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July 16, 2014

Risk is a strategy board game invented by French film director Albert Lamorisse and originally released in 1957 as La Conquête du Monde (“The Conquest of the World”) in France. It was later bought by Parker Brothers and released in 1959 with some modifications to the rules as Risk: The Continental Game, then as Risk: The Game of Global Domination. The standard version is played on a board depicting a political map of the Earth, divided into forty-two territories, which are grouped into six continents. The object of the game is to occupy every territory on the board and in doing so, eliminate the other players. Players control armies with which they attempt to capture territories from other players.

I LOVE this game!  The Strategy, alliances, battles, subterfuge… and, well… RISK! The only way to win is to take a chance, to potentially let go of the known in order to achieve the unknown… It takes courage to play the game, knowing there’s everything to lose, and yet everything to gain.

Now, in life, there are the stereotypical “risk takers” that catch a ton of hype. Folks who free-climb sheer rock faces, who jump out of airplanes, and guys like tightrope walker Nick Wallenda, who has nothing between him and certain death but a balance pole and faith in God. BUT… did you know we all take risks each and every day?

Relationships are a risky. Friendships can be hard to form, and even harder to maintain. Romantic relationships are even more finicky and fragile! I remember playing the “she loves me, she loves me not” game on several occasions to decide whether or not to ask a girl to go steady, with absolutely no assurance it would work out. Raising kids is crazy! You’re never quite ready for it when it happens, and there’s all the uncertainty of how they’ll end up even if you manage to become the amazing and perfect parent you’ve always wanted to be (which never happens BTW…). Even going to the grocery store is a risk! Avoid the GMO’s… is it really organic… don’t eat the high fructose corn syrup! Aaaaand now the child you’re worried about is chewing on the cart handle that hasn’t been cleaned… Even breathing is a risk thanks to millions of toxins, dust particles, dust mites, and who knows what else…

TRUTH: Everything we do is a risk. The question is, how big of a risk are we willing to take?

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 says, “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”

These are the words of king Solomon, known as the wisest man to ever live. He was responsible for one of the most prosperous periods in Israel’s history, so it is important to heed his words! We are not to sit on our hands in fear, but rather, we are to risk for the possibility of reward, because we don’t understand God’s full plan.

TRUTH: Life cannot be lived without risk, and the same is true in the Church.

The problem arises when Jesus has asked us to trust in Him, and our version of “trust” looks a little bit like this:

Can you relate? I know I can… The issue here is that its a sinful and unbiblical way of living.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge (some versions say submit) to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

The writing of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon, so once again we are struck with his straight forward wisdom. His words are simple, but they pack a ton of meaning. In order to explain this further, I did a short word study.

Trust – Hebrew meaning: to rely on, to put confidence in, to believe.

Heart – Hebrew meaning: the inner person, the self, the seat of thought and emotion, the conscience, the person’s COURAGE.

Understanding – Hebrew meaning: one’s insight, discernment, good sense, wisdom, intelligence.

Acknowledge – Hebrew meaning: to know, recognize, or understand on an intimate level. This can range from meaning the mere acquisition and understanding of information to intimacy in relationship.

Submit – Hebrew meaning: to be subordinate, to put into subjection, to bring under control.

With these definitions in mind, if I were to re-write Solomon’s words and expand it a bit, it might look a little something like this:

“Rely upon, put confidence in, and believe in the Lord courageously with your conscience, thoughts, and emotions; your whole self! Don’t trust your own insight, intuition, good sense, wisdom or intelligence. Instead, know the heart of God intimately, living in submission to His Will, and He will direct your steps exactly where they are to go.”

Why is this so important for the Church? At least in my opinion, it appears as though many of us have forgotten that God has a greater plan for us.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Now, that’s great, but God doesn’t stop there! Keep reading!

Jeremiah 29:12-14 – “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Did you catch it? God has plans for us, but in order to KNOW those plans, we have to get off our duffs and SEEK HIM OUT! Fulfilling God’s plans takes effort… blood, sweat, and tears… time, talent, and treasure… and that’s risky business.

TRUTH: Being a Christ-follower takes risk, because we have to risk everything for His plan to come to fruition.

If you work in the nursery, there is a risk that all the babies will start bawling at the same time.

If you sing on the worship team, there is a risk that you might miss the high note, or lose your place and have to search for it while the team keeps on truckin’.

If you stand up to give a testimony, there is a risk that you might get nervous and talk in circles and make yourself look foolish, or that someone might take your life story and use it against you.

If you share your faith with your friends and family, there’s a risk they might reject you outright and have nothing to do with you.

If you become a pastor, there is a risk that your flock might rebel against the truth and against you and remove you from their pulpit.

If you become a missionary, there is a risk that you might get sick on the field and die for lack of proper medical care.

If you stand for Christ in a country without religious freedom, you might die a martyr’s death.

Jesus knew we’d be concerned about the “what-if’s” along the way, but that didn’t change his mandate in Matthew 28. However, He didn’t send us to do it alone, because that same passage tells us He would be with us to the very end. In Matthew 16, Jesus told the disciples they would be persecuted for their faith, but He also told them to take heart, for He had already overcome the world.

TRUTH: Following Christ takes risk, but He is always with us.

And THAT, my friends, should be all the comfort we need to risk it all.

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