Taking risks with God, the most exciting and adventurous journey one can have.
Life is about taking risks. Right before conception, even the decision to have a child is a risk. We don’t know what the future holds, and because time runs on a single continuum, we have no choice but to yield to the effects of time. Some time along our journey, life gives us a lesson on respecting and treasuring the unknowns of life.
So what do we do in face of unknowns? We risk. Especially with respect to the core needs of our life, we tend to risk the most. For the sake of relationship, approval, acceptance, and love, we risk. To feed ourselves and our family, we risk. To pursue our passions and our calling, we risk. Sometimes our risks don’t pay off, sometimes they do. When they don’t, disappointment kicks in. If we lose the will to continue to fight on with the risks of life, we are on a path of destruction. Risks are so integral in our lives as children of God.
One consistent theme that I see in the book “Is That Really You, God?” is the concept of risk. Not only in the life of Loren, Darlene, but also in the various student volunteers who joined them in their large scale outreaches and schools.
Loren was praying with the other school staff in the small wooden annex over the night, which led them to receiving the word Kona, a lighthouse on the Big Island, a school, and a big white ship in a bay. The next day, Loren addressed the ninety-two students and led them into a time of prayer. He didn’t share what they receive in the night of prayer, but wanted to see if God is saying any of the same things to them. What really impacted me was how the students responded.
Yes, they took awhile, in silence and prayer, but when prompted, many of them started to boldly share what they receive. Even though what the students received and shared seemed (through the eyes of man) to be all over the place, Loren knew that it was a strong confirmation of what they received over the past night. I was amazed at the students’ appetite for risk. Perhaps they were young, naive, nothing to lose. But if that is what it takes to be that bold and risky, I’ll need more of the innocence and surrender. It made me wonder, how many times have I curled back in fear, even though I thought I received something from God. Just like one of these hedgehogs.
It made me wonder, what made them so bold? What made them so willing to take risks, even if it could have made them look so stupid? What made all the difference that led them to speak out instead of taking the simpler option, which is to slide back and stay passive? Through the book, I extracted a few key principles that i felt gave me more clarity in this question of risk.
- Guidance is first of all a relationship with the Guide
Reading about this guidance principle in the book reminded me of my reflections over the week in DTS where we learnt “Hearing God’s Voice”. Yes, with no intimacy, there would be no communication, and hence no guidance. When I thought about my risk-appetite for God, and looked at it through the lens of relationships, God challenged me with a question; “Would you take risks for a stranger?”. I knew that my answer was a “no, of course not!”. “But would I take risks for my wife?” God continued to challenge. I answered, “yes I would.” I knew what God was driving at. Risks are a beautiful expression of intimacy.
Intimacy requires trust and vulnerability. It means that I’m putting myself at risk of great hurt and disappointment, at risk of painful betrayal and abandonment. As I grow in trust and intimacy, our risk-appetite grows as well. Even if it means for me to look like a fool, I’ll do it. Just like how Loren confronted the staff at the YWAM staff conference at Osaka about the idolatry of the first ship. There was so much at stake! Perhaps, a relationship with the Guide is so important, not only because it allows us to hear clearly, but it also allows us to draw courage and strength to make great risks for God and yield to His guidance. What’s the point if we hear His voice but not have the guts to follow through?
- What is at stake? If you get proud, God can’t use you.
In Loren’s context, he had to deal with his own pride and idolatry issues revolving around his ministry. His reputation was at stake. He took pride not in God’s power and love, but he took pride in his own apparent achievements. Slowly, more and more things become at the mercy of your decisions. It’s as if the weight of the reputation of the organisation fell on the shoulders of Loren. It’s as if the tools that God gave him for ministry could replace God Himself. It’s as if we can do all these with our own strength and wisdom. Suddenly, risk taking seem much harder now, as we erroneously assumed that our ministries and reputation can be wrecked solely by our own hands.
In my context, or rather the asian context, most of the time, our reputation is at stake. We are fearful of how others perceive us, especially when we fail, or when we seem to hear God wrongly. When everyone else shared what they received, and what I received from God seemed so off-tune. Perhaps I should just ignore what I received, and share that I didn’t receive anything to avoid the risk of humiliation. When I hear God calling me into missions, but I fear what my peers, church, and parents would think of me, hence I dismissed the calling to avoid the risk of judgement. When I know that God wants me to do a specific act of kindness and mercy to a certain someone, but I am afraid of how this person would respond to me, hence I feigned ignorance to avoid the risk of rejection. When we have so much at stake, our risk-appetite for God drops. We have to recognise that many of the things that we hold dearly to, such as our pride or our insecurities, are hindering us from obeying God and taking risks for Him. Of course, deep in our hearts lay certain deeply rooted lies that might be hindering us from easily laying down our stake. This leads me to my third principle.
- Clean hearts hear God more clearly. Our enemy attacks our identity in Christ through his lies.
We all have our fair share of irrational fear, be it in the physical realm (eg: fear of stairs) or in the emotional/spiritual realm (eg: fear of rejection). These fears stand in the way of our taking risks for God. Many of these fears have it’s roots in our core beliefs and our hurts in life, which require much healing and discipleship to process through, in order to straighten out the fears that are hindering us from taking risks for God. But if we are so proud as to refuse to believe that we ourselves need help, then our pride would stumble us, and we can never seek true freedom from the lies of the Devil.
The story of Kalafi in the book gives a clear example of this principle. Kalafi was a great risk-taker, becoming a leader over a big group of volunteers even though he was a young christian. However, when he fell into the sin of adultery, he chose to hide it from the other key leaders in YWAM. Being a high profile leader, his broken marriage was a source of shame for him, hence his secrecy. There was much at stake, his reputation and his ministry. However, I believe that what really stopped him from risking his reputation and ministry for the sake of getting his relationship right with God was his fear of shame. The enemy thrives in our shame and fear, and we resort to control methods to contain our shame. The option for Kalafi to contain his shame was way more attractive than taking the risk to confess and forgo his reputation and ministry. It has to be the devil’s lie at work. Kalafi slipped into a lifestyle of sin, because of hurts in his soul that solidified his fear of shame. If we can receive healing from the shame that we struggle with, we become more confident to take the risk with confession and repentance before God and others.
- God’s compassion; Compelled by God’s worldview and heart for the lost.
Compassion is from the Lord. Being partakers of this compassion, we experience God’s loving kindness, mercy, and grace. His compassion affects our worldview greatly. No longer do we see other people, friends or strangers, as just another human being. When we bring God’s compassion into our worldview, everyone is a beloved child of God. We gain perspective of someone’s worth in Jesus Christ. The more we gain God’s heart for us and His people, the more we understand why He desires for us to love His people. These people are no longer just strangers, but they are precious souls that are worth our risks for His glory. Our risk-appetite grows when we see the treasure and preciousness of those around us.
Compassion is from the Lord. Acknowledging that without God, we cannot derive true compassion for others, it gives us freedom to take risks of compassion, especially in the area of praying for others, and hearing God’s voice. Since compassion comes from God, we have to yield to Him and to how He speaks. In the book, one of the key principles is to allow God to speak to us in the way He chooses, and not to dictate how He guides us. We have to listen with a yielded heart, and there is a direct link between yieldedness and hearing. As we allow God to show us His heart of compassion, and to ask God to give us a heart for His heart, our risk-appetite grows. When our hearts grief for those who grief, we gain courage to take risks of ministering to them. When we can feel what others feel, we are drawn to action naturally. God’s compassion is our fuel for risks. The world needs Jesus, and God is inviting us to join Him in a risky journey of His compassion for this world. God desires us to hear His heart, instead of us telling Him what we want to hear.
God delights in our risk-taking for His glory. Loren courageously took on countless forms of risks, as a response of obedience to God’s guidance, and we see how God used him powerfully to bring about the vision of the waves of youths crashing onto shores with evangelism and and acts of mercy. If I could summarise what I feel I learnt from Loren’s book regarding developing risk-appetite for God, there’ll be 3 main points:
- Our view of ourselves (Our identity in Christ)
- Our view of God (God’s character and nature)
- Our view of our relationship with God (Intimacy and vulnerability)
As we allow God’s word to continue to deconstruct and reconstruct our 3 key views (as mentioned above), we will definitely grow in our hearing of God’s voice. Whether it is the smallest things in life, such as taking a risk to sound stupid in a class setting or while praying for others, or whether it is the critical decisions of life, such as confession, repentance, or even trusting God for resources, we can draw confidence and courage from a firm foundation in God in our 3 key views. I am encouraged that even when we don’t see the fruits of my risks in obeying God, God is delighted in my childlike faith, and He is sovereign to use my act of faith to bless His kingdom.