I don’t know if you have noticed it or not, but our society spends a tremendous amount of energy trying to eliminate any form of risk from our everyday lives. Government and business are preoccupied with the issues of risk management. The time, energy and resources spent on the attempt to eliminate risk from our lives are becoming an increasingly heavy weight for our society to carry. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not suggesting that we don’t take precautions to make people’s lives safe. I’ve spent many years working in Christian camping and was ‘that guy’ who often had to challenge an unsafe practice or create a policy to ensure the safety of campers. I often quoted Deuteronomy 22:8, ‘When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof’.
It seems that God is interested in our safety, enough to insert into scripture a policy on rooftop railings. We need to do what we can to ensure that we don’t needlessly endanger people physically, emotionally, mentally or relationally. Unfortunately, in our effort to manage risk we have created an incredibly low risk tolerance in our society overall that has also invaded God’s people. In general, Christians have adopted a ‘play it safe’ posture and as a result have gotten ‘play it safe’ results, often functioning like a team playing a game not to lose rather than playing to win.
I mentioned that I spent many years leading Christian camps. Christian camps have been the unsung heroes of God’s Kingdom; at least in North America. As many as 200,000 people a year will make commitments to Christ at camps across the continent each year and many more will be discipled and grow in their faith. One of the reasons (one of many) that Christian camps are so effective in changing lives is that instead of avoiding risk they intentionally introduce risk into lives to allow for a powerful life-changing experience. Camps by the very nature of what they do have a very high risk tolerance compared to most Christian ministry. It may be riding a horse or climbing a wall or taking an extended out-trip into the wilderness; it doesn’t matter what the risk is. The fact is, risk changes lives! It can be for good or for bad, but when we experience risk in an environment of purpose, couched in caring relationships and the presence of the Holy Spirit; it produces a powerful life-changing influence.
There are at least eight solid reasons to raise our risk tolerance level. Let’s consider them:
1. Risk creates opportunity. TS Elliot said, ‘Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go’. When we step out without having all our proverbial ducks in a row, we are doing something fundamental to effective Christian life – living by faith!
2. Risk creates memories. Think back on your life… It’s those times when we had to do something that was risky that is etched in our minds and has shaped us the most. “The door to life opens behind us.” It’s what we have done that opens the door to what we will do. Playing it safe all the time creates a very small door.
3. Risk creates bonds or friendship & fellowship that are unshakable. Quite simply, the people you partner with in meaningful work that requires you to step out of your comfort zone, will be friends for life in a way that mere socializing can’t duplicate.
4. Risk creates sober judgment (wisdom). When you are faced with risk, you have to make good decisions. This develops discipline in your life that becomes normal and natural.
5. Risk can be fun (exhilaration). The fun we are talking about is not the fun of a social outing but the deep exhilaration and satisfaction of doing something meaningful and important often, with others. The exhilaration of accomplishment.
6. Risk allows us to know God better – God is a risk taker! There is a part of God that we can only know by risking something; even God casts His bread on the water. Risk taking allows us to be close to God not only in proximity but also in likeness.
7. Risk changes us, increases our capacity. When we risk something we grow and our capacity increases. Like the servants who took their talents and doubled them, the reward for taking a risk often is to be asked to take a greater risk.
8. Risk allows us to know and participate in Kingdom work. The heartbeat of God’s Kingdom is to lose our life in order to gain it because love risks everything for the beloved. We sell everything to buy the field where the treasure is buried, sounds risky! It seems that God is OK with that.
We are not called to be careful; we are called to be wise and innocent! Wisdom is not risk adverse. Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap’. You see; fear paralyzes, wisdom facilitates. The root of the word wisdom is about being skillful. It’s the idea of a tradesman who is skillful at their work. Often that work is risky. In the same way, we can engage in what some might consider risky endeavours with wisdom that allows us to skillfully navigate difficult circumstances.
So how high is your risk tolerance? What dream or vision has God placed on your heart that that has been lying dormant because it requires you to take a risk to see it fulfilled? Kingdom work is risky business… we might as well get used to it! I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.
Luke 19:26 (MSG)
He said, ‘That’s what I mean: risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag’.