Years ago my son stepped through the doors of an Army recruitment office. He was given a wonderful and glorious picture of army life—one filled with financial benefits and exciting adventures. You’d be crazy NOT to join up. But, unbeknownst to the recruiter, our son had been given a prior “recruitment” talk by a good friend and mentor who had been in the army for 20 years (including two, year-long deployments into war zones). He gave our son a much more realistic and truthful picture. It was with this latter understanding that our son signed up. He counted the cost and joined because he was committed to a cause he believed in, knowing that hard work, self-sacrifice, suffering, and war was ahead.
I wonder sometimes if we are prone to a subtle type of recruitment mentality when we present the Gospel to children. Please don’t get me wrong—the Gospel IS the most glorious news of all, and we should be gladly sharing with our children and students the truth of the incomparable benefits and all-satisfying joy of trusting in Jesus and following Him. Jesus alone is “the way and the true and the life.” But, do we also help them understand that there is a cost in following Jesus?
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24, ESV)
Recently, Jared Wilson wrote an article titled, “Men Wanted: Come and Die.” In it he states:
Have you ever seen a military recruitment poster or TV ad that showed wounded soldiers? Ever seen one that showed soldiers taking bullets, medics administering morphine to blood-gushing comrades, or an array of battle-hardened quadriplegics?
No, you have not. We recruit soldiers by showing shiny weapons, technologically advanced machines and systems, adventurous locales, and strong, healthy men and women using them, engaging in them, and bravely enjoying them.
But not Paul. He will not whitewash the mission. As Christ says, “Count the cost” and “Take up your cross” and “Die to self,” Paul’s recruitment slogan is: Share in suffering.
In 2 Timothy 2:7, he writes, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” He wants disciples of Jesus to consider what he’s just laid out for them, which is that Christianity is about suffering like a soldier, training like an athlete, and working hard like a farmer. One thing these three examples have in common is a stubborn commitment to a diligent daily grind for a payoff that is not instant or immediate.
(found at http://ftc.co/)
This is not to say that we include a prolonged or overly morbid description about suffering whenever we present the Gospel to children. However, we should help our children and students recognize, in age-appropriate ways, that there is a cost involved in following Jesus. What might this look like?
In our booklet “Helping Children to Understand the Gospel,” we present 10 essential truths for children to know and embrace. Here is essential truth 10:
Those who trust in Jesus will live to please Him and will receive the promise of eternal life-enjoying God forever in heaven. (Luke 9:23; John 11:25; 1 John 2:15; Psalm 16:11)
Here is how we suggest you could explain this truth:
If you want to play the piano or be on a baseball team, would you expect it would take a certain amount of time and practice? Would it be a good thing to think about this before you started piano lessons or joined the baseball team? Why? Because there is a “cost” involved to the choices we make. If you want to play the piano well, it will demand your time because you will have to practice. You will need to give up other things in order to practice and to go to lessons. What might you have to give up in order to play the piano well? What will you need to change in order to be a good baseball player?
Salvation is a free gift offered to you by God and it is given to everyone who truly repents and is trusting in Jesus. But this free gift will cost you your whole life! What does that mean? It means you must do things Jesus’ way instead of your own way. It means every day you must trust and follow Jesus for the rest of your life—when you’re 10, 20, 50, and even 90 years old. In order to do this, there are things you will have to give up and things you will need to change.
For example, you will need to spend time praying instead of just playing. You will need to spend time reading your Bible instead of just watching television. You will need to spend time thinking about God instead of just thinking about friends. That is hard work! Have you thought about the “cost” of trusting in Jesus? Are you ready to truly repent and trust Jesus, and then do things His way for the rest of your life? Even when you get old?
God has a promise for everyone who is trusting in Jesus: He will give you a special Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, and He lives inside every person who trusts in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is all-powerful, and He is there to help you with the hard work of doing things Jesus’ way. The Holy Spirit will begin to change you, so you love, trust, obey, and enjoy God more and more.
There is a cost to following Jesus, but God has promised a huge reward for everyone who trusts in Jesus—a reward that is so great and exciting that it is better than anything we can even imagine. What is it? Eternal life! Eternal life is living forever with God in heaven. Heaven is a real place where everyone who is trusting in Jesus will someday go to live. God’s people will not sin anymore. Our bodies will be perfect. No more being sick, or dying, or feeling hurt or lonely. There will be no bad things in heaven. Everything will be clean and perfect and beautiful, but those things aren’t even the best part of heaven. The best part of heaven is that God will live there with His people. We will finally get to really see Jesus! There is nothing and no one who is more amazing, great, wonderful, beautiful, and exciting than Jesus. Being with Jesus will make us happy forever.