout the Old Testament and continues right through the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus made it as plain as can be, and the rest of the Bible is in agreement: discipleship is difficult and sometimes hazardous.
Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” But let’s be honest: We tend to skip over these tough parts of following Jesus. Instead, we prefer to focus on the benefits of following God and the promises that God will always meet our needs.
How many followers of Jesus have a clear understanding of the costs from the outset? We want the joy, peace and assurance of a comforting Savior, forgetting that gaining what is most precious requires let- ting go of what is less important. In the meantime, letting go of the things in this world can be frightening and difficult. What’s more, having Jesus as Lord and Savior does not assure us of smooth sailing. In fact, if anything, having Jesus as Lord and Savior tends to assure us that we will not have smooth sailing. Instead, we are promised a competent captain who leads us through difficult storms.
Before I overstate my case, let me joyfully confess that following Jesus with all of its difficulties is still a wonderful “deal” for us—especially for us cost-benefit obsessed Americans. However, when we gloss over the costs, challenges and hazards of discipleship, we can make the mistake of assuming that God has failed us when times are difficult. We reduce the gospel to something it isn’t and miss out on the blessings and joy that come even in the hard times of taking up our crosses.
Jesus wants us to have eternal life and blessings, but following Him will require making sacrifices, taking leaps of faith and surrendering our plans to Him.
If we dare to say we are Jesus’ followers, we must take the full biblical picture of discipleship into account—looking at the stories in Scripture to see what it is to believe in and follow God. We must also examine the ways these stories of hazardous discipleship play out in everyday life and learn how to take practical steps forward each day as disciples.
DiscipleLand’s family of resources forms a comprehensive Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational discipleship process. Your children can achieve balanced growth in Bible knowledge, Christ-like character, and faithful conduct.
•Nursery curriculum (birth–age 3) includes everything your volunteers need to provide spiritual nourishment for your little lambs.
•Preschool children (ages 3–5) progress through Old and New Testament stories to discover God’s greatness and plan.
•Kindergarten kids (ages 5–6) overview the entire Bible and meet 48 different Bible personalities along the way.
•For the Elementary years (grades 1–6), choose from these options:
—Core Bible challenges children to become victorious disciples via 6 years of sequential Bible curriculum
—Adventure motivates kids to pursue their discipleship journey via essential Bible topics
—DiscipleTown equips kids with vital discipleship skills.
A step-by-step children’s ministry blueprint
The five steps outlined in this free download are designed to assist your ministry team as you plan, prepare, and implement successful ministries for kids in the church and at home. Your kids will reach their potential, rising above the challenges they face to become lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. Click here to receive this immediate and free resource.
Ed Cyzewski is the co-author of Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus and author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life. Used with permission.