Contend Earnestly: Risk is Right: Part I

Friday, October 03, 2008

Risk is Right: Part I

I am preaching through the book, "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper and the most intriguing chapter to date came in chapter five titled, "Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life than to Waste it." I thought I would give some posts on this thought. Some of this post are direct quotes from Piper from his book.

When you hear that someone has taken a risk, what do you think of? How would you define this?
Risk can involve all kinds of things. Risk can be someone doing something where they might lose something. It can be to lose something small, like a little time, or it can be something big, like your life.

The face is that it can really involve all kinds of things, it can be losing your reputation, friends, respect, money, time, etc.

The other part of risk is that sometimes it involves others. It could involve not just the stuff I mentioned before with just yourself, but you could also be endangering the resources and lives of others as well.

But really, risk is doing anything where you don't know the outcome.

So, the question then comes, should you ever take a risk? Think of this. Think of all the things that could be lost, and what could be at stake for others as well. Is taking a risk and losing your life the same as wasting your life?

Again, this is a tough subject. Just as knowing when to take stand and when to flee is difficult, the same can be said in understanding when it is good to take a risk and when it is completely wrong to do so.

Sometimes when you play it safe, you could be endangering yourself, or others, so risk is sometimes necessary to accomplish much.

Have you ever wondered why then there is this thing called risk? Why is it here? Why is there such a thing? Well, there is risk because there is also ignorance. Think of this, would there be anything called risk if you knew the future? No. Gambling is a risk because you don’t know what cards you will get, or what cards others will get. You don’t know which horse is going to win, which team will win, if they will cover the point spread, etc.

So, can God ever take risks? No. He knows all things past, present and future. He never takes risks. This is a great comfort. Knowing that our God never takes a risk and isn't even able to do so. For God to be able to take a risk, he would have to not know the future of every decision that he makes.

But, we do not. We live in ignorance. We don’t know when we will die and God doesn’t tell us the future, but tells us that the best way that we should live is living knowing we live in ignorance.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15

We don’t know if our heart will stop tonight, we don’t know if the building over us will collapse on us, we don’t know if someone will come in and shoot us because we love Jesus. James tells us that we should live in a way of never assuming we are safe from peril or distress.

Because of James’ thoughts we have to realize that we are never safe. We never have security of safety…ever. So, you may live in a safe neighborhood, nice house, great family, great schools, low crime rate, homeschool, private school, or best public school in the nation…and your heart can stop. You could die, just like that.

Let’s take a look at some examples that we see in the Scriptures of people taking some risks, meaning, making decisions where they had no clue the outcome.

Look to 2 Samuel 10.

In 2 Samuel 10 the king of the Ammonites has died and David sends out some of his own people to help console the new king who was the son of the dead king. The son got some bad advice from his counselors as they made him think that David was actually sending these men to spy out the land and to not console. As the men entered the city, they were taken, they were put to shame and sent back to David. David then sent his army with his commander Joab.

As they came upon the city Joab and his army was surrounded and looked as though they should probably give in to the battle and surrender. But Joab says something very interesting.

“Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”
2 Samuel 10:12

Joab, although surrounded and about to die, does not give in. He is given no special revelation by God, but instead of surrendering, he decides to fight and allow God to do what is good in His sight.

Look to Esther:

Queen Esther is another example of courageous risk in the service of love and for the glory of God. There was a Jewish man named Mordecai who lived in the fifth century before Christ during the Jews’ exile. He had a younger orphaned cousin named Esther whom he had adopted as a daughter. She grew up to be beautiful and eventually was taken by Persia’s King Ahasuerus to be his queen. Haman, one of Ahasuerus’s chief princes, hated Mordecai and all the Jewish refugees and persuaded the king to decree that they be exterminated. The king did not realize that his own queen was a Jew.

Mordecai sent word to Esther to go before the king and plead the case of her people. But Esther knew there was a royal law that anyone who approached the king without being called would be put to death, unless he lifted his golden scepter. She also knew that her people’s lives were at stake. Esther sent her response to Mordecai with these words:

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
Esther 4:15–16

“If I perish, I perish.” What does that mean? It means that Esther did not know what the outcome of her act would be. She had no special revelation from God. She made her decision on the basis of wisdom and love for her people and trust in God. She had to risk or run. She did not know how it would turn out. So she made her decision and handed the results over to God. “If I perish, I perish.” And this was right.

Shadrach Meshach and Abednego

The scene is Babylon and Israel is in exile here. King Nebuchadnezzar is king and he had a dream and ends up setting up a gold statue of himself and tells all that when the trumpets blow that all of those in Babylon are to bow before it. If they do not, they will be put into the furnace and die for their disrespect of the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego decided that they were going to take a risk. The outcome was surely death, but the risk of not bowing was worth it for the name of God. Here was their response to the king:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
Daniel 3:16–18

Do they not say the same thing as Esther? If we perish, we perish. Or what about what Joab states: May the Lord do what is good to him. The point is? God is great and he will work out his purposes because he takes no risk, he knows all and everything in the end will point to his glory.

We will continue this post next week. But think of this:

The most dangerous place that you can be is outside the will of God.


Anonymous said...

We went through the same book last year. The book is typical Dr. Piper and spot on. If you got the full study guide and dvd pack,

1) In the study guide, there is a great story about an African tribesman who shares the gospel with his village. That was a wonderfully powerful and impactful (sic) story for my group.
2) As much as I really enjoy Piper, the video and the music have got to go. I couldn’t help it, but during the overly melodramatic music, I was too distracted for the full impact. Piper is great stand alone. Perhaps the production folks for that video need to retool.

Enjoy the book!

Anonymous said...

The most dangerous place that you can be is outside the will of God.

Please explain.

Seth McBee said...

I am not sure your background or theological persuasion. I am personally a Calvinist. What I mean by this would be the same that was prescribed in Numbers 13-14 when those of Israel did not follow the will of the Lord and decided to not take the land. They saw Canaan as the most dangerous place that they could be, when in reality, not going was the most dangerous thing that they did.

It is an expression leaning on man's responsibility of doing the will of God to live a life pleasing to him.

When we refuse to live the life that God wills, then we are living in a very dangerous spot in our lives. It could seem like we are very safe, when in fact it is not.

Not taking away from God's sovereignty at all, but looking at man's responsibility in doing God's will.

Thanks for the question.

Clarify further if needed.

Anonymous said...

I too am a 'calvinist' but I seem to recollect that it's a real Arminian hang up to be in or out of the will of God. Maybe my understanding is wrong but God's sovereignty allows for us to be obedient or not to be obedient. My urgument would be that it is impossible to step outside the will of God. In that he allows us to do the most stupid and sinful things is within his sovereign purpose or will. Yes he give us the freedom to obey or not. That is His will that we be given free will. We either live by faith or not. Man proposes - God disposes. None of us can do God's will - He wills our justification, sanctification and glorification. Does He not ordain all things that come to pass and in that sense we cannot step outside his will and preovidential pruposes.

Seth McBee said...


I always love when someone puts Calvinist in quotes...I understand...with the attitude and demeanor of many Calvinists today, I feel as though it is becoming harder and harder to say that I am a Calvinist. Not because of theological conviction, but because of how many of our brothers and sisters acts as though those in the faith are our enemies.


As far as your comment. I understand. It is a tough dichotomy. I believe that we are just speaking on two different levels. I am speaking on the revealed will and you are speaking of the secretive will of God.

Revealed will...God never is please nor does he ever want you out of His will. We see this over and over in the Scriptures, but no clearer than with this own people in the Exodus story found in Numbers. God's will was for them to take Canaan (his revealed that is) but we know that for some reason in his secretive will, he allowed them to sin in this way.

When I say, "the most dangerous place to be is outside of the will of God" means that we as God's people never want to be outside of the revealed will that God has in store for us.

Although this sounds Arminian at first, it really is not. What you are leaning into is a hyper Calvinist view that would purport that since God's will is predestined, we cannot be in or out of it. Not true. God tells us what his will is, and what his will isn't. It is our task to live out his declared, revealed will.

Is he still completely in control? Yes.
Has he preordained all things? Yes.

Does he still allow us to sin?

How does all this fit? Who knows. I just know that our response to God and the calling of his Holy Spirit is to obey, not to be callous nor turn our heads from him.

I hope this clears things up a bit...if not...let's keep talking.

I also think your idea of free will needs some help. Maybe it was just a quick comment, but I don't believe it is thorough enough.

Remember that man has responsibility, even though God is still in complete control.

This is tough, but remember that God does not desire the destruction of the wicked and his desire is for all men to be saved.

This discussion is more on the plain of trying to understand the secretive vs revealed will of God.

If we try to figure out God's secretive will...we'll go crazy.

Anonymous said...

Seth - agree with what you have said.... it's a matter of definition of the word 'will'. Maybe we should be using words like obedience or disobedience. God calls us to live lives in trust of what he has revealed... the righteous shall live (justified) by faith. In as much as is revealed as to how we should now live - let's be obedient and obedient to the point where though they take our life, goods, honour, children, wife.. these things will vanish all .. but His word remaineth. The secret things of God belong to Him. (A brother in Christ.... ;-) .. isn't there a proverb about one who winks with the eye... :0)

Anonymous said...

Just met a new mom who's all of 19 or 20 and named her newborn baby girl, get this.....Robot.

There oughta be a law.

Anonymous said...

oops wrong post delete please ^

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