“A Theology of Risk”

I love the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30. Many stereotype Christ-followers as weak, timid, or spineless.  This story paints a different picture. It teaches a theology of risk. Jesus pictures two extremes for his followers: risk or cowardice. He gives two judgments on his servants: faithful or worthless. The two faithful servants risked what the master gave them in order to gain success. They may have had setbacks…the story does not say. But in the end, the result was spectacular.

Jesus values risk-taking.

Helen Keller once said,

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

To qualify, Jesus empowers risk-taking but it is always done at his leading. If we will follow, he will lead us on an adventure of faith. Risk is born out of prayer…an intimate walk with the Savior. As we discover his heart, we will learn what risks he asks of us.  But risk is demanded of the servant of Christ.

Yet if we follow Christ’s leading, there is really little risk. Courage is needed because there may be setbacks along the way. Following Christ’s leading will invariably bring ultimate victory.

This story pictures two extremes: the successful risk-taker and the worthless risk-avoider.

A theology of risk:

  • Risk doing something over doing nothing. (Accountability demands action.)
  • Risk requires faith.
  • Risk requires sacrifice.
  • Risk requires prayer.
  • Risk requires walking in the Spirit.

I searched the internet for the title of this post and discovered a book on the subject: Faith of Leap, The: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage (Shapevine) by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.  They cite the above quote by Helen Keller.  Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

The NBA’s Tebow?

“Linsanity” is sweeping New York City, the NBA, and much of the sports-world.  Even the talking heads at ESPN seem to be climbing on board.

Jeremy Lin is an undrafted point guard from Harvard, released by two NBA teams, who is now playing for the New York Knicks in the National Basketball Association.  A week ago he was sitting on the end of the bench, not playing, and in danger of being released yet again.  He had a ten-day contract with the Knicks and slept on his brother’s couch.

But what a difference a week makes. Forced into the line-up by injuries and the tragic death of a teammate’s brother, Lin has had one of the greatest NBA debuts ever. He has 89 points in his 3 starts. That’s the most by a Knicks player in his first 3 starts with the team since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77. Last night, against the Los Angeles Lakers, he scored more points in a single game than any Knicks player this season.  And the NY Knicks have guaranteed his contract through the rest of this season.

What most people do not know, but many are starting to realize, is that Jeremy Lin is a man of strong Christian faith.  That is news to those of us just hearing of him but not to those who are aware of his college career. In fact, he gave an interview back then about his faith. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 on patheos.com.

ESPN reports that comparisons are being drawn between Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin, for their ability to help get the best out of their teammates and speaking of their faith when the camera is on.  After beating one of the NBA’s premier teams last night, the attention of Lin is only going to grow.

It will be interesting to watch how Lin’s story develops.  He burst onto the scene only a week ago but is likely to remain in the starting line-up for the rest of the season.  With Tebow’s notoriety in the past NFL season and now Lin’s NBA attention, I find myself wondering what God is up to.  It is interesting to have two examples — two spotlight players with strong Christian faith. Lin does not have to be Tebow.  He just has to be himself.  How his story and his career develop will be fun to watch.

Seasons of Life

From Pete Scazzero’s blog…quoting Gordon MacDonald.  I read it and think, “This is me.”  Perhaps another season of ministry life.  I started ministry as a young man and became so accustomed to telling myself “Let no one look down on your youth.”  It is startling to wake up one day and realize that is no longer the case.

“You can anticipate when younger people begin asking you questions they ask a mother or father. If you are over 50, the needle of your ministry life will move from programs to people.  Focus your life on being a spiritual mother/father to younger people.”

via Google Reader (1000+).

The Power of Personal Vision

You will be able to pray with audacity when you have a personal, God-given vision.

Steven Furtick in Sun Stand Still defines personal vision as knowing what God wants to accomplish through your life.  He says, “It’s just about the most powerful spiritual asset you can discover.”

Audacity flows from vision.  When you know what God wants to do in your life, you will begin to glimpse how you should pray.

How can I discover a personal vision for my life?

  • Ask God.  God does not want this to remain a mystery to you.  God wants to reveal his will to you.  Take that as a given.
  • Do the hard work of listening.  Yes, listening is work.  It requires effort.  Too often, we ask God a question.  But we do not do what it takes to listen to God.  We do not change our pace of life.  We do not stop…or even slow down.  We do not build time for contemplation into our schedule.  We do not crack open the Bible.  God says we will find him when we seek him with all our heart (Deuteronomy. 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13).  Listening can be hard work.
  • Ask other people.  Okay, maybe not just anyone.  But there are people in your life who can be trusted spiritual advisors.  People who know you and love you.  People who have seen you at work.  They know what revs your engines and what dampens your spirits.
  • Look for intersections of passion and productivity.  That is your sweet spot.  How has God wired you?  What are your passions, likes, dislikes?  Where are you successful?  Philippians 2:13 says that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  God gifts you to be successful in certain activities.  And God crafts your heart…your desires.  Forget the nutty idea that doing God’s will makes you miserable.  Just the opposite.  When you find your sweet spot, you will love it.  Look for places in your life where there are intersections between what you love and what you can do well.
Feel free to comment on your personal vision.  Have you found it?  Do you think it is necessary?  Can you pray audaciously without it?  Other suggestions on how to discover your vision?

“Crisis Man”

The fork
Image via Wikipedia

Quite a few years ago, my younger and more naive self, found a prayer by Jim Elliot.  It said:

“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

It sounded like such a great thing to pray! It captured my heart.  I had had enough irrelevance and been ignored too many times.  I wanted to make a difference.  So I told God that this was my desire.  I made Elliot’s prayer my prayer.

I’m still glad I did but I didn’t realize what I was asking for.  I found that this had made me a polarizing presence in people’s lives.  Sometimes, I love it. Sometimes, I hate it.

But, that’s who I am.  I have discovered about myself that I have become an agitator.  I provoke people.  Sometimes the only way to help people take their next step toward God is to shock them…challenge them…do something to upset their current pattern of thinking.  I’m no big fan of sympathizing with bad thinking. Sometimes, pastors just try to be nice guys and supportive.  I don’t do that.

I once told a guy who was trying to rationalize his extra-marital affair that I thought he was the stupidest guy I had ever met.  I know.  It doesn’t sound Christlike.  And it may not be.   In that moment, it seemed like the right thing to say.  Later, I wondered…

I do think Jesus challenged people.  Maybe he even provoked them.  But I know myself well enough to know that I’m not always being Jesus.  Sometimes, it’s just fun to tweak people.

So, submitted for your consideration:  is it possible to be too nice to people?  Do we support people in their bad thinking and bad behavior because we don’t want to risk losing a relationship?  Can it be Christlike to provoke?  Is making people uncomfortable…or even angry…always a bad thing?  Have you ever wanted to be a fork in someone’s road rather than a billboard along the way?