A couple of weeks ago we hired a contractor to do some major exterior work on our home. The ice of this past winter had done a number on our roof, some carpenter ants had partially eaten one of our walls and the whole house needed a new paint job. We hated the old, chipped, dirty yellow and picked out darker, richer colors for the siding and trim.
Now, as you fellow home-owners know, nothing is cheap when it comes to home renovation, so we had to wait a while to start this project before we had enough cash to do it. We found a great contractor who hired a big crew to get the job done as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The first two days were great: roof fixed, house washed, first coat of paint partially on… And then it started to rain. For days. For days, our house was the calico house on the circle. At one point, I had an irrational thought: What if they never finish it? What if the crew starts a new project and never comes back? And then a verse came to mind:
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the 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 NKJ)
Honestly, this Scripture never really grabbed me before – perhaps because I never constructed a tower before! But that day I imagined what would happen if we ran out of money and had to say, “Stop! We’ll pay you for what you’ve done, but we can’t pay you for anything else. Leave it like it is.” First, the contractor would be ticked off! She counted on the full amount, not half. Second, her sign was on our lawn, advertising her work. (Yes, it was a female contractor, and she was great!) Her name would be tarnished, even though it was our fault that the job was only half done. Third, how long would it take for our neighbors to start to whisper and wonder what was up? For those first two days of work, everyone stopped and watched the progress. What if our house remained calico for a month, six months, a year? Those close to us would ask and rightfully shake their heads when we admitted we didn’t have the money to finish the job. Our house would be the eyesore of the circle. Honestly, it would have looked better if we had never started the project in the first place.
As I pondered this verse, the Holy Spirit gave me insight, “This is what happens when Christians only let Me do half the job in their lives.” Before we ask Jesus into our hearts, He wants us to realize that He’s going to have to tear down some walls, replace some boards and power wash our minds. He’s going to look in every corner, and touch every area. He’s going to see what we’re putting into our bodies, how we’re spending our time, and with whom we’re spending it. He’s going to touch our addictions, our attitudes, our pride, our rebellion, and as He discovers these things, He wants us to say, “Yes, go ahead and do what you need to do…” He doesn’t do it all at once. Actually, this construction job takes a life-time, but he does want us willing and ready for a total renovation.
If we stop Him half way, two things happen: First, His name is tarnished and second, we become miserable.
His name is tarnished when we say we’re Christians and act like Christians in some ways, but then those around us see glaring contradictions. Christians who are not fully surrendered to His work in their lives stunt the growth of the Kingdom. We say we’re saved, but then we can’t control our anger. Our friends see us go to church, but then they also see our angry pride when someone contradicts us. Our coworkers see our Christian plaques, but they also witness our lack of moral integrity and it makes the Contractor, God, look bad.
I’m not saying we have to be perfect. Our renovation takes a lifetime. But we have to be willing to say, “Yes, Lord,” when he finds another wall that needs tearing down.
If we stop God half way, it affects us too: we become miserable. Unsaved people are often happier and more fulfilled than disobedient Christians. We have enough of God in our lives to feel guilty about the habits we refuse to change. As the poet Francis Thompson says, God is the Hound of Heaven. He follows us, barks at our heels, nags us and nudges us until we relent, or until we shut him down so completely that He leaves us alone in our misery.
Discipleship is costly. At times, it hurts, it’s hard and it’s relentless. We do people a disservice when we tell them they’ll be so happy and free with Jesus in their lives without telling them about the cost.
I love the Lord, and I can’t imagine life without Him. There is great joy, great peace, tremendous blessing. But there are also those hard times when He puts his finger on something in my life and asks me to allow him to change it, when He uncovers something covered up and rotten and hounds me until I admit it and repent. When He asks me, “Do you love that habit more than you love Me?” It’s no fun. But the process makes us lovelier, better witnesses and happier too.
Our actual house is done. Well, sort of. That particular project is done, but now there are about seven more on our list. It’s overwhelming if we look at it all at once, so I try not to. One thing at a time, and someday it will all be finished.