Have you ever taken a big risk before?
Have you ever risked embarrassment, money, maybe even your life for something? Before I started following Christ I was not much of a “risk taker”. Sure, maybe I’d go cliff jumping, ask out a girl that was out of my league, or make a risky bet on a football game. When it came to big life decisions. My life plan was always go to college, get my grades, get my degree, get the internship, get the job, play it safe, live a good life, do enough good for God right where I was. There wasn’t anything valuable enough for me to give up my comfort or security for.
When I started to follow Christ I had thought my life was going to get easier, more comfortable, and secure. But I realized I had to make new decisions on how I would spend my time, my summers, and the direction of my life. These are not just normal risks, but decisions that could change the direction of your life for the sake of others. There was a choice in front of me: I could either waste my life by living a safe Christian life with no impact on eternity, or I could say yes to God and live with risk as my new normal. Either sit on the sidelines or get in the game.
I realized that the amount of risk that I’d take for God was directly in proportion to how much faith I had in Him and His promises.
Today, I want to ask you the same questions that I went through. Would risking your comfort, summers, security, job, future plans, or even your life for the sake of the Gospel be the right thing to do?
Is risk right?
What is Risk? Risk is an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury. What would you do if you knew that taking this risk would bring great benefit to many people, but its failure would only bring harm to yourself? This is a decision that God brings to all of his followers. There is a mission that God has been on since the beginning of time to bring all nations around the world into a relationship with Him. There are currently around 3 billion people in the world who are considered unreached with no access to this relationship. God made his command clear that we are to go and make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:19) We can choose to stay in our comfort zones of our American dream and arrive safely to the end of our lives without risking much for God; or, we can truly all play a part in his mission that guarantees we won’t waste our lives.
Life truly begins where our comfort zone ends, and Jesus will not be impressed with our American Dream when we reach the end of our lives.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”. Hebrews 11:6
If we’re willing to risk and change our lives for something, we must know the ultimate meaning of our lives. John Piper describes the meaning of life being, “To honor Christ, Magnify Christ, and to make much of Christ”. The ultimate hope of Christ is that we would join him in his work to reach all people. There are thousands of ways for us to magnify Christ with our lives. “If Christ is where we find our true value, and if we believe that we have ultimate and eternal fellowship after death then, it frees us from the self-serving fear of dying and enables us to risk our lives for the good of others, this love magnifies the glory of Christ like nothing else in the world.”
I speak with hundreds of college students who have to decide if the risk is right. They are right on the edge of making a big jump for God, but paralysis occurs with many of these students who stand at the edge and look out to the great abyss of risk.
It’s worse to not do something than to do something and mess up.
God does not count our “almosts”. There is a subtle amount of selfishness behind our avoidance of risk taking. There is a selfishness in saying no to God in His ultimate plan to say yes to the easier path. “When we freeze from God’s purpose, we freeze from the very love which Christ brought to Calvary.”
If we look to scripture we see almost every Bible hero lived a life of complete risk. We see Ester seeing a risk and simply trusting God enough to say, “If I perish, I perish” (Est. 4:17). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tell King Nebuchadnezzar that they will not worship his gods. (Daniel 3:17). They don’t hesitate knowing that by doing so would mean their placement in the fiery furnace. They said yes to this risk filled purpose even without knowing God would protect them.
Furthermore, in the New Testament we see Jesus and his first encounter with some of his disciples. He stops them while they are in the middle of work, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 4:19) This was not just a call to take a risk, but to change their lives! The apostles took countless risks for God and one of our best examples of a risk taker is Paul. Paul was ready to die for the name of Jesus time and time again. Paul writes a list of his sufferings including five imprisonments, lashings, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times, and danger all around him. (2 Corinthians 11:24-26). Paul could have avoided all of this risk by saying no to God. Paul said yes to the risk because he knew the benefit of others knowing Jesus was more important than his own protection.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14
I was 15 years old it was the middle of winter break and boredom had hit an all time high. We were packed in from the snow but one friend had the great idea to not just go sledding, but to latch a tube onto the back of one of our cars and drag people around the city. As I was processing all the risk involved I could not get past the idea of how cool I would look if I stepped up and drove. So I said yes, and the risk was worth it... until we had a run in with the police. This type of risk might be used in risk taking for God as well. It can be centered in self worth, approval from others, or it can be centered in our relationship with God.
We don’t risk for His approval, we work from his approval.
God wants us to live in obedience of Him but He ultimately loves us enough to send his only Son to die the most painful death imaginable, so that we could have a relationship with Him. He is not in the business of being impressed. He is God almighty. So knowing that God will not love you more because of your risks, is it still worth it to you? Or even if you took these risks and no one knew about it? It is not to get praise because of our courage; it’s God who gets praise because of His care for us and for the courage He gives us.
Risk reflects God’s value to us and to the world. Not our own value to others.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven… But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-6
Let’s see how Paul summarizes how to look at risk:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution…? As it is written, for your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39
So the question comes back to us, Is risk right?
Your risk could be big or small. Maybe risk is in going to a summer project, sharing your faith, inviting someone to Church, going on a short-term trip, or making long-term decisions for the future. Whatever your risk is, big or small, God wants you to make decisions with eternity in mind. We cannot make our decisions solely off what parents, friends, or the world will say. We must go back to the promises of God to find out how to respond to risk. It may be hard to do but the reward far outweighs the cost. The treasure of Christ is worth giving up everything else for. My plea to you as you’re deciding your summer, your future, your finances, or your life is this: Don’t waste it.
If our single all embracing passion is to make much of Christ, and if the life that brings Him glory is a life of risk, then life is risk, and risk is right. “
It is good and right to stand before the fiery furnace of affliction and refuse to bow down to the gods of this world. At the end of every other road that is 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.
It is better to lose your life than to waste it. Risk is most certainly right.
Book summary and article by David S
All quotes from Risk is Right by John Piper