February 2010 - Vol. 37
Spiritual Risk Taking
What kinds of risks are worth taking for the sake of Christ and his kingdom?
by Jon Wilson
When I think of risk taking, my mind first goes to traditional kinds of ďrisky behaviors,Ē including bungee jumping, rock climbing, and sky diving. I was recently reminded just how risk-averse I can be when I watched the movie The Guardian, which portrayed the work of US Coast Guard rescue swimmers. These guys regularly jump out of helicopters into places like the Bering Sea to try to pull drowning people out of very high (and cold) seas. No thanks!
But this isnít the only kind of risk taking. Many people try to evaluate their Ērisk toleranceĒ in considering how to invest and save for their retirement. Small business owners tend to be risk takers. And, of course, the exploding Ēgaming industryĒ rakes in huge profits from people looking for the worst kind of risks, where youíre pretty much guaranteed to lose. I am more naturally attracted to these kinds of risks, where there are no open helicopter doors involved.
to risk taking
Risk taking is an important topic for our communities in the Sword of the Spirit. There has been a growing sense among us that the Lord is moving us into a season of grace, fruitfulness, and growing pains. We have been given an image of an open door, with an invitation from the Lord to walk through. We have heard the Lord urge us to put aside our fishing poles, and to instead use nets for the great catch that he has in store for us. Words such as these can be exciting, but they can also leave us feeling overwhelmed, nervous, fearful, or inadequate. In light of this, it may be a good time to try to understand Godís perspective.
The Parable of
14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.A few observations to start with. First, notice that the talents start out as, and remain, the property of the master. Second, the text tells us that the master used discernment in deciding who to give the talents to. Presumably, he wanted to maximize his returns by giving the most resources to the most capable servants.
Fear of failure,
action, and risk
So how might this parable apply to us as we consider taking spiritual risks? To begin, like the one talent guy, a primary obstacle for us is fear. When I read about the fear of the servant in the parable, I think of a squirrel in the middle of the road facing on oncoming car: fear causes paralysis, which only makes the situation worse. Squirrels are really fast, and if they would only act decisively, there would be a lot more squirrels alive today. So, too, we often act irrationally out of fear, which usually just makes our situation worse.
In God's economy
we can't help but succeed!
Risk in making
Risk in serving
Risk in being
The master in the parable distributed the talents with discernment. We need to remember that God made each of us with great care; he gave us the gifts, abilities, and resources that he wanted us to have. He is calling us to risk all of these, to put them on the line, so that his kingdom may advance, and many others may come to know and serve him. Let us, who are always safe in our Masterís hand, be spiritual risk takers.
[Jon Wilson is a coordinator
of Word of Life, a community
of the Sword of the Spirit, and a member of Knox Presbyterian Church in
Ann Arbor, Michigan. He and his wife, Melody and their five children live
in Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA.]
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