[Originally posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 8:27pm]
I have recently come to the conclusion that there is certain thing that the world needs more of, and that is risk. I know that people constantly harp on Americans about how we live the lives of comfort and need to “get out of our comfort zone” more often, and perhaps what I am going to say has been beaten to death like a horse – but I believe that the Spirit has been showing me the value of risk in the believers’ life and am eager to share what God has been teaching me.
I just finished reading “Through Gates of Splendor” – the story of 5 young missionaries to the Auca Indians in Ecuador who were speared shortly after making initial contact with them. It is a book I highly recommend to anyone in search of godly examples of risk takers (and to supplement it, I would also recommend “Shadow of the Almighty” and “The Journals of Jim Elliot” – both of which I am currently reading). Most will know of the story from the recent movie “End of the Spear” (after the book by Steve Saint, the son of Nate Saint, one of the five men killed by the Auca’s).
It is an inspirational story, and to me, a look at five men who took one of the greatest risks they could ever take – to the eternal glory of God. Each of the five men were recently married and with young children (the wife of Ed McCully was 8 months pregnant when he died), and yet they risked their lives in an effort to reach the Auca’s with the gospel. Each knew very well that they might never return when they landed in Auca territory to make contact, yet each new very well that “there would never be any question about who came first – God and His work held first place in each life.” (Elisabeth Elliot, “Through Gates of Splendor”) They each placed God even above their wives and children – perhaps the most difficult thing I can think of in this life – the greatest risk one could take, not losing your life, but leaving the ones you love alone.
There is a great principle that I take from this story: our life is not one of comfort here on earth, but one of great risk. Perhaps, undoubtedly, the risk we take in our lives will never be as great as losing our lives for Christ; but where do we hold back in fear in our lives? I am not necessarily saying we ought all to become missionaries to deadly tribes deep in the uncharted jungles, but can we not take more risks in our daily lives? Can we not risk ourselves in our relationships, can we not risk our reputations by sharing the good news, can we not risk our security by giving faithfully of what God has blessed us with?
Certainly risk means we will often taste defeat, but if we do not risk then we may never know victory. Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” We will often lose what we risk, but if we do not risk, we can never gain that which we long for.
The majority of the great risks that I have taken have ended up in apparent failure and disappointment. Yet I have to wonder if that failure is merely in my own eyes, rather than the eyes of my Lord and Savior. To much of the world, the death of five missionaries in Ecuador seemed such a loss – not even having made more than initial contact. Perhaps their risk could be looked on as failure for years after they died. But many of the very Indians who killed those missionaries today have placed their faith and hope in Jesus Christ. What greater success can be known than giving your life so that even one may have eternal life in Jesus’ name? If those five men had not risked their lives (and consequently lost them), perhaps the Auca’s would have never heard of Jesus Christ and His death on a cross for their sins.
In his most familiar quote, which he wrote 7 years before his death, Jim Elliot put into words most eloquently why he could take the risk he did. He said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot understood the great principle that every Christian should cling to and live by: our true life is guarded in Christ and thus we ought to hold nothing back in this life which we are only bound to lose. John Piper puts it quite well when he says, “By removing eternal risk, Christ calls His people to continual temporal risk.” ( from “Taste and See”)
Why are we so wary to take risks when we know that we are “sealed with the Spirit” and entrusted to Christ. Is His arm too short to protect us when He is willing? Is He like man that He should sleep while we are in danger? Has He not said that He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him? And can He not use our failures, our loses, and even our deaths for His eternal glory?
Life is so short. Eternity is so long. What an amazing thing that what we risk now will be repaid beyond our wildest imaginations then! What a blessing that we can live our life in reckless abandon knowing that our future is ever secure in the hands of the Almighty! What a beautiful thing that our eternity is sure, even though our life is not! Why do we not live like it?!?
I urge you, “Cast your bread out on the waters…” (Eccl. 11:1) Take a risk on something: your reputation, your security, a relationship, your well-being, your comfort, or perhaps even your life. Your eternity is secure; how will you spend what you have left of this fleeting life? Will you risk it for God’s glory? Will you leave this life with things left to be done for Him? Or will you leave this life having left everything you have out on the court, utterly spent for Christ? Will you leave risks untaken, defeats untasted, loses unknown, and victories unseen?
“When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have left to do is die.”