Pastor John, in your 50-page book, titled Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It, you say that “safety is a myth.” What do you mean by that?
Well, both the Bible and experience teach us that safety is a myth. You can’t put enough padlocks on your door and enough bars on your window to keep a heart attack from happening. There is no guarantee that anybody is going to live another breath. In terms of absolute security, all the efforts that we make to keep ourselves safe are ultimately an illusion.
The Illusion of Safety
Our life is in God’s hands.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13–15).
So there is no safety in the car to get you there. There is no safety in the building while you are there. There are no guarantees that you are going to live. That is what experience teaches us. Safety is an illusion in terms of its guarantee.
The Bible Promises Peril
The Bible makes it worse for us. Jesus said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25), and “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
Paul said, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom” (Acts 14:22). Peter said, “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” In other words, it is not strange. It is normal to suffer in this world. And Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Piper: “Anybody who belongs to a people movement with a crucified Lord at the head of it can count on a Calvary Road themselves.”
The New Testament is just replete with the truth that you will not be safe. You are going to suffer. Take up your cross and follow me. Anybody who belongs to a people movement that has a crucified Lord at the head of it can count on a Calvary Road themselves. You cannot avoid risk, therefore embrace it for kingdom purposes.
The Insecurity of Ignorance
Yes, that is a great point. So then, this illusion of safety is holding a Christian back from taking risk. What are the risks that you are specifically addressing in this book?
Risk is a peculiar thing. In order for there to be risk there must be ignorance. So God can’t risk. I hear people say, “God took a big risk in creating human kind,” or “God took a big risk in sending his Son into the world.” Absolutely he did not. He knew exactly what would happen to his Son. He knew exactly that we would fall because he was planning redemption long before he created the world. The Bible is crystal clear on that.
God can never, nor did he ever, take a risk, because risk demands ignorance. That is, if you know that you are going to be shot when you stand in front of your wife, you don’t “risk” being shot. You sacrifice yourself, period. That is not a risk. That is a sacrifice. And so you give your life for her. That is what Jesus did.
Most of us live every day not at all sure what will happen to us. If we write a letter to our son or daughter to try to witness to them, we don’t know if it will backfire. When we try to witness to somebody at work, we don’t know whether they will criticize us or whether we will lose our job. When a person goes into a mission field he does not know whether he is going to be arrested.
Choose to Risk Rightly
There are just a thousand things that we don’t know might happen to us. My point in this book is we should choose to risk. We should embrace risk, not minimize it. We decide whether a risk is right by looking at the greatness of the outcome that we hope for.
Risk is unavoidable in life. The question is whether we will risk rightly, for the sake of Jesus and his fame.
Personally, I think taking life-threatening risks for sheer pleasure is wrong. I wouldn’t sky dive or hang glide for just sheer pleasure. Why? Because if there is one simple malfunction, you are dead. And for what reason? Fun. To me, that’s a bad idea. However, I would support sky diving and hang gliding in order to accomplish some great, sacrificial goal for another person.
Everybody knows that driving a car down the road is taking a risk, but we still do it, because getting somewhere is valuable, and the risk is small. The same applies with getting on an airplane. You risk your life getting on an airplane, and I think getting on an airplane just for fun would probably be foolish. But getting on an airplane to go somewhere in a certain amount of time with minimal risk and high payoff would be right.
So then, risk-taking is directly tied to faith?
Yes, but I think there is a way to take risk as an arrogant glory-seeker. So I am not saying that only believers take risk. I am saying the only way to rightly take a risk that honors Christ is to say, “I love you. I trust you. I believe you are in control. Only you can provide the strength to do this, and only you will govern the outcome. I am willing to walk into this risk for kingdom purposes and for your glory, because I am trusting you. The reason I can trust you is because you died for me, and you rose for me.” The gospel is underneath my readiness to risk by faith.