Summary: Living a life of faith requires risk. Intelligent risk. Holding on to comfort zones and familiar territory will not move us forward to achieve great things for God.
“Risking to Win”
Verse 21 (The Msg): “You took a risk of faith”
Motivational speaker, Jim McCormick, is a former corporate Chief Operating Officer, MBA, and holder of three skydiving World Records and member of a successful skydiving expedition to the North Pole.
He observes: “Salespeople and managers who consistently perform at a higher level have certain things in common. They are committed to their success, have a passion for their profession, have clear goals and are uniformly more comfortable taking risks than most. Their ability to take intelligent risks is an important ingredient in their success and a huge determinant in anybody’s level of achievement…
“The comfort zone is seductive. We all desire comfort. It’s human nature. However, too much comfort does not serve us well. An inability to step out of your comfort zone will profoundly limit your performance.”
While many think taking risks is foolish and never wise, "risking to win" philosophy recognizes the reality of taking intelligent risks, as beautifully portrayed in the following prayer as quoted by Sir Francis Drake as the attributed prayer of Jeanine Curryer, in September 1997.
"Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.”
This prayer of Curryer concludes with the statement on the screen and I ask you to stand and finish the prayer with me.
“Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.”
Risking to win is need in the church today – daring to take risks as did the father and woman in today’s Scripture passage. Our text will not involve a study of their choices but is the basis of our focus. The honor paid her by Jesus is the honor to which we must all aspire. We need to take intelligent risks for fear of being charged with being too comfortable, complacent or careless.
We will explore how critically important risk-taking is in partnering with God in Kingdom-building business. As we march to God’s drumbeat we’ll see that taking risks cannot be avoided if we are to be victorious for God! Whether this focus is a personal venture that God wants you/me as individuals, to take or if we consider this subject in the context of this church as members of Christ’s body, we must evaluate the need for a risk-taking partnership with God.
I’ve enlisted four people who know what taking risks is all about. They’ve been there, done that, got the tee-shirt to prove it! Our first guest is
1. Knee-knocking Nehemiah!
Nehemiah found himself up against a deep and hopeless situation. The Babylonian people had begun an eighteenth month siege on Jerusalem, starting in 588 B.C. and ending in 586 B.C. The city was in ruins and though an attempt was made by the prophet Ezra to rebuild the city, he was stopped by force and what progress he had made was destroyed and the city driven into even deeper destruction and public humiliation. (Don’t always succeed or win on the first round).
When Nehemiah heard of the setback he was completely discouraged. He had not even heard that the progress had been halted. However, Nehemiah did not know at that point that he was strategically placed where he was in the king’s court. “Nehemiah was the king’s cup-bearer, a place of great trust, as well as of honour and profit.” (Matthew Henry)
As Dr. of Theology, J. Carl Laney, writes, “God had sovereignly placed Nehemiah in an important post and prepared him for a strategic ministry.” Matthew Henry draws our attention to the king’s position regarding Nehemiah. “Kings and great men probably looked upon it as a piece of state to be attended by those of other nations. By this place at court Nehemiah would be the better qualified for the service of his country in that post for which God had designed him.” Having Nehemiah as his entourage, the king would have respect toward this important figure-head in his court.
This significant honor bestowed on Nehemiah, by God, was not without its risks.
Chapter 1 reports of Nehemiah’s heavy heart which led up to 2:2"king asked me…I was very much afraid.” Nehemiah was expendable property. While the king valued Nehemiah’s service, his request to rebuild Jerusalem could be seen as an attempt to overthrow the Babylonian leader. Once Nehemiah went public with this request it could issue certain opposition from other’s in the king’s court who may wish to make life very difficult for him. So, we can understand why, when the king asked Nehemiah what he wanted, Nehemiah 2:4"prayed to the God of heaven." Not only did he pray because of fear but more than that, he wanted to speak for God, to represent God, to advance, not hinder, the cause of God. The king’s answer could mean a granted desire or his head decapitated from his shoulders.