Sounds like wise words for times like ours, doesn't it?
But, are they the Lord's words? Even more, are they even the Lord's will?
Remember the story of the talents that Jesus told (Matthew 25:14-30)? What did Jesus say about the person who chose the "better safe than sorry" approach with the master's resources? The master's response begins with these biting words, "You wicked and lazy servant!" (Matthew 25:26 TNIV). The response finishes with these words:
And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30).
Quite often, we teach that Jesus' story says that we should use the "talents" that the Lord has given us. Clearly, this is a part of the message, but it is not the primary message. The primary message is that if we are picturing God as someone looking to condemn us for making a mistake while trying to do the work of His Kingdom and play it safe so we don't displease Him, then we've got the wrong idea. The person who operates under this idea and ends up risking nothing, and doing little or nothing, for the Master is the one who is condemned!
You see, when Jesus was raised from the dead, He showed Himself to His followers (1 Corinthians 15:3-7) and then He called them to be His witnesses to the lost world (Acts 1:8; cf. Matthew 28:18-20). The Lord's resurrection and appearance to them, radically changed them! Fearful men were made fearless. Broken people were made brave. Common followers became committed. Private leaders went public. Doubting family members became daring believers. When pushed into a corner and warned to keep quiet by the same folks who orchestrated Jesus' death, they responded with bold and risky passion:
Which is right in God's eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).
The "better safe than sorry" approach to discipleship is out of place with the kind of faith displayed in the book of Acts. This "avoid all risks" approach to our faith is a mockery of what we see in God's people through the ages, especially as it is shared with us in the "Faith Hall of Fame" of the Bible (Hebrews 11:1-40).
I fear that part of the reason we have lost our passion to be the Lord's witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8), is because we are afraid to risk what we have and don't have to live by faith, prayer, and dependence upon the power of the Lord. Even though the promise of God's power is still there for us (Ephesians 1:18-20; Ephesians 3:16-21), we don't pray for it and don't live like our Father longs to bless us with it. The Holy Spirit that Jesus poured out at Pentecost is the same Spirit poured out on all those who come to Him in faith and are baptized (Titus 3:3-8). Even though the resurrected Jesus promised to be with us as we risked ourselves finding and growing new disciples, we hold back and miss His presence, remaining silent and similar to a world lost without grace (Matthew 28:18-20).
Because it is easier to take the "better be safe than sorry" approach to our lives of faith.
"Most of us are not going to have to face what the apostles faced, so how can I ever risk like they did? And if I don't risk my life like they did, does that mean I am 'playing it safe'?"
Are you sure you won't have to risk like they did? We have hundreds of thousands of believers who face many of the same persecutions today that they did in the early church. Every indication suggests that we could be headed down a similar path in Western Culture, as well. But even granting that we may not face such extreme risks as the early church, what about facing the risks we have in the everyday world in which we live? Think of some pretty clear ways we can take some risks for the sake of the Kingdom and regain our sense of focus.
Get involved in the lives of our co-workers, neighbors, and the parents of our kids' teammates to love them in the name of Jesus and provide an open door for them to find Him.
Go on a mission or service trip to a different culture.
Take a few minutes after each TV show and see how the values measure up to what God calls us to live: talk with our families about how we are going to honor the Lord in our decisions, use of money, and moral values.
Pray daily for our elders/pastors, ministers, missionaries, teachers, and quiet servants of the Kingdom.
Respond to the person who says, "You know, if we do that, someone might leave!" with the words, "And if we don't do this who will we never reach?"
Protect someone's reputation when the gossip brigade turns their guns on some new person in our office, school, or church.
There are hundreds of ways to take risks for the Master that are crucial for us as God's people today in our world. (In fact, I'd really like to get your input on what are some ways we can risk for the Kingdom that are crucial for you. Please send your ideas on how you can take risks for the Kingdom to firstname.lastname@example.org or share your ideas on my blog, The Phil Files. Remember, these are not ideas for someone else to do, but risks you believe you need to make for the Kingdom.)
Let's share a common commitment: the next time someone says, "You know, I'd rather us be safe than sorry on this!" let's kindly and respectfully, but firmly remind them what Jesus had to say. Then, let's lead the way to sacrifice, pray, and risk for the Master and His Kingdom.