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Go Out on a Limb? Go Out on a Limb?
    by Cary Branscum

    Have you ever missed an opportunity because it you were too scared to take risks?

    Folks, let me be the first to discourage you from what I call “risky behavior.” This is behavior that is done impulsively, without counting the cost, and often involves either sin or just plain old stupidity. This is to be avoided, but... Nobody was more impulsive than the apostle Peter, and Peter was the one who walked to Jesus on the water. Jesus walked to the little boat filled with scared apostles. As Jesus approached, it was Peter who said “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” As Peter walked on the water, he “saw the waves” and began to sink. Jesus immediately reached down and plucked the apostle from the water. A failure of faith? No. Just remember, it was Peter who took the risk to go to Jesus. Sometimes you just have to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. I’ve never walked on water; I HAVE been out on a limb.

    Going out on a limb involves calculated risk-assessment toward some worthy goal, and NOT ALLOWING FEAR TO KEEP YOU FROM YOUR GOAL. Fear and risk-avoidance can dominate our lives and keep us in a rut professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes, we just need to go for it!

    Have you ever picked pears? It’s where I learned to go out on a limb. Our family had four pear trees that grew tall and green on the edge of the wheat field. The trees were so close to the county road, passersby sometimes stopped and helped themselves to the ripe pears that plopped to the ground. Those trees were thirty feet tall, and produced thousands of huge pears each year.

It’s pretty obvious I was starved for entertainment.
    Yellow jackets built nests in their branches, as did birds. We would rest under the cool shade, and I would pretend the four trees were an island in a sea of wheat! (As a kid on the farm, it’s pretty obvious I was starved for entertainment.) Pear picking day was fun as everyone stood around under the trees, and my dad and I would climb the trees with knives clenched in our teeth like pirates. The pears grew so huge and thick on the branches, we had to shinny out on the limb and cut the slim branches that held the clumps of pear. The branch and fruit would hit the ground, and the pears were gathered into baskets.

    Here are the lessons about going out on a limb:

  • First, climb carefully with your goal in mind. Get to the branch where the fruit is by the safest route possible, and don’t take dumb risks. Go upward by way of the best limbs and don’t be in too big a hurry. Make sure you check your progress occasionally.

  • Second, remember the knife. Clenching a sharp knife in your teeth can be dangerous or fatal if forgotten. Assess the sharp edges in your life. Assess the tools you use in your life. Use them properly and don’t get hurt. Assess your finances, your habits, your health, and your relationships. We don’t like to spend time and energy maintaining things, and you know what happens? They trip us up at the worst possible time and can end up hurting us severely.

  • Third, don’t look down. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s still good advice. When you are twenty feet up, the ground looks a hundred feet down. It’s disorienting, and pulls you off task. Look instead at the realities immediately around you. Keep your goal in mind. Remember Peter’s walk on the water was interrupted when he took his eyes off Jesus.

  • Fourth, and this is the toughest part, CAREFULLY go out on the limb. That’s right, this is the time to be careful. Balance yourself and move forward slowly. Stop when you can reach the branch with your knife. You are now in the ZONE to reach your goal. Go no further or you might hit the ground along with the pears! The bottom line is that you have to go far enough out on the limb to get to the fruit, but not so far that you fall down with it.

  • Fifth, have an immediate action plan for the moments after you reach your goal. A pear tree’s limbs will spring back with a vengeance once the branches are cut loose. You better have a plan. Hang on with your feet and hands until the limb stops moving, and then slowly get your feet back on solid ground. There’s always a bounce back time when you reach your goal. You can overreact or go into a mild depression because the goal is met. Be sure and get to a normal place of safety to assess things until you’re ready to tackle your next limb.

  • Finally, thank God for your success. Ask Him to continue to be with you. You’ll be back on those limbs again. When you go out there, you want him to be with you.

    The key point to remember in all this is very simple; we have to go out on the limb if our lives are going to matter, because that’s where the fruit is!

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Cary Branscum, <cary@westover.org>, is the Singles minister at the Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. For more info, click here.

Title: "Go Out on a Limb?"
Author: Cary Branscum
Publication Date: July 7, 2000



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