Risk-averse is a term that is often used by financial managers, when they speak of people who do not want to take risks with their investments. They want low-risk investments—and that can be a prudent way to handle your money. But should we always be risk-averse?
Ron Hutchcraft told a story that illustrates this. He said he had been invited to go hiking with some friends in a gorgeous setting, to see a breathtaking waterfall. Ron was determined to see it. So, they hiked up the mountain and came to a large stream that had to be crossed in order to get to the waterfall. Ron took a look at the stream and started searching for a bridge, but there was none. He said to his companions, “How do we get across here?”
“Oh,” they said, “you have to walk across the pipe there.” Ron took a look at the pipe that bridged the stream. It was small; it was wet; it looked dangerous. And his first reaction was, “Thanks but no thanks. I’ll stay here.” But his friends urged him, “Come on. You can’t stay here. The view is on the other side. Wait ‘til you see the view and the waterfall. Come on; walk across the pipe.”
Ron had a decision to make. Either stay where he was and miss the view or walk across the pipe. He decided to take the risky way and he walked across. He said, “I wouldn’t have missed that view for anything. It was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. But I had to walk the pipe to get there.”
Yes, it was a bit risky, but it was worth the risk. You know, as we live our lives for Jesus, there will be times when we need to take a risk, move out of our comfort zones, attempt something that looks difficult, 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: That co-worker may react negatively, or I may botch it up and say all the wrong things, or maybe it’s against the law to share my faith on the job! And so that 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 shouldn’t take unnecessary risks and we should always proceed with prayer and caution. But my friends, if you’re afraid of any risk, you will really never do all the good things that God has put you here to do. You’ll miss so much of God’s blessing in your life.
The Bible is full of stories of risk-takers. Esther 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. But once she 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 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, but she knew she had to do it. So, she said, “If I perish, I perish.”
You see, 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 after all, we’re not all called to be missionaries, right? So, we get to the edge of the river, and we take a look across. We see some people there who seem to really be soaring and enjoying the other side. But we keep looking at that pipe; it’s risky; it takes faith. And we decide to stay where the ground is firm and we’re not at risk.
Oh, but what we miss when we refuse to cross over. God is looking for believers who are so in love with him—soul, heart and mind—that the pipe doesn’t scare them. They’re not willing to settle for anything less than God’s best.
Do you know the story of Deborah, who was a judge in Israel? This woman was way ahead of her time. She had to take an enormous risk—and that was 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.” 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, “Very well, I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours…“ Obviously she recognized that he was not the brave leader he should be. She took a risk. You can read her 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 and another is not willing. 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 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 just whether we trust God or not—or 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.” I told how Ron Hutchcraft was afraid to cross that slippery pipe to get to the other side of the stream so he could see this incredible waterfall, but he finally took the risk and made it across. Well, when we start across the 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 your ankles don’t turn!
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.
I have a 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 almost 2000 children involved in By the Hand Club in several 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 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. And of course, she is uniquely gifted. 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 has boldly moved forward with ever-growing impact on our city.
But let me tell you one more thing: It’s been loads of hard work, long days, many serious issues to resolve, safety issues, legal issues—it’s not 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.
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 and take a risk and be willing to let him do through us what he alone can do. I don’t have to do what Donnita does; but I will have to give an account for the opportunities that God has given me and I don’t want fear of taking a risk and stepping out on faith to keep me from hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
How about you? 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.
I’ve often told how I began this radio ministry in 1984 on one station in Chicago, never dreaming that God had plans for it to expand as it has over these 36 years. I guess I thought I could handle one program on one station once a week; that didn’t seem too much. But when it began to look like God intended this ministry to expand to the more than 400 stations and six-days-a-week program, I really was frightened. I can still remember the fear that gripped my heart.
I started thinking about the money—where would I get the money for such a ministry? And then I thought about my total lack of experience. I didn’t have any background in radio; I had no degree in theology; I had not written a book or done anything noteworthy. I had no mentor—knew no one in Christian radio. I was afraid. This was risky.
I remember sitting down with my Bible and telling the Lord I wasn’t going to take another step forward unless he showed me from his Word that this was his calling on my life. And that day my Bible reading was in Isaiah 50, where I read, “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the Word that sustains the weary. . . Because the Sovereign Lord helps me I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint and I know I will not be put to shame.”
Well, that was it. I knew that was God’s word of assurance to me that he wanted me to take this risky road, this impossible task, and move forward. So, I did. Let me tell you that my faith has been tested many times; I had a lot to learn then and I still have a lot to learn. But if I had not been willing to step out on the assurance of his Word, I would have missed these many years of incredible blessing and privilege that has been mine.
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 in that place is where the blessing is, where the abundant life is. Don’t miss it. If God is for you, who can be against you?