“No pain, no gain” applies to world evangelism as well as exercise programs! Until we can accept suffering, sacrifice and self-denial as routine and normal, we will never see the Great Commission fulfilled in our generation.
Jesus never apologized for calling His disciples to a life of self-denial. It is interesting to see the way He handled this teaching with those who offered to follow Him.
He promised homelessness. We read in Luke 9:57 of an individual who bragged that he would follow Jesus wherever He would go. But apparently he turned back when Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
He promised broken relationships. Another man said he would go but needed to bury his father first. Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).
He promised separation and loneliness. A third would-be disciple said, “Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” Jesus replied, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
It is obvious that Jesus will have no one among His followers who is wanting to put comfort, family ties or security in this world ahead of His kingdom. Jesus is saying, in effect, “I offer you what I have—hardship, hunger, labor, loneliness, rejection, sweat, tears and death. I’m a stranger and pilgrim in this world, and if you follow Me, you’ll have to break away from the clinging attachments of this present life.”
The Gospels give another example. A rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus and asked what he would have to do to inherit the kingdom. Jesus replied simply, “Go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The young man walked away sad.
Jesus obviously loved him. It must have hurt to see the young man go. But in this case and in all the other similar stories, you never once see Jesus going after these would-be disciples. There is no effort to pacify them or modify and soften the uncompromising demands of the cross. It is either “give up everything and follow Me” or “don’t come at all.”
This is still the price of following Christ today just as it was then.