For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him…
— Luke 14:28,29
I have it on my heart today to share a vital principle from the Word of God that will help ensure your next endeavor in God has a successful outcome. Over the years, I’ve seen how so many believers like to blame the devil for just about everything that goes wrong in their lives. But although the devil certainly does try to wreak his share of havoc and destruction in Christians’ lives, everything bad that happens cannot be blamed on demonic attacks. I have discovered that a believer’s defeat can often be attributed to a lack of planning and preparation.
Jesus spoke of this crucial principle in Luke 14:28,29, saying, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him.”
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Jesus began this verse by underscoring the importance of sitting down and counting the cost before beginning a project. The phrase “sitteth down” comes from the Greek word kathidzo, which depicts someone who sits down and takes a long time to seriously contemplate the project he is about to initiate. Part of that contemplation process is counting the cost of the endeavor. The phrase “counteth the cost” is the Greek word psiphidzo, which means to count or to calculate the real cost of the project before it is commenced. This process includes the careful consideration of not only the monetary cost involved in fully accomplishing the assigned task, but also of all that will be necessary in order to complete the task — time spent, physical effort expended, relationships impacted, etc.
Furthermore, the word “finish” is apartismos, which means to bring a project to completion. According to Jesus, it is very important to have the foresight before you get started on a project to ensure that you have the wherewithal to finish it. Getting started on a task is easy, but if you don’t have a solid financial and logistical plan in place, you will see very little progress.
Jesus continued in Luke 14:29 by saying, “Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him.” This word “mock” is the Greek word empaidzo, which means to ridicule, to mock, or to taunt someone. According to Jesus, if you give up on your project before it is complete, bystanders will ridicule and taunt you. And even if bystanders don’t mock you, the devil will most certainly accuse you of being a stupid failure who can’t finish what you start. Therefore, the wise course of action is to avoid this cast of accusing voices altogether by developing a meticulous plan well in advance. By sitting down and seriously contemplating the logistics of your project — what it will cost, where the money will come from, how much help you’ll need, and so on — you will know exactly what you need to see your endeavor through to completion.
Allow me to share an example from my own life. My wife Denise and I have lived in the former Soviet Union since the early 1990s. During this time abroad on the mission field, we’ve seen many missionary families come and go. In fact, of all the families who moved to the former USSR in the early 1990s to share the Gospel, we are the only family that remains as far as we can tell.
Certainly it’s true that some missionaries left because God called them to take the next step in their ministries and move to a new location. However, time and time again, Denise and I watched people leave prematurely because of unresolved personal issues that they didn’t take care of before they moved their families across the world. They would quit their jobs and move their entire families to Russia without counting the cost. And as a result, they would become so distracted by unresolved problems back home that they couldn’t focus on their work on the mission field. There is no doubt that these people were called to the mission field. But because they didn’t take care of their personal responsibilities, they couldn’t complete what God had called them to do.
There are a multitude of reasons why these well-meaning people were forced to leave the mission field early. Each reason is an example of failure to count the cost and to do things right from the start. The following list represents a few of the issues we’ve seen derail the ministries of missionaries overseas:
- They left before their house was sold or rented, leaving a huge financial responsibility weighing on their shoulders.
- They left before appointing someone to pay their bills, creating a financial mess that ultimately required them to return home.
- They left before raising any financial support. A missionary must have strong faith for sustained financial provision, but common sense in this arena is also very important.
- They left before working out problems with relatives, such as who would care for their elderly parents in their absence. Having this as an unresolved issue forced them to abandon the mission field and move back home as soon as their elderly parents needed care.
- They left before resolving serious issues in their family relationships. I can assure you of this: If a missionary family launches out with unresolved issues in their marriage and relationships, the mission field will expose those problems. The pressures of personal issues can create so much stress on a family that it disrupts their ability to minister effectively and can even lead to the dissolution of the family.
For those who did things wrong and failed to count the cost before leaving on their faith journey, these people lost a lot of time and money and suffered a great deal of unnecessary emotional wear and tear. Only a few times have we seen any of these missionary families return. Most became so sidetracked that they never made it back to the mission field where God called them.
Through observation and personal experience, Denise and I have learned that it may take a little longer to do things right the first time around, but nothing is as difficult as abandoning your divine call because you didn’t count the cost and do what you should have done in the beginning. Doing things right the first time is the smartest, cheapest, and best way to live!
I am so thankful that we have been able to continue our ministry in the former Soviet Union because we took the time to sit down and count the cost. We know that if we do things wrong, we’ll only have to backtrack and fix the problem, so we do our best to get it right from the very start of every assignment. We haven’t been successful 100 percent of the time, but with the help of God’s Spirit and sound counsel, we’ve been successful most of the time. For this, we give glory to God! We have peace in our hearts that our family members are secure, and we strive to keep our relationships with our partners alive so they feel connected to our ministry.
As a result, Denise and I have been free to focus on the task before us without unnecessary distractions that might pull us away from the call God has placed on our lives. Remaining in this place of freedom requires a great deal of effort. Often it has meant spending less money or moving slower than planned with certain projects. But in the long term, our efforts have empowered us to keep pressing forward into new and uncharted territory.
So today I strongly encourage you to do what Jesus said: Sit down and contemplate the total cost of the task or assignment that lies ahead of you before you begin. Count the cost from every angle to make sure you will truly be able to finish with excellence what you started out of obedience. You can do whatever God has called you to do — as long as you take heed to His words and do it His way!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for the common-sense approach that I’ve read today. I know that You have called me to do significant things with my life, so I accept the challenge to sit down and calculate the costs before I get started. The last thing I want is to start something I can’t finish and give others a reason to mock me or to deride Your holy assignment. I do not want to create an opportunity to hear the accusing voice of the devil or the mocking voices of doubters or non-believers. So help me use my mind, seek wise counsel, and take each step of faith carefully and methodically. I receive Your supernatural assistance to do every natural thing You’ve called me to do.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare that I start every project by first sitting down to seriously contemplate the cost and the effort it will take to complete it. I ask You to help me think through every step that is required to finish this project. I will start this assignment with the full assurance that this is correct. I am confident and persuaded that I will finish what I have started because I fasten my attention and take my direction from Jesus, who is both the Author and the Finisher of my faith!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you personally know anyone who started a project that he was unable to complete? How did people respond to that event? When that person announced his next project, did people believe or doubt him?
- When you hear the phrase “count the cost,” what does that mean to you personally for the future plans you are currently praying about? It would be good for you to count the total cost — financial, physical, emotional — needed to complete the project you are planning to start.
- It is the strong spirit of a man that sustains him and enables him to endure. What steps have you taken to build new habits into your walk with God that will increase your spiritual stamina and consistency and ensure that you will be able to finish with even greater strength than when you began your assignment?