I have never been a risk taker.
I like to play it very safe. I have no desire to gamble with my money and extreme sports do not interest me in the slightest. I did try a snowmobile once when I was 24 but honestly, I drove like a grandma on a mobility scooter.
I also went white water rafting when I was a teenager. I can still remember how my life flashed before me with each tiny rapid on the relatively tame river. Never again.
But, today God spoke to my heart.
As I opened my Bible this morning, underneath my quilt with a warm coffee in my hand, I read Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25 with fresh eyes. So often we need fresh eyes for familiar stories or we can overlook the depth of truth that goes beyond Children’s Bible pictures or Veggie Tales cartoons.
One of the servants in this story is also risk-averse. He always plays it safe and hedges his bets. And if you think that this cautious planning should be applauded, you are wrong. The Master’s reaction is harsh. There is no praise for this carefulness, only disappointment. It is an uncomfortable parable.
And it teaches an uncomfortable truth. I cannot please God without taking risks.
I am so tempted to soften that sentence, to try and qualify it. But I can’t. The Bible won’t let me.
Hebrews 11.6 says, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.’
You see, when I talk about risks I don’t mean bungee jumping or stock market trading. I mean obedient faith. I mean doing what God says to do, despite the possible dangers. I mean stepping out and stepping up, opening my mouth or opening my wallet. I mean saying yes to God when it looks impossible or ridiculous or costly.
In the parable, the servant who hides his talent does so out of fear that the Master isn’t a good man. The writer of Hebrews makes a similar point. In order to please God, we must believe that He exists but also that He is good and that He desires to reward His children.
You see, we will never dare to take risky faith-steps, to lay it all on the line if we aren’t utterly convinced of God’s power, but also His goodness.
And in the Kingdom of God, there is just no alternative. The keep-what-you-got and squirrel-it-away kind of life is not an option Jesus ever presents to His followers.
No, this Kingdom is more of a ‘throw-your-bread-on-the-water’, take-up-your-cross-and-follow-me, lose-your-life-to gain-it kind of following.
It is the kind of life that ‘wastes’ precious perfume on Jesus because everything we have is for His glory, not our own. It is a Christianity that turns the world upside down and might land you in jail or in the lion’s den, but your worship will always have the victory. It is a kind of living where the end is certain, but only uncertain faith-steps will get you there.
It is a faith that dares to try again and believe again, despite the fear of failure. It is a faith that steps out of the boat because those few moments with Jesus on the water are always worth it, even if we get wet.
It is a kind of spiritual walk that serves God with no self-consciousness or comparison and never worries about being perfect, just being obedient.
Read Hebrews 11 today if you dare. Read those names. Read how they lived and how they died. Read how those men and women of God held nothing back. There never considered contingency plans or risk assessments or insurance policies.
They left everything on the field.
Because they were Kingdom people and they served a King. And that King once dared to leave the comfort of heaven for an audacious plan of redemption. He chose love and obedience over self-preservation and safety. He emptied Himself and He humbled Himself and He offered Himself to people who were free to say no. This is the God we serve and follow.
And the only answer to a God like this is ‘yes’.
The only way to follow Him is wholehearted.
Because the only risk we have to worry about is wasting our lives on things that don’t matter.
And, the only truly safe way to live is to give Jesus everything and follow Him wherever He leads us.