Risk Taking

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done? I don’t consider myself much of a risk taker, but I have taken a few risks over the years. I have ridden in a high powered speed boat in New Zealand with a professional driver going over 100 miles per hour though. Some (my mother, specifically) might have thought it risky to fly with my dad when he was getting his pilot’s license years ago. Oh, and when I was in Russia (back when it was still behind the Iron Curtain), I stepped off the sidewalk to take a picture of a Russian woman laboring with a shovel. A total violation of KGB laws! That was pretty risky! Most people don’t think it risky to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty, but I was five months pregnant and became claustrophobic and acrophobic (fear of heights) the last time I made the trek. The people with me were probably most at risk!

Richard Schnase, in his book Cultivating Fruitfulness, says risk taking pushes us out of our comfort zone, stretching us beyond situations and people that we already know. He further defines risk-taking mission and service as the efforts to alleviate suffering and injustice in the name of Christ. It involves serving others that we would never ordinarily encounter.

Why is it that many of us are willing to take risks for our own enjoyment, but are much more reluctant to take risks to alleviate suffering and injustice to those out of our social circle?

What are risk taking mission and service opportunities? For some, it may be risky serving Christ in an inner city ministry. For others, it may be a risk working with patients at a mental health institution or in a prison ministry. For some, a foreign mission trip would be an uncomfortable stretch, while for others, a ministry in the Appalachian Mountains would be a risky effort.

Jesus said, “Come learn from me” (Matthew 11:29). We learn that Jesus is the ultimate role model for risk taking mission and service. He stood up to the powerful Pharisees. He was accused of being a friend of sinners and tax collectors. He touched a man with leprosy and he healed on the Sabbath. And when Jesus healed the man with demons, the people of the region asked him to leave because they were overcome with fear.

The disciples were fearful too when Jesus walked across the water in the middle of a storm. When Jesus called to Peter, the disciple had a choice – to avoid a risk or to take a risk. Peter stepped out of the boat in faith and walked on the water.

We have the same choice. We can be a risk taker or a risk avoider. We can step out in faith to share the gospel with those we don’t normally encounter. We can stay in the calm waters of familiarity or we can step out in faith to those in the storm. Let’s remember that when Peter stepped out of the boat, Jesus was already in the storm. He’ll be in the storm with us too if we dare to experience risk taking service and mission.

Are you a risk taker or risk avoider?


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