10 February 2011

Risky Business

Groundhog Day was last week and apparently Phil has decided it’ll be an early spring.  I don’t think Virginia got the message because it snowed again last night. Not much, just a thin dusting and I bet it’ll be mostly gone by lunch. Normally I’m not all that concerned about when spring is supposed to begin because in Florida it’s really all the same.  But here, in the frozen north, spring can’t come soon enough!  How is Virginia, you ask? Cold. Virginia is cold.  And often wet.  And so far, I’m not impressed.  But Virginia still has 43 days to make it up to me.  We’ll see.

 This was from the last blizzard, and not Virginia, but it made me laugh.

A couple weeks ago was an important anniversary: the 25th commemoration of the day the world was graced with Della Turner’s presence.  I think she and her awesomeness deserve a shout-out. 

She’s pretty stellar.

  It was also the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, so as I read the text of Reagan’s speech that day, this portion stood out:

“I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.” 

Most of us will never have the opportunity to go to space.  Most of us will never risk our lives mapping uncharted regions of the planet, or climbing an untouched mountain.  We won’t have a hand in expanding man’s physical horizons. But we will all have the option of expanding our own horizons, of taking a risk.  Yet, when those challenges arise, many of us will walk away. We let the fear of change, potential loss, failure, or even death dissuade us from the venture.  As Reagan explained, when you take risks, sometimes painful things happen.  That’s true.  If you strap yourself to 1.6 million pounds of propellant and try to launch yourself into orbit, there’s a chance you’ll lose your life in the process. But here’s the larger truth: painful things happen. Period. Painful things happen to people living quiet simple lives in suburban USA just the same as they happen to astronauts exploring space…or missionaries taking the Gospel to a closed and hostile country.  No one is immune.  Cancer, car accidents, natural disasters… even terrorist attacks: they can happen any time, anywhere.  Yes there are certain inherent risks to everything we do,  but usually what we allow to create fear and keep us from acting are the perceived risks.

That becomes a problem when it comes to Christianity.  In America we don’t sense a great deal of risk attached to following Christ because it does not necessarily cost us much. We have this idea that God wants to keep us safe and comfortable, but David Platt puts it this way in Radical (Great book. Read it. Now!): 

“We say things such as, ‘The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.’ We think, if it’s dangerous, God must not be in it. If it’s risky, if it’s unsafe, if it’s costly, it must not be God’s will. But what if these factors are actually the criteria by which we determine something is God’s will? What if we began to look at the design of God as the most dangerous option before us? What if the center of God’s will is in reality the most unsafe place for us to be?”

Mark Batterson hits the nail on the head when he asks, “When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things?” That’s not what we see modeled in the New Testament. As one of our instructors here in training keeps pointing out, the most normal place for Christians to be in the New Testament is in prison. And in many places around the world that is still the case. Following Christ is risky.  It always has been, it always will be.  And I’d go as far to say that it always should be, because Christianity that costs nothing produces the same. Nothing. And we KNOW that is not God’s will.  Refusing to take risks when God has called you to them means you are actually taking a much greater risk: being disobedient to Christ.  You are also risking missing out on what God is doing and missing out on His blessings. “We all want adventure, faith, miracles, and a deep knowledge of Christ, but you can’t have those things without letting go of safety, security, comfort, and control. You have to choose between safety and bravery. The bottom line is this: God’s will in a fallen world is dangerous. (Batterson)”

So yes, following Christ can be dangerous, but as we’ve already established, being alive is dangerous.  So doesn’t it make sense to go ahead and spend your life risking it all for the cause of the Gospel?

I’m sure I’ll ramble on more on this topic at a later date because it gets me fired up, so let's just call this "Part 1."  I leave you with an entry from one of my favorite books My Utmost for His Highest. (I love me some Oswald Chambers. And check it out, they have it in Spanish!) :

“Supposing God tells you to do something which is an enormous test to your common sense, what are you going to do? Hang back? If you get into the habit of doing a thing in the physical domain, you will do it every time until you break the habit determinedly; and the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will get up to what Jesus Christ wants, and every time you will turn back when it comes to the point, until you abandon resolutely. ‘Yes but- supposing I do obey God in this matter, what about…?’ ‘Yes I will obey God if He will let me use my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.’

            Jesus Christ demands of the man who trusts Him the same reckless sporting spirit that the natural man exhibits. If a man is going to do anything worthwhile, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what He says, and immediately you do, you find that what He says fits on as solidly as common sense.

 At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad; but bring them to the bar of faith, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God. Trust entirely in God, and when He brings you to the venture, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis, only one out of a crowd is daring enough to bank his faith on the character of God.” 



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