Count the cost

SERMON TOPIC: Count the cost

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 4 September 2011


Sermon synopsis: Going to your favourite shop, you may see many things that you'd like to have. There's one snag though – they all have a price tag. Many people get themselves into deep debt because they don't 'count the cost' when they purchase something. Easy availability of credit cards has exacerbated the problem where people are in an economic mess because they failed to count the cost.
When Jesus said we must count the cost, he wasn’t talking about 'becoming' a Christian, but about 'being' a Christian.
Salvation is free – but there is a cost to discipleship.
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Going to your favourite shop, you may see many things that you’d like to have.

There’s one snag though – they all have a price tag.

Many people get themselves into deep debt because they don’t “count the cost” when they purchase something. Easy availability of credit cards has exacerbated the problem where people are in an economic mess because they failed to count the cost.



Imagine starting to build a house without first working out if you’ll have enough money to complete it?

Reading from “The MESSAGE” version, Jesus says:

Luke 14 28-30 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’”


And it seems quite common nowadays for nations to go to war without “counting the cost” in human life. Years later when the war is still dragging on – they express regret.

31-32 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce? 33 Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.” (The MESSAGE)


You might say, “Isn’t salvation free? What’s this cost you’re talking about?”

When Jesus said we must count the cost, he wasn’t talking about ‘becoming’ a Christian, but about ‘being’ a Christian.

Salvation is free – but there is a cost to discipleship.


Now for many in the West, being a Christian may seem to have little or no cost at all.

To a lot of South Africans, being a Christian means little more than ticking a box on their census form (what we call “none of the above” Christians). That’s why about 80% of South Africans claim to be Christians, 1 but only about 56% say they attend church regularly (at least once a week). 2

1 http:// wiki/ Religion_in_South_Africa 2 rel_ratefor.htm


To make things worse, in our Western society some have tried to cheapen the cost of discipleship in order to entice people and draw in the crowds. We live in the age where preachers are told to have “seeker-sensitive” churches, where the church is viewed as a business and the congregation as consumers.

As consumers must be given what they want, God needs to be presented as ‘consumer-friendly’. Most ‘consumers’ want to be made to feel good, comfortable and ‘positive’ - even if they have not repented.

And so God is presented as a nice grandfather, whose main concern is to make you happy. We are encouraged to talk exclusively of God’s love and to avoid any mention of His holiness and justice.


But there is a cost to true discipleship and Jesus didn’t try to hide that from would-be disciples. He made it clear that following him could entail losing friends and family and even your life.

Converts in countries with Islamic or atheistic governments more fully understand these words of Jesus about counting the costs involved in being a disciple.


The word ‘discipline’ is actually derived from the word ‘disciple’.

In its original sense, discipline referred to systematic instruction given to disciples to train them as students in a craft or trade, or to follow a particular code of conduct or ‘order’. 1

So are you committed to following Jesus as a disciple?

Have you counted the cost?

Are you prepared to pay the cost, whatever it may be?

What does the Bible say the cost might be?

1 Wikipedia – Discipline http:// wiki/ Discipline


Possible obstacles to discipleship and commitment:


Persecution from government

Opposition from family

Ridicule from friends

Peer pressure at work, school or college

Cares of this life (your demanding job)


Love of the world (pleasure & comfort)

Love of sin



What you might lose, if you are fully committed to following Jesus:

Your friends (and your place in society)

Your family (wife, children etc)

Your job

Your wealth

Your comforts

Your property

Your life

There are examples in the Scriptures, in church history and in our modern world of people losing the above because they have chosen to follow Jesus.


We love that well-known chapter of Hebrews 11 where the great heroes of the faith are listed. Many people haven’t taken note of the part where it says of them:

Heb 11:5 … Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.


The context of Hebrews 11 is to encourage Christians who were facing similar problems of persecution and hardship - and to show them that they were not unique. So just before this, in chapter 10 we read:

Heb 10:32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.


So while modern seeker-sensitive evangelists might say:

Follow Jesus and you’ll get guaranteed wealth, health and prosperity.

The Scriptures teach:

Follow Jesus and you may lose everything and everyone you have – yes, even your own life (see Luke 14:27).





The context of these parables about counting the cost is interesting. Right before he told the stories of the man building a tower and the king going to war, Jesus noted the “large crowds” following him and said something that’s not very seeker-sensitive:

Luke 14:25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”


So just before his parables about counting costs, Jesus mentions one of the biggest obstacles to discipleship; not persecution from our enemies but our love of our families.

Now Jesus is using hyperbole here as he clearly doesn’t expect us to hate our families – that would contradict other Scripture. He means that we cannot put our families (or our very lives) before our decision to follow him.

Matt 10:37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”


In the following account Jesus warns a man who was putting family matters before the kingdom of God. Again Jesus fails to be seeker-sensitive:

Luke 9:59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

It is believed that this man’s father was not already dead i.e. he was not just going to attend the funeral. Rather he was saying that he would wait until his father died until he followed Jesus. Others feel that he might have lost his inheritance if he didn’t stay with his father until he died. Either way, Jesus shows that proclaiming the kingdom of God took preference.


Immediately afterwards Luke records how Jesus rebukes another man who was also putting his family before following him.

Luke 9:61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

This man offers to follow Jesus, but sets a condition. Jesus shows him that discipleship is unconditional. When looking at Jesus’ responses, remember that he knew the hearts of men. Jesus’ words “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back” seems to indicate that this man felt some regret in following Jesus - along with a sense of sacrifice.


David Livingstone, who lost his beloved wife Mary to fever on the mission field in Africa, said:

“I never made a sacrifice. We ought not to talk of ‘sacrifice’ when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself up for us.”

“If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honour, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”


David Livingstone (1813–1873)

C.T. Studd was an English millionaire and famous cricketer. He forsook his cricketing fame and family fortune and went to China, India and later Africa. He became the founder of the Heart of Africa Mission (now W.E.C. International).

His motto was: “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

C.T. Studd (1860-1931)


In Muslim, Hindu (and even Jewish) cultures, becoming a Christian can mean being ostracized and disinherited by your family.

Matt 10:21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Matt 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”


Even in Christian countries, if you become too ‘extreme’ in your commitment to Jesus, well-meaning family may try and discourage you. Jesus’ family were upset when they heard that he and his disciples were not eating because of his ministry.

Mark 3:20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”


Q: Do you put your family before serving God?


Generally if you become a committed Christian, many of your friends may not be keen to “hang out” with you any more.


Q: Do you deny Jesus in front of your friends?

Matt 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

Q: Are you prepared to be a social outcast for Jesus?


Following Jesus might cost you your job:

Mark 1:16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

While James and John willingly left their jobs because of Jesus, some have lost their employment against their will because of their commitment to Jesus.


Here are a few cases from so called ‘Christian’ countries:

(UK) 30/ 05/ 11 - Christian psychotherapist, Lesley Pilkington, may lose her job for helping homosexual man become straight. 1

Michigan (US) – 29/ 05/ 08 - A high school wrestling coach was dismissed after complaints from Muslim parents that his former assistant was trying to convert Muslim students. 2

London (UK) – 22/ 12/ 10 - Margaret Forrester, a Christian mental health worker, has been suspended from her job after giving colleagues a booklet about the risks associated with abortion. 3

1 2 news/ religion 3


Do you stay away from fellowship because your job is too demanding and you’re too tired?

Do you compromise your Christian ethics to get a deal or because of pressure from your employer?

When asked for your opinion, do you give the politically correct answer or your real Christian convictions?


Q: Do you put your job before serving God?


Discipleship might cost you your comfort. Jesus is approached by a man who proactively says that he will follow Jesus anywhere. Again some might think from Jesus’ response that he could have ‘benefited’ from a seminar on being seeker-sensitive.

Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Unlike many televangelists today, Jesus and his disciples didn’t check into the 5-star hotels with their entourage when they arrived in town. Knowing the man’s heart, Jesus knew that comfort was important to him and was making sure that he understood the possible costs of following.


Are you prepared to sacrifice some comfort because of your commitment to Jesus?

Or do you stay in bed when it’s too cold to go to church?

And you can’t find time to pray and read God’s Word because of your ‘commitment’ to your TV schedule.


Q: Do you put your comfort before serving God?


I want my breakfast served at 8, With ham and eggs upon my plate; A well-broiled steak I’ll eat at one, And dine again when day is done. I want an ultramodern home. And in each room a telephone; Soft carpets, too, upon the floors, And pretty drapes to grace the doors.

A cozy place of lovely things, Like easy chairs with inner springs, And then I'll get a small TV – Of course, ‘I’m careful’ what I see. I want my wardrobe, too, to be Of neatest, finest quality, With latest style in suit and vest: Why should not Christians have the best?

But then the Master I can hear In no uncertain voice, so clear: ‘I bid you come and follow Me, The lowly Man of Galilee. Birds of the air have made their nest, And foxes in their holes find rest, But I can offer you no bed; No place have I to lay My head.’ In shame, I hung my head and cried. How could I spurn the Crucified? Could I forget the way He went. The sleepless nights in prayer He spent? For 40 days without a bite, Alone He fasted day and night; Despised, rejected – on He went, And did not stop till veil He rent.

A man of sorrows and of grief, No earthly friend to bring relief; ‘Smitten of God,’ the prophet said – ‘Mocked, beaten, bruised, His blood ran red.’ If He be God, and died for me, No sacrifice too great can be for me, A mortal man, to make; I’ll do it all for Jesus’ sake. Yes, I will tread the path He trod, No other way will please my God; So, henceforth, this my choice shall be, My choice for all eternity.

(This poem titled “My Choice” was written by William McChesney)

William “Smiling Bill” McChesney was a missionary to the Congo. In 1964 at the age of 28 and while suffering from malaria, he was shoved into a truck by Simba rebels, stripped and mercilessly beaten. He was then imprisoned in a small cell with 40 other prisoners. According to TIME magazine of Friday, Jan. 08, 1965: 1

The Belgians were shot, clubbed to death or tied up and hurled alive into the Wamba River. But that was killing with kindness compared to the fate of American Protestant Missionary William McChesney, 28. They performed a mad war dance on his prostrate body until internal bleeding from ruptured organs ended his agony. Then the Simbas plucked out his eyes and threw his corpse into the river.

1 time/ magazine/ article/ 0,9171,833402,00.html





Paul had warned the Thessalonians of the cost of discipleship, which included persecution:

1 Thess 3:3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

2 Tim 3:10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings - what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,


Jesus said that some would find the cost (trouble or persecution) too high:

Matt 13:20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Jesus speaks of those who grow cold because of the peer pressure of a society which has increased in wickedness.

Matt 24:10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.


But surely in our enlightened age, persecution is decreasing as people become more tolerant of each other?

There were more 20th Century martyrs (45.4 million of the total 70 million) 1 than the previous 19 centuries combined (65%). 2

100 million Christians around the globe are currently suffering persecution for their faith. Most often persecution takes the form of imprisonment, abuse, and hostilities. In some cases, however, Christians are asked to face more than scorn, prison, or the loss of health - they are asked to face death. 3

1 Source: World Christian Encyclopedia (2001) 2 Due to: (1) massive increase in world population (2) increase in percentages of Christians (3) the emergence of totalitarian atheistic states and the resultant brutal intolerance that comes with atheism. 3 persecution/




NON-CHRISTIANS: 63,882,000 (92%)

CHRISTIANS: 5,538,000 (8%)



STATE: 55,871,000


MUSLIMS: 9,121,000

ANIMISTS: 7,469,000




HINDUS: 676,000





North Korea



Saudi Arabia












Here are the Top 20 countries in terms of the worst Christian persecution as rated by Open Doors. 1







1 Open Doors provides Bibles, Christian literature, training and practical support to the persecuted church worldwide. They are the world’s largest outreach to persecuted Christians, working in the most high-risk places on earth.


A Christian Home Burned Down by Extremists in India

A few recent headlines from news.aspx

Muslims Attack Christian in Egypt, Cut Off His Ear - 26 Mar 2011

Rise in Kidnapping and Selling Kidneys of Poor Christian Workers in Pakistan - 24 Feb 2011

Iranian Pastor Accused of ‘Thought Crimes’ to Die by Hanging - 13 Nov 2010

Somali Teenage Girl Shot to Death for Embracing Christ - 3 Dec 2010

Pastor, Church Official Shot Dead in Nigeria - 10 June 2011

Two Pakistani Christian Girls Kidnapped in Central Punjab - 28 May 2011

Iraqi Christians Murdered in their Homes - 9 Dec 2010

Christian Woman in Darfur, Sudan Arrested for Evangelizing - 24 May 2011

Provincial Official in Algeria Orders Churches to Close - 25 May 2011

Christian in Bangladesh Goes to Prison for Evangelism - 23 March 2011

Christians in Prison, Beaten in Saudi Arabia - 21 Mar 2011

Christians facing death in Afghanistan denied refuge in India - 24 Feb 2011

Angry Muslim crowd attacks churches in Indonesia - 8 Feb 2011

Lao Officials Arrest 11 Christians at Gunpoint - 6 Jan 2011

Mass Arrest of Christians in Eritrea - 6 Jan 2010

Conakry, Guinea - Sunday, 14 Nov 2010: For 2 weeks Pastor Michel Loua had been held without warrant or trial in a filthy West African prison cell. Under cover of night, soldiers were sent to the prison where he was chained like an animal. They tortured him and shot him through the heart.




Paul relates the sad story of Demas who was previously one of his companions:

2 Tim 4:9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.


Q: Do you love the world more than you love God?

John warns us:

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

And James writes:

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.




Matt 13:22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

The “worries of this life” (KJV renders “cares of this world”) aren’t as sinister as the “love of the world”.

In fact they aren’t evil things – they’re simply the mundane everyday things we have to do – which can consume all our time if we’re not careful.

You can fill a vase with nuts and bolts – there’s nothing wrong with it – but it will prevent you from putting flowers in it, which is it’s proper function. It thus hinders the purpose the vase was made for. The cares of this world “choke” the seed, “making it unfruitful”.


Luke 10:38 … he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

While Mary sat at Jesus’ feet “listening to what he said”, Martha was preoccupied with the cares of this world. Martha was not doing evil things; she was probably tidying the house and preparing food.

“Satan will always find you something to do when you ought to be occupied about that (prayer and Bible study), if it is only arranging a window blind.” (Hudson Taylor)

While we have to work and there are mundane things that need to be done daily – we must not let them consume all our time. We must seek first the kingdom of God – it must be our number one priority.


“Before I left the farm,” D.L. Moody related about an experience in his early manhood, “I was talking one day to a man who was working there, and who was weeping. I said to him, ‘What is the trouble?’ And he told me a very strange story – strange to me then, for I was not at that time a Christian. He said that his mother was a Christian when he left home to seek his fortune. When he was about starting, his mother took him by the hand and spoke these parting words: ‘My son, seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ ‘This,’ said he, ‘was my mother’s favorite text’… 1

1 Source: biography/ biomoody.html


He went to a little church, and the minister preached from the text, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God;’ and he thought the text and sermon were meant for him. He wanted to get rich; and when he was settled in life he would seek the kingdom of God… It was not long before he heard another minister preach from the same text, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’ He thought someone must have been speaking to the minister about him… But he said, when he got settled in life, and had control of his time, and was his own master, he would then seek the kingdom of God. Some time after he was at another age, and here went to church again; and he had not been going a great while when he heard the third minister preach from the same text: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God…’ 1

1 Ibid


He said it went right down into his soul; but he calmly and deliberately made up his mind that he would not become a Christian until he had got settled in life, and owned his farm. This man said, ‘Now I am what the world calls rich. I go to church every Sunday; but I have never heard a sermon, from that day to this, which has ever made any impression on my heart. My heart is as hard as a stone.’ As he said that, tears trickled down his cheeks. I was a young man, and did not know what it meant. When I became converted, I thought I would see this man when I should go back home, and preach Christ to him. When I went back home I said to my widowed mother, naming the man, ‘Is he still living in the same place?’ 1

1 Ibid


My mother said, ‘He’s gone mad, and has been taken away to the insane asylum; and to every one that goes to see him he points his finger and says, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God’. I thought I should like to see him; but he was so far gone it would do no good. The next time I went home he was at his home, idiotic. I went to see him. When I went in, I said, ‘Do you know me?’ He pointed his finger at me and said, ‘Young man, seek ye first the kingdom of God.’ God had driven that text into his mind, but his reason was gone. Three years ago, when I visited my father’s grave, I noticed a new stone had been put up. I stopped, and found it was my friend’s. That autumn wind seemed to be whispering that text, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’” 1

1 Ibid




Right at the outset, God warned Paul that there was a cost to following him:

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”


Like the man building a house in Jesus’ parable, Paul had counted the cost – and said that it was worth it.

Rom 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

In fact, after speaking of his pedigree and status which he gave up to follow Jesus, Paul writes:

Phil 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ...


The rich young ruler counted the cost and wasn’t prepared to pay it. The cost of discipleship was his comfort and wealth. The price was too high for him.

Matt 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.


In contrast the twelve had left all to follow Jesus:

Luke 18:28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

And the price that was too high for the rich ruler was gladly paid by the despised tax collector Zacchaeus:

Luke 19:8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”


Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

(Jim Elliot - an evangelical Christian missionary to Ecuador who was killed at age 28 while attempting to evangelize the Waodani people)

“People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”

(Nate Saint [1923-56], the missionary pilot to Ecuador who was martyred along with Jim Elliot)


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Scripture quotations taken from the NIV:

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