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Stephen R. Clark
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Oreland, Pennsylvania
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Delivered July, 1988 | Ecatapec, Mexico

The Cost & Rewards Of Commitment

When you make a commitment, there is always a price to pay and a reward to reap

In Philippians 3:7-12, Paul writes regarding himself: "But 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 consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 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. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." 

What is commitment? Some people think that a simple promise is the same as a commitment. But promises are broken every day. Some people think that if they merely express a willingness to do something, that that's the same as a commitment. Yet, while they say they are willing, they never do anything. Others believe that a commitment is something temporary. When it's no longer convenient, they withdraw their commitment and walk away. All of these ideas hold commitment as a being cheap and very easy to do as if there is no cost to commitment. And all of these ideas are wrong. 

Commitment without cost is not truly commitment. When you make a commitment, there is always a price to pay. Yet, there are also always rewards. For example, friendship is a commitment. When two people, because of common interests and other factors, are drawn together in friendship, they make a commitment to one another. The closer and more special the friendship, the deeper and costlier, the commitment. 

What's the cost of friendship? Well, a good friendship will cost you time, energy, effort, and maybe even sleep. More than once I've been awakened very late at night or early in the morning by a phone call from one of my friends who needed to talk. They needed counsel, prayer, and love right then. 

Do I mind these calls? No! I feel honored that they trusted me with their problems, and I'm glad to be a source of encouragement to them—whenever they need it! And what's the reward? When I'm in need of encouragement, counsel, and prayer at three o'clock in the morning—or whenever—I know my friends will be there for me. They'll be there to listen, to give me good advice, to comfort me when I need it, and to love me all the time. Marriage is another example of an even deeper, costlier, yet more rewarding commitment. 

So, commitment involves cost. It means giving ourselves to something or someone without thought of getting anything in return. Yet, it does involve a reward. As Christians, we're confronted with at least three kinds of commitment. 

Escaping the Grave 

First there is our initial commitment to the Lord. This is by far the most important commitment we'll ever make in our entire lives. Why is it necessary to make a commitment to Jesus Christ? In John 3:16 we read, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Did you know that if you don't have Jesus in your life, you're dead? We must commit to Christ so as to experience what Paul referred to as the resurrection from the dead. 

Sin is death. If we are not committed to Christ, we are by default committed to death, and our lives will be what described in Romans 3 as "open graves." There is no neutral ground. 

What are open graves full of? A horrible stench of decay, rotting flesh, maggots, and all manner of filth. Without Christ, we are spiritually dead, entrapped in the wickedness of sin, and condemned to eternal punishment in hell—unless we change our commitment from death to life, and say with Paul, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection." 

The reward of commitment to Christ is clear. But what about the cost? Listen to the words of Jesus Christ found in Matthew 16:24-26: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" 

Christ calls us to give our lives to Him completely. The cost of committing to Christ is giving up sin—giving up the things of the world that do not glorify God. Giving up things that will only lead us to eternal destruction and damnation. And in return, God gives to us freely eternal life, His everlasting love, His boundless grace. The cost to us is nothing compared to the price Christ paid. 

Christ made the ultimate commitment for us by dying on the cross that we might have forgiveness for our sins. How can it be too much to ask for us to put off sin, and put on Christ, and live our lives for His glory? It isn't too much to ask at all. It's the only reasonable thing to do! 

Coming Home Again 

A second kind of commitment we often face as Christians is a re-commitment, or a renewal of our commitment to the Lord. Often, when we first come to the Lord, we don't fully understand what is required of us. As we begin to get into God's Word more deeply, we may realize we haven't been taking our walk with Christ seriously enough, and need to renew and strengthen our determination to serve the Lord. 

Or, maybe we've allowed sin to remain or to come back into our lives, even after accepting Christ as Savior, and, as we are convicted by God's Holy Spirit, we are moved to confess our sinfulness, accept Christ's forgiveness, and reaffirm to God, to our church, and to ourselves our commitment to seriously serve Him. 

This happened to me in 1968 when I was 16 years old. I had grown up in church and had asked Jesus into my heart as a very young boy around 4 or 5 years old. I knew right from wrong, and I knew the Bible fairly well. I was blessed to have Christian parents, was surrounded by Christian friends and relatives, and was privileged to have as pastors some of the best Bible teachers I've ever heard. But, despite this ideal environment I was not totally sold out to Christ and held areas of my life to myself. I toyed with sin on the inside, while projecting an image of faith on the outside. 

In the summer of 1968, I served as a counselor at our fellowship's boys' camp in Hartford City, Indiana. The boys I was counselor to were only a few years younger than myself. Each night at the end of our evening service, one of my responsibilities was to pray with the boys who had gone to the altars. I knew the routine, so had no problem going through the motions. But as I prayed with the boys, God tugged at my own heart, bringing into my awareness my desperate need to recommit to Him and yield every area of my life to Him. Blocked by young pride, not wanting to look foolish, I resisted God's urgings the first couple of nights.

On Wednesday evening, I went down to the altar and began going through the motions as I had the previous two nights. I laid hands on various boys and prayed with them. However, at some point—and to this day I don't recall exactly when it happened—God turned the tables on me! When I came to myself, I was kneeling on the concrete floor, tears streaming down my face, my hands lifted to the heavens, and thanks flowing from my lips—surrounded by more than two dozen of the boys I had been praying for. They were now all praying for me! Two weeks later, while attending the teen camp, I was filled with the Holy Spirit, and that November baptized in water, publicly sealing my re­commitment to Christ. 

Renewing our commitment to Christ as a Christian does not mean we're getting saved all over again. It means simply, while we may have been distracted by the cares of the world for a time, we've been reawakened in our awareness of needing God's presence with us. We are merely reaffirming that we are truly committed to the Lord and not to anyone or anything else. 

It's important to examine our lives in light of God's Word, and to recommit ourselves to Christ's calling from time to time. Revelation 3:15-16 says, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth!" Renewing our commitment is like turning the heat up under our faith. It makes us hot! And we can say with Paul, " Not that I have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." 

Standing Firm Moving Forward 

A third kind of commitment is simply being committed! Or, maintaining our commitment. It is in this area that we really show whether or not we're truly serious about serving God or not. It is here, in living out our commitment on a daily basis, that we discover the true cost of our commitment to and faith in Jesus Christ. 

Being committed to Christ is not a passive thing. It's not something we do sitting down. It is aggressive and active and forward moving. In Matthew 11:12, we discover a very interesting remark made by Jesus. He said, "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful mean lay hold of it." 

What does this mean? It means that to enter the kingdom of heaven, and to advance God's kingdom here on earth, takes spiritual courage, power, and determination. It means having a radical, almost reckless faith in Christ and His power to transform lives and situations. It means doing God's will without hesitation, without giving a thought to our own discomfort, without trying to rationalize reasons we can't. It means doing God's will aggressively, dynamically, instantly, continuously. It means going into battle! (See Ephesians 6.) 

When we are serving God, we may often have to experience some discomfort. It's not easy getting up early to pray and read the Bible. It's not easy helping to build a church. It's not easy doing work that goes unrecognized. It's not easy being on time to church, ready to teach a class. It's not easy preparing a sermon. It's not easy spending hours counseling someone or witnessing. It's not easy being harassed and threatened and made fun of for believing in Christ. It's not easy ministering to the sick. 

All of these things and many others—all things Christians are called to do—exact a price. They cost us something. They cost us our comfort. They cost us our time. They cost us our possessions—and more. 

But if it's God's will that we do any or all of these things—and why wouldn't it be God's will for us to minister—the cost is nothing "compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things; I consider them rubbish." Anything that gets between us and over being fully committed to the Lord is just that—rubbish! And it must be discarded before it turns into a rottenness that affects our whole lives. 

When we encounter an opportunity to minister and serve, and we say "I can't," maybe we're really saying, "I won't." Because God's Word tells us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. God will never put us in a situation without fully equipping us to deal with anything we may encounter. He provides us with all we need in every situation. 

Instead of being so concerned with our rights, perhaps we should be more concerned with our responsibilities. God has called us to serve others, not ourselves. He has called us to look after the needs of others, not our own. We are called as Christians to live out our commitment to Christ on God's terms, not our own. To be committed all the time, not just when it's convenient. To serve without hesitation, not just what we want to do. 

We are called to a commitment that is costly, but that offers a reward that is priceless—eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ! I pray that each of us can say with Paul, "I consider everything a loss—rubbish—that I may gain Christ and be found in Him—to know Christ and the power of His resurrection—becoming like Him." 

If you don't know Him, you need to come to Him now and commit your life to His care. Ask Him into your heart and life and accept Him as Lord and Savior. 

If you are a Christian but you've grown cold, renew your commitment now. 

All of us all the time need to seek God's face to keep our vision clear, our courage strong, and our faith big.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Preparing for Battle: A Spiritual Warfare Handbook.

 

 

 
     
   
     
     
 

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