Worth the CostBy Courtney Mathis
April 17, 2020
As a child, I loved adventure stories. However, somewhere between childhood and adulthood, adventure transitioned to something I dreaded, because it meant we were deviating from some plan I had concocted and this rocked my security. I experienced this in ministry life, and especially church planting. Through all of this, I have had to learn to embrace adventure and trust the Lord. It hasn’t always been easy. I never opposed the idea of ministry, but church planting was another story. There were too many unknowns and what ifs. Questions like: How many jobs would we have to take on to make ends meet? Will I ever see my husband? Will the kids ever see their dad? Where will the people come from? And ultimately, what if we fail? Fear washed over me and left me in a state of drowning when I made these questions the focus.
It was not until I was studying the book of Genesis that God took my eyes off of me, and my fears. In Genesis 12:1 God told Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (ESV). This was crazy to me. Abram actually did it! He took his wife and all his possessions and started walking. God didn’t tell him the exact destination. Abram just went and God told him what to do and where to go all along the way. Abram knew the Lord would take care of them and that God had a purpose and a plan. In his mind, any cost was worth it! This was the passage God used to soften my heart to church planting. If God was calling us, I knew He would take care of us. I didn’t need to fear because He had a plan and He would faithfully lead us every step of the way.
I did not know then, but this truth was fundamental in keeping my heart grounded throughout the craziness that was going to come. We landed in St Louis, Missouri, excited and ready for the Lord to start a new work in a city that we loved. We knew it was a big task, but everything was taking way longer than we had hoped and expected. To this day, I think we still hold a record for the longest launch ever. We couldn’t seem to gain momentum and gather enough people. Others questioned. We questioned. Everyone was asking, is God in this? But the Lord was not releasing us.
So, we stayed. We fasted, we prayed, we begged God for His presence and power to move in our hearts and the hearts of our people, and bring this church to fruition. For two years we kept going. (Praise God!) He finally gave us what we needed to launch the church. But that was not the end of the crazy. We were faced with yet another challenge. Within one month of setting our launch date, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. It was a time of such mixed emotions and fear. We knew it was an attack from the enemy, trying to get our eyes off the Lord. And we knew that the Lord was at work in and through it all. I never did ask, “why me?” However, I did ask, “why now?” The church was finally moving forward and now this. I wrestled with question, “How will my husband pastor, when I’m so sick?” At the time it didn’t make sense; but now, I can testify, that God was peeling back layers of self-reliance, control, fear and pride. And He was replacing all of it with trust, peace, hope and a reliance on Him. It was not up to me! (Praise God!)
One of my favorite parables is the Hidden Treasure. It is a small one but packs a powerful punch. In Matthew 13:44, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (ESV). I cannot even imagine. There I am, digging in a field, and I find this treasure chest filled with gleaming, sparkling jewels and gold. Or maybe even filled with tons of money. It’s more wealth than I have ever seen in my life. I get why the man sold everything and did whatever it took to buy that field. It was a smart thing to do. However, no one around the man in the parable understands this. It doesn’t make sense to them. They probably think he has lost his mind. Selling everything for an empty field? But it was definitely worth the cost. This parable ministers to my heart so much because this is how the Lord strengthened me in ministry and church planting. There is an eternal treasure in ministry, and it is worth giving up everything. Not because it makes me physically rich; far from it. It does, however, make me spiritually rich, which lasts longer and fulfills much deeper than any jewel or coin could ever do. It means I get the privilege of pointing people to the same treasure. It means I get to love like Jesus loves. It means I get to have a front row seat to watch God do miracle after miracle in the hearts of people. I can’t imagine a better treasure. I’m so thankful God changed my heart and fixed my eyes on the treasure that is Jesus Christ! He is always worth it, no matter the cost.