Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Risk taking at times needs to be bold and calculated. Other times require spontaneity. Risk taking is taking on something that causes fear and has the possibility of failure. Risk taking is an essential ingredient in ministry in the Kingdom of God. Most B

Opening illustration: Three pastors have been called Monday to report to prison in Shiraz, a city in southwestern Iran, within the next 30 days in what is estimated to be an act of religious persecution. The pastors were essentially being sentenced for having meetings at home, making the government able to accuse them of conspiring. The increasing growth of Christianity in Iran is of course viewed as a threat to the Iranian regime which uses Islam to control its people. In order to maintain control, the regime continues to try to weed Christianity out of the country. Rather than fighting persecution, Iranian church leaders have accepted it and are using it to their advantage. In fact, an Iranian pastor recently told me that the church is thriving under persecution. And, it is the youth who are among those that God is using to spread this incredible movement that is leading thousands of people to Christ in Iran.

The story evokes a bitter memory of pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian convert who remains in prison in Iran after he was sentenced to death in 2010 for alleged apostasy. The pastor remains imprisoned and reports coming from Iran say his health has been deteriorating.

In November 2010, a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy. She is the first Pakistani woman ever to receive a death sentence for blasphemy. Her life has been threatened by many, with a Muslim cleric putting a price on her head. In early 2011, Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province, and Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister of Minority Affairs, were assassinated, allegedly for speaking out against the controversial blasphemy law.

This is the type of Christmas; persecuted Christians celebrate in nations that are hostile to Christ. They are the true contemporary Christian risk-takers. What are we really doing during this Christmas season?

Introduction: Risk taking at times needs to be bold and calculated. Other times require spontaneity. Risk taking is taking on something that causes fear and has the possibility of failure. Life holds more excitement and satisfaction when we’re willing to expand our comfort zones, try new things, and dare to achieve our dreams. We say that we want to know the will of God, but when we find out what it is, we can’t handle it. It sounds too scary, too difficult. We decide to look elsewhere. Most people don’t take risks because they’re afraid they’ll fail. Problems will likely come, but the results can be different than expected, depending on one’s perspective. The results envisioned from taking a risk may turn out to be something better than we dreamed. Can you think of any area in your life today that you are not putting it on the line for Jesus, because you don’t know what is in store for the future? Let’s be like Peter and look to Jesus to get us through to the end. The results may be something more than we ever imagined!

Risk taking is an essential ingredient in ministry in the Kingdom of God. Most Bible heroes were risk takers. Jesus was a risk taker too.

Who were the first Christmas Risk-takers?

1. Mary (Luke 1: 26-35)

When we think of Mary at this stage of the game we tend to think warm fuzzy thoughts about how special she was and we marvel at her eloquent response to the whole virgin birth of God’s son endeavor. Yeah, it’s a great story of obedience and trust but I propose that we focus on the “other side” of Mary – that girl was a risk taker.

Whenever I think of Mary, I don’t think about her eloquent words in the first chapter of Luke and I don’t imagine her as being passively obedient either. I think about how tough and courageous she was. Yes, Mary was obedient and trusted God but doing that takes boldness. Don’t you desire that you had the courage of the Virgin Mary.

Mary had the audacity to take a big risk, a risk most of us wouldn’t take. Most of us will never encounter that level of risk but we do encounter little risks all the time. Right now each of us has a risk before us – we can share Jesus Christ with someone. It’s risky because it might be awkward for us and the person might rebuff us but heck, it’s a lot easier than virgin birth! This week, take a little risk for Christ and invite someone to attend Christmas Eve worship with you. Its a little risk with the potential of a great reward – the person you invite may find Christ that day and that’s a gift that keeps on giving!

What risk did she take?

Mary risked a lot to be obedient. She risked death (women frequently died in childbirth back then). She risked being shunned by her family and community. She risked her entire future when she chose to be obedient. Mary was a risk taker for God. She had to be tough too. She had to give her family and Joseph the unbelievable news about her pregnancy – that had to be a difficult conversation. And it doesn’t stop there, you can be certain people were gossiping about Mary the whole time she was pregnant and it’s a safe bet that people speculated about Jesus’ parentage for years. Apparently she would easily be convicted for adultery followed by stoning to death. A young girl had to be tough to withstand such talk.

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