In 1997 my wife and I surrendered to God and choose to follow Him into a life in the ministry. Since that time, we have had an amazing adventure that has quite literally taken us nearly around the world. We have preached and taught of the goodness of the grace of God and the truth of the gospel message on three continents and sixteen countries. We have had the privilege to meet and impact men and women from all walks of life.
The journey that led us to Alaska was wonderful and had someone told us ahead of time we would never have believed them. That journey began in a small Italian restaurant in the artsy district, known as “Five Points,” in Jacksonville, Florida. The Monday after we made it public that my wife and I wished to serve the Lord in full time ministry I received a call from an elderly retired missionary woman. She had spent nearly fifty years serving in the Caribbean to Haitian refugees. Her husband had died and was buried in the Bahamas, but that did not deter her, she carried on their life’s work for another ten years. Finally, her mission board urged her to retire as her health was not as good as it could be, and that is what brought her to Jacksonville. When a woman of such accomplishment calls and asks to be taken to dinner how could anyone refuse?
Sitting there in that restaurant with the lights low, a single candle flickering on the table, the sounds of Frank Sinatra playing from a jukebox that was old when my father was a young man, we were enraptured with the stories that this great woman told. Stories of witchdoctors and their followers coming at night to drag them from their beds and kill them only to be stopped by some unseen force or factor. Stories of helping to pick up the pieces after hurricanes and earthquakes. Stories of tender moments spent with young children that would one day grow to be men and women of power and prominence who came back time and again to pay homage to them and to help in their ministry. Needless to say my wife and I were blown away at the greatness of God.
Near the end of it she leaned in and said, “I wanted to talk to you two about the journey you are about to embark on. I wanted to share with you the best advice that I can give, something that my husband would have shared with you as well if he were here.”
I smiled and leaned in as well, I knew that the wisdom that would follow could very well chart the course of the rest of my life. She continued, “Do you know the shortest parable that Jesus ever told?” She asked with a playful smile. I must admit that I wanted to impress this woman and I did not want to get this question wrong. I wracked my brain trying to find the right answer, most of the parables that I knew were fairly long and I knew they were not the right ones. Finally, I gave up, I just did not know the right answer.
“It was my husband’s favorite parable and one that we built our ministry around. It is found in Luke. Jesus asked the question to those around him, ‘What man here who wants to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost before he begins, to see if he has enough to finish the job?’ My husband would quote that verse often. He sometimes would just shorten it to ‘We need to count the cost first.’ So here is my advice (via my husband and Jesus) before you two really start down this road you all need to count the cost.”
The elderly widowed missionary sat back after delivering her wisdom and smiled. My wife and I looked at each other and then at her and we smiled back but neither one of us fully grasped the depth of the gift that we had just received.
Years later we would sit around the dinner table after the kids were in bed discussing the day behind and the week ahead and that dear old missionary’s words would creep back up. Sometimes we would hear the echo of those words tinged with regret because we did not heed them and at other times we were glad that we did count the cost because it kept us away from trouble.
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Luke 14:28-30 (ESV)
This Labor Day when we celebrate the men and women who worked hard to build a country that is truly the greatest in the world Let us remember the words of a simple carpenter, the Son of God, and count the cost.
Pastor AL Weeks and his family serve in First Baptist Church of Kenai. First Baptist Church of Kenai is a warm fellowship of believers that are committed to speaking the truth in love. Join them Sunday mornings at 10:45 a.m.