The NFL steals an array of headlines almost all year long, but lately the stories have been about the long-term effects of playing this dangerous sport. Although the concussion epidemic has been well documented, football players suffer from many other injuries because of their years on the field.

Former Buffalo Bills’ defensive star, Bruce Smith, is the latest player to admit his struggles. After ESPN’s Marcellus Wiley recently had dinner with Smith, he admitted, “…he knows that it came at a price…”

Smith, like many others, has enjoyed many great lifestyle benefits while playing football – wealth, fame, camaraderie, and competition. But in the end, there is always a cost to a player’s health and future.

No entry fee is required to be in the NFL, but there is definitely a cost. Players who are trying to make a decision about pursuing an NFL career must consider this cost before heading down that path.

The parallel may not be perfect, but I find some similarities to following Jesus and being a disciple of His. God sent Jesus to die on the cross and gives us salvation from our sin and death…for free. We can’t earn the grace or do enough good works to be saved because it’s simply a free gift.

However, as true as that is, following Jesus does come with a cost. There will be suffering and persecution, we have to die to our old selfish life, and we may lose relationships, as well as, “miss out” on worldly opportunities. The bottom line is that we must decide if knowing and following Jesus is worth it.

Jesus says in Luke 14:27-30, Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 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.’”

If we think following Jesus is only about what He can give us (eternal life, peace, and forgiveness), but we continue doing whatever we want by disregarding his commands, then we are missing it. Likewise, if we assume following Jesus eliminates all pain and suffering and He’s just going to give us health and wealth, we are also missing it.

Jesus offers us salvation and the opportunity to follow Him for free – how incredible is that?  Today and each day, let’s commit to following Jesus, regardless of the cost. I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the free gift of salvation that You offer me through Jesus. Help me to fully understand how amazing it is, while also recognizing what it costs to truly follow Jesus. Please give me the right perspective as I pursue a deeper knowledge and relationship with Jesus. In His name I pray, Amen.