Esther’s words If I perish I perish (Esther 4) have again sparked in me a dream to be free from domesticated, comfort-seeking, entertainment-addicted, maintenance mode, Christianity. Our mission statement - St Paul’s exists to Know Jesus, Treasure Jesus, and Represent Jesus for God’s glory and the joy of all people - calls us to be bold and courageous for the cause of Christ. Risk is right when it is done for God’s glory and the joy of others.
It seems to me that God intends for us to live in uncertainty and risk. James 4:13–15 says: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.
We don't know if our heart will stop before breakfast is over. We don't know if some oncoming driver will swerve out of a lane and hit us. We don't know if the food we’ve just eaten has some deadly virus in it. We don't know if some person with a rifle will just start shooting at us in a shopping centre. We are not God. We do not know about tomorrow, therefore risk is built into the fabric of our lives. We can't avoid risk even if we want to. Christians must explode the myth of safety, and be delivered from the seduction of security. Security in this world is a mirage. It doesn't exist. The tragedy is that in the myth of security we are paralysed to take any risks for the cause of God, because we are deluded and think it may jeopardise a security which in fact does not even exist.
There are a few great examples of risk for the cause of God in the Bible. Firstly, 2 Samuel 10:11-12; Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. 12 Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight.
In verse 11 they pledged themselves to help each other. Then came this great word in verse 12: Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight. MAY THE LORD DO WHAT SEEMS GOOD TO HIM.
Joab had made a strategic decision for the cities of God and he did not know how it would turn out. He had no special revelation from God on this issue. He had to make a decision on the basis of sanctified wisdom. He had to risk or run. He did not know how it would turn out. He made his decision and he handed the results over to God. It was so right.
Secondly, Daniel 3. The setting is Babylon and the Jewish exiles. The king is Nebuchadnezzar. He sets up an image of gold and commands that when the trumpet sounds, all the people will bow down to the image. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, however, will not, did not, bow down. They worshiped the one true God of Israel. In verse 15 Nebuchadnezzar threatens them and says that if they do not worship the image, they will be thrown into the fiery furnace. Verses 16–18 is their answer:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
This is sheer risk. They did not know how it would turn out. They didn’t have a special revelation from God. They handed the outcome to God. It was so right.
Thirdly, the apostle Paul in Acts 21. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. He had collected money and he was going to see that it was delivered faithfully. He gets as far as Caesarea, and it says in 21:10 that a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
When the believers hear this, they beg Paul not to go. Here is his response in verse 13, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Then, in verse 14 Luke says, “When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’”
Paul believes that this trip to Jerusalem is necessary for the cause of God. He does not know what would happen there. Arrest and hardship for sure. But then what? Death? Imprisonment? Banishment? No one knew. So what do they say? On one thing they can agree, "The will of the Lord be done!"
It is right to risk for the cause of God but not because God promises success to all our ventures in his cause. There is no promise that every effort for the cause of God will succeed, at least not in the short term. John the Baptist risked by calling a spade a spade when Herod divorced his wife to take his brother's wife, Herodias. John got his head chopped off for it. Paul was beaten and thrown in jail in Jerusalem and shipped off to Rome and executed there two years later. There are many graves around the world because thousands of young missionaries were freed by the power of the Holy Spirit from the seduction of security, and risked their lives for the cause of God. None of it was failure, although it might appear to be.
Why risk for the glory of God and the joy of others? That’s easy! 1 Peter 1:3-5: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us now birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” The gospel. The heart of Christianity says that Jesus risked everything for us so that we might have eternal security with him.
The more we grasp that our security is in Jesus, and is rock solid, the more free we’ll be to risk for him now. What risks are you taking now? I’m not saying give everything away, but I am saying what steps are you taking to bring glory to God and joy to others? Take a risk by joining a Community Group (or a different one). Risk by giving more to ministry and charity. Risk by ‘coming out’ as a Christian, visiting a lonely neighbour. The list is endless, but that ought not freeze you from action. Just take one risk.
What about us as a church in Chatswood? We’ve taken some risks but we must keep looking forward lest we settle into a comfortable pride. Here are three risk issues/questions before us:
Trusting Christ for the next risk,