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A Brief Anatomy of Risk

“Risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.” This statement from John Piper sums up an entire body of thought of what it means to follow Christ. I think, at it’s purest, risk exemplifies faith more than any belief, creed, or argument ever could. Faith is as faith acts. And there is no statement of faith, no doxology, that glorifies God more than what is lived.

Here’s the thing, a gospel that does not transform does not make sense to me. But where does the gospel transform, in the place where I approve of it, or in the place where I act on it? Where does revelation affect change, in my silent acceptance, or in my active decision? The distance between what is knowledge versus what is intimate revelation–between what is believed versus what is activated love and power–is choice; choice that is defined by action. That action is very often one of unknown consequence. It is a risk.

So then, what is risk? Or better yet, what is right risk? To define this, I first have to be resolute in how I define faith. The simple truth that God has worked in me is this: Faith is to act on the Father’s heart. I’ve found in my life that doubt doesn’t come in relation to what I believe God can do, but in what I believe He will do. If faith is as faith acts, then the risk is to step into an unknown with nothing more than the desire to know and reveal the heart of my Father. God is life and love, therefore a right risk is always rooted in giving that life and love to others.

What makes risk hard is that the unknown carries the weight of loss, rejection, and sacrifice. There is a transaction in every risk. Something is given when I choose to step in faith. More appropriately, something is given up–self.

Let me give a couple of examples that may paint a clearer picture. A while back, Dawn and I were eating dinner at a local restaurant. Our waiter was very attentive and cordial. There was nothing about his demeanor to suggest that something was wrong in his life. Yet something inside of me was telling me differently. There was nothing emotional or physical about the feeling. It was a simple thought in my spirit that there was something wrong in his family, specifically concerning his daughter. Was the Holy Spirit revealing this to me, or was it my own imagination? Was I fabricating this in my own zeal to see God move, or was this really God moving in my heart and wanting to move in this young man’s heart? There was only one way to know. I had to take a chance. I had to put myself on the line. So when he came to bring us our check, I told him that I felt like God had shown me that he was going through a difficult time with his family. He immediately hung his head, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Yes, it’s my daughter.”

What happened from there was more profound, but the point I’m trying to make is that it was an unknown. It was something I had to be willing to take a chance on, and when I did, God revealed Himself to that young man…and to me.

On another occasion, a young woman showed up at a our church one day. Her flight had landed in Houston earlier that morning, and by 11am she was sitting across a table from me. She had come from Nigeria with a suitcase, several hundred dollars, and the belief that God had told her to come to this specific church–that we would give her work and a place to live.

There were those who commented on her presumptuousness; others who said we should have put her on a flight right back to Nigeria. After all, how could she expect us to put our lives aside to help her figure out hers? She had no connections in Houston, no one to stay with, no prospect of work, and no idea what to do next.

But our conviction compelled us otherwise. This girl was here, right in front of us. And it was the heart of our Father to do right by her. You see, God didn’t reveal to us as to whether or not she was being truthful, or as to what kind of person she was. It honestly didn’t matter. All we had was all we needed, and that was the truth that God is love and that He loved her. So, we showed her that love.

With the help of our close friends, Bryan and Melody Jacobs, we took this young woman in. We gave her food and a place to live while we worked with a couple of other pastors to find her a more permanent home. For about three weeks she split her time between our home and the Jacobs’ until one of the pastors was able to secure her an apartment and work.

We had no idea who this woman was. Helping her was a risk. Helping her cost us something. Helping her was the heart of the Father. I am reminded in a sobering, yet comforting way that the Kingdom of God is not convenient to our comfort, neither does it conform to our culture. The love and power of God transcends all. That’s why His love changes things no matter what the culture or circumstances may be.

What I want you to see is that risk comes when you face an unknown and you are given the opportunity to reveal the heart of God. The choice will cost you. The choice will not let you stay where you are. But the choice reveals the love of God, and God’s love changes everything.

You may miss the mark sometimes. You may feel like the Holy Spirit is leading one way, only to find that you were wrong. That’s part of the journey…and never forget that intimacy is in the journey. If you are taking a chance on life and love, and are acting in obedience to the Word, then the risk is right. If you fall short, it’s not failure. It’s learning.


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