Christians are called to take risks. Not because we are all called to pioneer missions or wired as cutting-edge mavericks. No, it’s because progress always depends upon initiative without the luxury of omniscience. That spells risk.
When God invites us to risk, we have two options. You can flee in an attempt to protect yourself from the risk of obedience. Jonah tried that. But God loves us too much to approve our exit strategy. Jonah eventually understood that, but not before spending three nights in Hotel Humpback.
The second option is to move forward in faith, not dismissing the risk, but accepting it as part of the path towards God and godliness. We see this in Paul’s actions, especially in Acts 20.
Paul Accepts the Uncertainty of Risk
As Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, his ship was docked in Miletus, about thirty miles from the church he’d helped establish in Ephesus. Paul had a lot of history with the elders of the Ephesian church, so knowing his mates were nearby, he called for them. He wanted to pass along some things that might help them in their ambition to preach the gospel and build the church.
Here’s what he told them:
You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
Now admittedly, I’m no Paul; my life is complicated enough just being Dave. Paul was in a league of his own, and none of us play ball there.
But we can appreciate some important similarities between Paul and ourselves. For instance, we carry the same gospel Paul carried. I love the way Charles Spurgeon’s grandfather put it when commenting on his grandson’s gifting: “He may preach the gospel better than I do, but he does not preach a better gospel.” Paul was a better gospel preacher than any of us, but he didn’t preach a better gospel. That’s something worth pondering.
We also share another similarity with Paul. Not only do we have the same gospel he carried, but the spread of that gospel requires us to have a similar ambition to take risks. I don’t mean we’ll all end up in prison, as Paul did. But it takes risk and sacrifice for the gospel to move forward. In that sense, the gospel makes the same claim upon us it did upon Paul.
Risk For You
We tend to think of “risks” as high-cost, life-threatening situations where we make monumental sacrifices. You know, like Paul. But God meets us more in the reality of our own calling; who we are and where we live. Think less dramatically. For instance, when was the last time you took the risk of inviting someone to church? When was the last time you invited a neighbor over for dinner? Or volunteered to serve the homeless? Or admonished a friend who could really use that kind of love?
To learn to accept large risks, we must be faithful in the smaller ones. We can either move towards risk, trusting that God will put our service to use for the sake of advancing his cause; or we can run towards comfort, simply turning again and again to what we know and have always done.
I’m praying God makes me more like Paul than Jonah. I’m praying he does the same for you.
Tenacious Tuesday Questions
What might God be calling you to risk for him in this season of life and ministry? What steps can you take today to move forward towards that risk? As you ponder possibilities, assess your heart. How are you responding and what may need to change?
Lord God, give me courage to obey your call on my life, no matter how risky it may seem. As I follow you, please remind me daily that you are present and will not forsake me, no matter how challenging the assignment you give.