Pastor John you have a new book out, a little 50-page book, titled Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It. In light of our dreams and aspirations, how do we determine which risks would be right or wrong, and which risks God is actually calling us to?
At every level, the church should be involved in the risks we take in life.
The church — both corporately and in the smaller manifestations of small groups, whether institutional within our churches or the more natural groups of people God has surrounded us with — should be playing a role in the choices we make regarding risks. And then individually, we should seek the counsel of those who have gifts of wisdom and experience for advice on jobs, marriages, and life patterns.
At every level, the Church can help us avoid stupid mistakes in our lives that would create unwarranted and unnecessary risks. None of us should live in a bubble where we are making all these decisions by ourselves. God ordained that those around us would help us.
The Principle of Proportionate Risk
A foolish risk is one that is taken for something small, or on the other hand, being unwilling to take a risk for something big. The principle is proportionality. The bigger the expected outcome for the glory of God, the wiser it is to take a great risk. Likewise, the more insignificant and selfish the outcome, the more unwise it would be for you to take a big risk, because the return is so meager.
Christians should use biblical criteria to discern what is the expected outcome that God calls me to pursue and what is the nature of the risk. Within that balance, only the Holy Spirit can make plain when it is right to risk or not.
Here is a concrete example. Often, someone will tell a missionary, “You need to get out now, because situations are developing in this culture that are going to be very dangerous for you.” They always face a difficult choice at that time. Some will say, “You are right. I should go.” And others will say, “No, we have identified with this people for 20 years. We stand with them. We die with them. We are staying.”
I think both of those choices can be right because the Bible clearly says, as John Bunyan pointed out, there is a time to fly and a time to stand. Sometimes Paul stood and was stoned and sometimes he got in a basket and escaped. Only the Holy Spirit can make plain when we should do one or the other.