Monday, March 12th, 2018
Are you a risk taker? Some people would tell you not to ever take a risk, because. . .well because it’s risky! Play it safe would be their motto.
For sure, taking risks is not always a smart thing to do, but if you were to talk to any successful person in any field, no doubt they would tell you about some time in their life when they took a risk. They exposed themselves to failure—maybe even ridicule—but that’s what it took for them to be successful.
As we live our lives for Jesus, there will be times when we need to take a risk, move out of our comfort zone, attempt something that looks difficult, and yes, even run the possibility of failing. For example, maybe God has been prompting you to share your faith with a co-worker, but you’ve been reluctant to do so because it’s risky. You think thoughts like, That co-worker may react negatively; I may botch it up and say all the wrong things; maybe it’s against the law to share my faith on the job! As a result, fear keeps you from taking the risk.
I wonder how many of us are missing out on so much of what God wants us to do—and the blessings that come when we obey—simply because we’re not willing to take a risk. Obviously, we should always proceed with prayer and caution. However, if you’re afraid of any risk, you will simply never do all the good things that God has put you here to do. You’ll also miss so much of God’s blessing in your life!
In his insightful booklet, Risk Is Right, John Piper says his aim is to explode the myth of safety and deliver us from the enchantment of security, because it’s a mirage. It doesn’t exist. None of us knows what the next moment holds, not to mention tomorrow. God never takes any risks because he knows the end from the beginning. However, we don’t—and God doesn’t tell us because he intends for us to live by faith not by sight. Thus, our lives are risky.
Fear of risk keeps many of us paralyzed. It keeps people from making decisions; they want security nets or assurances of success before they make a move. Bonhoeffer wrote, “To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love.” Even with best intentions and prayerful consideration, I’ve made decisions that didn’t work out so well. But since God knows my heart and my motives, he took those wrong decisions and worked them out for my good.
I’m going to examine people in the Bible who took great risks, and I hope you’ll be inspired to step out on faith and take whatever risks you need to in order to follow Christ and his plans for you!
Tuesday, March 13th, 2018
The Bible is full of stories of risk-takers. One such story is of Esther—she took a great risk to rescue her people from annihilation! This young, inexperienced woman literally took her life in her hands and approached the king. Before doing that, she asked for all the Jews to pray and fast for her. That’s a good principle! You don’t just go headlong into some risk without knowing God is leading you, and you are fortified with prayer.
Once Esther knew she had to take this risk, she said, “I will go to the king even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Esther was a meek, humble young woman. She was not equipped for such an assignment. She could have given any number of legitimate excuses why she just could not take this risk of approaching the king in order to save her people. But she knew it was a unique opportunity, and she knew it was the right thing to do. She did face the possibility of failure; she knew the extent of the risk she took; however, she knew she had to do it. So she said, “If I perish, I perish.”
Many of us are very willing to serve Jesus as long as it’s comfortable and not terribly demanding. We have our life plan in place and we’ve put Jesus in the schedule. Yes, we love him. . .but we’re not all called to be missionaries, right? We go so far but no further. We see some people who are taking risks for Jesus and doing amazing things, but we rationalize and tell ourselves that it’s just not our thing.
God is looking for believers who are so in love with him—soul, heart, and mind—that the risk doesn’t scare them, or if it does scare them, they go ahead anyway! When God is opening a new door and I know he wants me to take the next step, I usually feel very overwhelmed, inadequate, and just plain scared—scared of the risk of failure, scared I won’t be able to do it, and scared I’ll make a fool out of myself. In those times, I tell God I’m scared, give my fear to him, and take the next step.
John Piper says, “Doing nothing needs forgiveness as much as doing the best you can and erring.” It is right to take a risk for Jesus!
Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
Do you know the story of Deborah, a judge in Israel? For certain, Deborah was a risk-taker for the Lord!
This woman was way ahead of her time. She had to take an enormous risk: to go herself and lead her army into battle. Barak was the leader of the army, but he said, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go” (Judges 4:8). Maybe he thought she never would agree to go into battle and that would get him off the hook. If so, she fooled him. She said, “Certainly I will go with you. But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours. . .” (Judges 4:10). She recognized that he was not the brave leader he should be, so she took a risk. You can read the whole story in Judges 4—an amazing story of how God gave her and her army victory over their much larger enemy.
I wonder what it is that makes one person willing to take a risk for God, while another is not. Isn’t it true that we are prone to trust those we know, but if we don’t know someone too well, we’re less willing to trust them? No doubt our knowledge of and trust in God has a lot to do with our willingness to take a risk for him. It’s at these times—when there is some risk involved—that we find out whether we truly trust God or not, and how much we trust him. God wants us to take risks as he leads us, and allow him to do through us what we could never do on our own. We should attempt something so great for God that only he could do it.
Psalm 18:36 says: “You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” Ron Hutchcraft tells the story of how he had to overcome a fear of walking across a slippery pipe in order to cross a stream so he could see an incredible waterfall. He was afraid to do it and was ready to back out, but his friends encouraged him to walk across the pipe so he could see this beautiful waterfall. He finally took the risk and made it across. He reports that the risk was more than worth it because the view was awesome. When we start across a pipe that looks risky—that “faith pipe” that will take us to new territory for Jesus—as soon as we set foot on it, the pipe becomes a broad path, and our ankles won’t give way! Jesus broadens the path beneath our feet! I love that image.
Walk across the pipe today. Don’t miss the view. Don’t miss what Jesus wants to do in you and through you. Don’t stay where it’s comfortable. Be willing to be an entrepreneur for Jesus. That’s where the abundant life is—doing what only he can do through you.
Thursday, March 15th, 2018
Do you know someone who has taken a big risk for Jesus? I’ve shared about two women in Scripture who took great risks—Esther and Deborah. But what about a contemporary risk-taker?
Let me tell you about my dear friend, Donnita Travis, who left her very successful career in marketing to begin an after-school ministry for under-served children in the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago. In 2001 she began with 16 children, coming three days each week to our church for tutoring, teaching and nourishing. Now there are over 1,200 children involved in By the Hand Club in four different locations in our city, and it is absolutely mind-boggling to see how God is using this ministry to bring children hope and love, and to help them reach their potential! These children not only improve in their schoolwork, they hear the gospel clearly and are loved by the staff. The success stories are abundant. By the way, you can learn the whole story by going to bythehand.org.
I look at Donnita and think, If only I had faith like she does, or If only I had her management and marketing skills. She is uniquely gifted, certainly, but it’s much more than that: Donnita heard God’s call on her life and she simply said, like Esther, “God has put me here for such a time as this.” She took an enormous risk and, for over fifteen years, has boldly moved forward with ever-growing impact on our city.
Let me tell you one more thing: It’s been loads of hard work, long days, many serious issues to resolve, safety issues, and legal issues—it has not been an easy road. There are days I see her and know she is simply tired to the bone, but she keeps doing what God has put her here to do, and God is blessing her efforts.
I know that God doesn’t call all of us to such highly visible tasks, but I know that he calls each of us to step out on faith, take a risk, and be willing to let him do through us what he alone can do. You don’t have to do what Donnita does. However, you will have to give an account for the opportunities that God has given you, and you don’t want fear of taking a risk and stepping out on faith to keep you from hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Are you standing on the brink of a new challenge? Does your heart tell you this is what God wants you to do? Remember, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Don’t miss the great thing God has for you to do because you’re not willing to take the risk.
Friday, March 16th, 2018
Are you a risk taker? Jesus asks us to take risks for him. He challenges us to lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel. He warned us that our lives might incur hard times and persecutions, just as his did. But you can be sure of this: It is better to lose your life than it is to waste it!
Let me quote from John Piper’s booklet, Risk Is Right:
Therefore, it is right to risk for the cause of Christ. It is right to engage the enemy and say, “May the Lord do what seems good to him.” It is right to serve the people of God, and say, “If I perish, I perish!” It is right to stand before the fiery furnace of affliction and refuse to bow down to the gods of the world. At the end of every other road—secure and risk-free—we will put our face in our hands and say, “I’ve wasted it!” But at the end of the road of risk, taken in reliance on the blood-bought promises of God, there will be fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
The kind of risk-taking we should do for Jesus is not the impulse of being a hero, or the lust for adventure. If our motives are to heap praise and glory for ourselves, we are doing it for the wrong reasons. We also don’t take risks for Jesus in order to earn his acceptance or gain his approval. It has to be about doing it for the love of Christ—nothing more, nothing less.
Paul wrote, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
When the love of Christ compels you, then the risk is a no-brainer. You have to do it because Jesus loves you so much and has redeemed your life and given you hope and purpose. Now you have the privilege to do something risky out of love for him.
Regardless of what God is leading you to do, I can promise you it will be bigger than you are, and it will be risky. It will require you to live by faith and not by sight. It will test you and frighten you, but that’s where the blessing is, where the abundant life is. Don’t miss it. If God is for you, who can be against you?!