THE PRICE IN THE GOSPELS—LEAVING ALL TO FOLLOW THE LORD
The Gospels mention numerous times that the Lord called different ones. Strictly speaking, the Lord’s calling is not mainly for people to be saved but for people to follow Him. For example, there are Scripture verses such as, “Come after Me” (Matt. 4:19), “Follow Me” (9:9), “Sell your possessions…and come, follow Me” (19:21), “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (8:22), and “No one who puts his hand on the plow and looks behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). These verses show us again and again how great is the price that must be paid by those who desire to follow the Lord.
In the Gospels the Lord’s unique requirement for those called by Him was that they forsake all their possessions (14:33). This was how the early disciples were called to follow the Lord. For example, Peter said, “We have left all and followed You” (Matt. 19:27). All means “everything.” If a person with five thousand dollars gives five thousand, and another one who has fifty thousand dollars gives fifty thousand, then both paid everything they had as the price. In the Lord’s eyes, both of them have paid the same price. One day the Lord praised the widow who cast two lepta into the treasury, because she had cast in all that she had, even her whole living (Mark 12:42, 44). Therefore, for us to pay a price does not necessarily mean that we spend the most but that we cast in everything we have. One who casts in everything is one who pays a price. The Lord never counts how much we pay. Instead, what He counts is whether we have paid all.
The “all” required in the Gospels is all that we have, including our parents, wives, children, brothers, sisters, houses, businesses, academic degrees, positions, fame, preferences, ambitions, and lives. All of these items are the price that is required in the Gospels. Many of us today, however, have not completely severed our relationships with our relatives. This does not mean that we should outwardly cut off all human relationships. Rather, it means that we should cut off all emotional ties. In short, the Lord wants us to leave all that we have. This is the most severe demand He has of us.
Whenever we touch the Lord, He will demand something from us. This will always be the case. The Lord is never satisfied with the price we have already paid. Whenever He touches us, He will ask us for something. We experience the Lord’s most evident presence when He is requiring something of us. On our side, the only time that we will not sense that He is demanding something of us is when we have lost our fellowship with Him. On the Lord’s side, His demand upon us will cease only when the new heaven and new earth are established.
Today is the time for the Lord to use man and to gain man to do His work. Hence, He is continually requiring something of us, and His requirements are becoming greater and greater. At first the Lord’s requirements are small, but gradually His requirements become greater, deeper, and more severe. If we try to suppress the feeling that He is requiring something, we will suffer a great loss because our fellowship with Him will be interrupted. After a long period of time, the Lord will no longer have a way in us, and consequently, He will be forced to turn to someone else. However, if we consent to His demands, learn to obey, and are willing to pay the price, our feeling will become more and more sensitive, even to such an extent that almost all day long we will have the feeling that the Lord is asking something of us.
If we do not go along with His demands and are not willing to pay a price, then there will be two results. First, on our side, we will be like the young man who went away sorrowing (Matt. 19:22). Second, on the Lord’s side, the Lord will not be able to manifest our usefulness to Him. For this reason, we would rather be wrong trying to obey than disobey altogether, and we would rather obey too much than obey too little. If we answer the Lord’s requirements, there will also be two results. First, we will be full of joy, and second, the Lord will be able to manifest our usefulness.
We must realize that the basic requirement to being used by the Lord is to consent to His demands. A person who consents to His demands can be used by the Lord even though he may not have a great deal of knowledge of the truth. He can still be used by the Lord even though he may not pray very frequently. The power we gain by paying a price to answer the Lord’s demands is often greater than the power we receive through numerous prayers. The power we receive by paying a price to answer the Lord’s demands is often greater than the power we receive through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. People pay attention to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, yet they do not see that on the day of Pentecost those who received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit had paid a great price. They had left everything to be in the upper room in Jerusalem and had prayed steadfastly in one accord (Acts 1:13-14).
Many people would like to receive the power brought in through the outpouring of the Spirit, yet they are not willing to learn the lesson of paying a price. Hence, they carry out many works, yet their works cannot last and do not have a lasting effect. If a worker wants his work to remain and to last a long time, he must learn the lesson of paying a price. How much the work can remain depends on how much the worker has learned this lesson. The power for doing the Lord’s work lies in one’s learning this lesson, and in order to learn this lesson, one must pay a price. A person’s usefulness before the Lord is based upon how much of a price he has paid before the Lord. We all admire how useful people such as Paul and Peter were to the Lord, yet we neglect the fact that they paid a great price before the Lord. If we are not useful to the Lord today, the only reason is that we are not willing to pay a price, not willing to answer His demands, and not willing to forsake our reputation, our education, our position, our future, and our whole life. Hence, we do not sense the presence of the Lord, we rarely contact Him in fellowship, and naturally, we have little usefulness before Him.
(How to Be Useful to the Lord, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)