What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken?
When I think of risks, I often think of extreme sports enthusiasts and the breathtakingly dangerous things they do. However, for most of us daily life is full of risks. We might take a risk in the workplace, in a relationship, we might face financial risks, get out a mortgage, move house etc. I think there are three ways we can respond to risk; we take it (may seem reckless), avoid it (not always possible), or mitigate it (we often have to). When we deal with risk, what we are actually doing is dealing with the associated danger. That’s because the definition of risk is a situation involving exposure to danger. There’s an unknown outcome. There’s an uncertainty; the risk of loss or something negative happening. Most people respond to danger with fear, don’t they? We all handle fear differently.
It seems that in today’s world, we are constantly seeing people take risks; in business, sports, TV, advertising, social media, just to name a few. Howard Shultz, the founder and former CEO of Starbucks says that we should ‘Risk more than others think safe’. We are often encouraged to take risks when there is profit to be made, prizes to be won or for the advance of technology, science or medicine. But what about when it comes to our faith and what we believe? Are we encouraged to take risks there?
Well, ironically, there’s no faith without risk. Faith requires us to take a risk and step into the unknown. That’s why it’s called faith. There’s a great definition of faith that comes from the Bible: ‘Faith is being sure of we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Hebrews 1:11). I think that faith is associated with a unique type of risk. In the business world they often talk about calculated risk where you estimate the probability of outcomes before you take the risk or make a decision. But there’s no such thing when it comes to faith. I think that that’s really exciting. Yes, it’s scary, but it’s incredibly exciting.
When I think of faith, I’m reminded of the scene from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indiana has to take a ‘leap of faith’ to cross a canyon. Unsure of what he is meant to do, he simply steps out into thin air, closing his eyes so as not to look at the death-deifying expanse below. As he steps out his foot falls onto something solid; an invisible path. He’s found the way! This reminds me of when I took my first step as a believer in Christ. It felt so risky, but I trusted in God that there was a way. And there was! Many steps I took in my early days as a believer felt like this. But what happens when we have been a Christian for some time? Does our walk become a little more stable; our faith a bit more comfortable?
Jesus gave some challenging instructions to his followers. He said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
Although Jesus seems to be giving some impossible guidelines, they are full of wisdom. Jesus isn’t talking literally about taking up a cross (although some people might die for their faith). What he is saying that we must put to death the attitude of ‘self’ (deny yourself). A life lived for yourself alone isn’t particularly meaningful. A self-centred person doesn’t often take risks for others. Jesus is calling us to lead a life of self-sacrifice, for the sake of others. He’s talking about a unique type of risk; one with an associated loss (loss of ‘self’) but with an even greater gain; eternal life. Jesus recognises that life on earth is difficult; it will encourage us to be selfish, to live as if this life is all there is, so we build up treasures here on earth. But Jesus is telling us that there’s more than this life on earth. Jesus understood risk and self-sacrifice more than anyone. He went on to make the ultimate sacrifice, faced the greatest risk, and he willingly gave up His life for us so that we could have eternal life.
The greatest risk has already been taken, but it’s up to us to take that step of faith. God calls us as believers into a life of risk taking for the sake of others. God’s plan of salvation is for all humanity, and He invites us to be part of His plan – to play a role in bringing others to know Him. If we aren’t willing to take that risk, then what we risk is other people’s salvation.
When I was growing up, I had this perception of Christians as rather boring and unadventurous people. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. As I read the Bible and learn about Jesus’s followers, I get an image of people who live dangerous lives; they are bold, courageous and adventurous. They are risk-takers, because of the one who took the ultimate risk for them. We are called to live that way as believers. I love the quote that says: ‘To risk nothing, is to risk everything’. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to faith.
So, what is the biggest risk you have ever taken? What is the risk that God might be calling you to take?
Say yes to taking a risk for God, and don’t be surprised if He uses you powerfully.
Small group questions:
- What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken?
- What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your faith?
- What does ‘take up your cross daily’ mean to you? (Luke 9:23)
- What risk do you feel God calling you to take now?
Discuss these questions and encourage one another in your journey of faith!