Counting the Cost: A Worship Service Emphasizing Stewardship

February 27th, 2020

Prayer to Begin Worship

O Lord, Holy and Righteous God, as we come into the realm of this sacred sanctuary and its hallowed space, may we defer to your awesome character. It is you who formed us from the dust and it is to the dust that we shall return. While we are here on your verdant earth, let us be good stewards of the time you have granted us as stewards of your holy mystery. Make us a people who embrace Micah’s injunction: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Help us meet the demands of our lives with devotion to you. Grant us courage to live with joyful obedience such that we may harvest an inheritance of eternal life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

O God, our Heavenly Creator, we confess that we have lost our way. Too easily we are distracted from what really matters. In our better moments we recognize that life is better than death and love is superior to hate. Yet, far too often in the heat of the moment, we lose our heads—and perhaps worse—we lose our hearts. We do things and say things that betray our lack of faith and perhaps even our lack of emotional control. We each strive to control our life. We strive to make a name for ourselves. We make every effort to protect our loved ones and ourselves. We are well meaning, Lord, but sometimes we choose paths that lead us away from you. So today we acknowledge our sin and confess our shortcomings, and with humility we ask you to help us strive for the greater gifts and to show us a still more excellent way.

We want to be your people, but we are sometimes afraid of your demands. Our fears run deep and we cannot overcome them by ourselves. You know, O Lord, that we have tried. Remind us once again that the beginning of wisdom is to trust your holiness. Help us cling to this trust and live with the faith that you will provide for us. As we worship you in deep conviction, speak the words of comfort and hope to us once again. Empower us with the Holy Spirit that we may say with the Gospel writer, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Words of Assurance

The Lord of the Universe assures us that in our human lives before God we are to “first sit down and estimate the cost.” Be assured that our greatest possession—the only possession that we can never lose—is our possession of you, O God. We are God’s people. It is God who made us and we are God’s. “We are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture” (see Psalm 100:3). Thanks be to God. Amen.

Offertory Prayer

O God, we bring to you this day only that which you have first graciously entrusted to us. We dedicate these offerings for gospel work in this world that you created and have deemed to share with us. Bless those who receive and those who give these gifts. Amen.

Scripture: Luke 14:25-33

Sermon Brief: Count the Cost

One of the remarkable characteristics of our Lord was his insistence that those who follow him realize the cost. There was no diluting what it meant to accept him as Lord of life. In Jesus’ challenge to follow, he underscored with red and highlighted in bright color the hardships involved. His appeal for disciples was primarily directed to the few who would follow, not to the generalized multitudes. His concern was in quality, not quantity. How refreshing, for in many areas of Christendom today the opposite is true!

I. The Demand (v. 25)

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According to the text, “many multitudes” went with him. The word went means “to go along with.” There were great numbers of people who were “going along” with him, following on the basis of a mixed bag of motives. Some were sincere. Some were curious. Some were willing to enlist in the army of anyone who might “restore the kingdom to Israel.” The multitude felt no requirements and no demands in following the Messiah.

In an instant, Jesus burst their bubble of ease. He was on the way to Jerusalem. They thought he was on his way to worldly power, and they wanted to be a part of it. These messianic groupies had to make a decision: Would they be camp followers or devoted disciples?

II. The Devotion (v. 26)

In the vivid vocabulary of this ancient culture, Jesus says that those who would follow him must have a love for him that causes other loves to shrink in comparison. The strong word hate grates on our sensitivity. There were several meanings of this word in the day of Jesus. I believe the most applicable in Christ’s usage is this: compared to one’s devotion to Christ, all other devotions on any human level become secondary. Even one’s life must become subjugated to Jesus as one of his disciples. And life means one’s complete self.

Devotion to Jesus as one of his disciples means that there is absolutely nothing that comes between the follower and Jesus.

III. The Death (v. 27)

Taking up one’s cross means death to self rather than denial of self. The cross is an instrument of execution ending in death. Today, in our modern Christianity, we have equated the cross more with service than with sacrifice. Those who heard these startling words of Jesus knew without doubt that he was speaking of death. With no uncertainty, Jesus is calling the people to follow him even unto their deaths.

IV. The Dimensions (vv. 28-33)

In defining further the cost of discipleship, Jesus uses two parables as illustrations. The first is a builder who prepares to build a tower. The second is a warrior who prepares to go to battle. In each, the emphasis is on counting the cost.

The tower was probably to be constructed on the farm to protect crops and vineyards from animals that would destroy and from people who would steal. The intent was a positive one. What would be detrimental was to begin the building and not finish it. Beginning without adequate finances would cause derision and shame from neighbors. Such a monument to bad planning would stand as a poor witness to the builder’s ability to finish what he had begun. Jesus is focusing on the end of one’s journey with him as well as the beginning.

The warrior king wisely counted how many troops he had before going into battle with his enemy. With ten thousand men, how victorious could he be against an army of twenty thousand commanded by his enemy? Having counted the cost, he came to the conclusion that the better part of wisdom was not to go to war. He sought peace without the risk of battle. Jesus’ point in the parable was the necessity of counting the cost before enlisting in his army.

Verse 33 sums up this section with a call to “forsake all.” Are we willing to give up all that we are and all that we have to serve Christ? His call is for a willingness to surrender everything that would impede one’s total commitment to him. (John Lee Taylor)

Excerpted from Stewardship Services by David N. Mosser. Copyright © 2006 by Abingdon Press. Stewardship Services is part of the Just in Time series and is included with a subscription to Ministry Matters.

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