Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Risk (05/17/12)
TITLE: Taking Risks
By Edmond Ng
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- And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. (1 Corinthians 15:30-31a NLT)
Some new risks are real and demand vigilance, said Travis Hutchinson, pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, Georgia. Conducting a criminal background check on everyone who works with children, for example, has become a necessity. Other risks are more remote, yet vendors stoke anxiety about everything from federal audits to shooting sprees.
"I get lots and lots of stuff that just seems like fear mongering, and apparently that's taken hold in some places," said Hutchinson. "One of the things we have to do as a congregation is to ask ourselves, how much of our time is [risk management] eating up? And how much time are we spending doing what God wants us to do?"
A number of churches and Christian communities have expressed concerns over minimizing risk because members may forget how to take risks appropriate to Christian discipleship. Scott Bader-Saye, a professor of moral theology at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, said churches preoccupied with institutional safety may become unwelcoming toward poor people because embracing them could pose hazards to their bottom lines. Another concern is churches anxious to protect endowment assets may not notice when opportunities for generosity come along.
"The question being lost in today's risk management is, what are we willing to lose for the sake of the gospel?" said Hutchinson.
Striking a balance between taking or not taking a certain risk is of great concern to many today. Yet long before risk management even existed, people were already taking risks. We read about such people in the history of the Church, the many who risked and gave up their lives holding fast to the faith. Peter was crucified, Paul was beheaded, Stephen was stoned to death, James died by the sword, and many others were eaten by lions or burned at the stake. Through the centuries, many more missionaries suffered persecution, and some were murdered for preaching the gospel in places where Christianity was forbidden. All these martyrs risked their lives and remained steadfast to the very end.
Have we ever wondered why there are people who are willing to risk their lives hour by hour and face death daily? For the apostle Paul, it was because he believed in Christ and the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 29-31). What about us? Are we willing to risk our lives for the Lord or are we at risk of becoming too overly concern about protecting ourselves that we turn away people who are in real need? Are we too dependent on others to ensure our safety that we do not know how to be vigilant or take care of ourselves? Are we exercising our spiritual gift of discernment and paying attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
True risk management is not all about preventing the dangers that can harm us, for there is no need to be afraid of those who can hurt our bodies but not our souls. Fear instead He who is able to destroy both our souls and bodies in hell (Matthew 10:28). Like the apostle Paul, therefore, let us be bold and willing to take risks for the gospel of Christ even if it means to expose ourselves to ridicule, disadvantage or persecution for His name’s sake.
Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes risking the many souls that need You just because of our overly concern for our own safety. Help us Lord not fall prey easily to schemers and those whose purpose is to destroy, but grant us Your gift of discernment to differentiate between real risks and those that are fuel by fear. Lead us by Your Holy Spirit Lord to see and hear with opened eyes and ears in our exercising vigilance to protect ourselves, our brothers and sisters in the faith, and the people of the community. Strengthen us Lord that we may be bold to take risks and face challenges for the gospel of Christ.
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