Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Discipleship Tuesday: Take the Risk Part Three

Continued from Take the Risk Part One and Take the Risk Part Two . . .

Dawn Scott Jones shares great insights in her article What Can God Do When You Stop Playing it Safe?  Using Christopher Columbus as an example, she explains how he defied the odds and explored unknown territory.

Two types of people resist taking risks: sticklers (perfectionists) and what Jones calls "invisibles."

Perfectionists are motivated to get things right.  The flip side of that is a fear of getting things wrong.  To the perfectionist, if it is not "perfect" - whatever they subjectively deem to be perfect - then it is not worth doing.  The perfectionist often wants to be in charge of a project.  Jones shares, "Often paralyzed by their unrealistic standards, if sticklers can't do something perfect, they won't do it at all."

Charles Stanley explains that perfectionists often have a deep feeling of inferiority.  They often strive for perfection in order to feel good about themselves.  They wrongly think they have not pleased God and don't have his favor unless a task is deemed perfect. 

Freedom comes in realizing, that with God's complete acceptance of us in Christ, He doesn't expect us to get it right all the time. 

We can't be perfect, and we won't ever be perfect, but we can enjoy the perfection of Christ Jesus.  We can accept his lovingkindness.  We can acknowledge that He doesn't expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to keep growing in Him, to stay in relationship with Him, and to keep trusting Him day by day. 

Nobody can be the best always.  Nobody comes in first every time.  Nobody gets it right every time.  If you are seeking to be perfect, not only are you seeking to do something that is impossible, but you are saying to yourself and God, "I'm not satisfied with the way you made me.  I'm made with the capacity and the ability to fail.  I have flaws.  I have weaknesses.  I'm not perfect.  And I don't like it."  The Source of My Strength

Two realities help me overcome the fear of perfectionism. 

1)  The wonderful grace of God.  He accepts me just as I am.  Any work that I do for Him is first seen through the acceptance I already have in Him.  The cross was the perfect work.  All of my other works are like the drawings, creations, and crafts brought to me by my children.  Though technically often imperfect, to me they are perfect expressions of their love because of the relationship we share.

2)  I have to let go of my fear of being wrong.  The Lord showed me one time that the root of that fear was actually my pride of wanting to be right.  I have to humble myself, accept God's grace, and get to work.

Michael Hyatt shares some great insights about the trap of perfectionism.  He writes, "When you sit on something until it's perfect, you miss a lot of opportunities. . . .  It’s better to do good work really well. That way you’re contributing to people’s lives, instead of locked in your own head about whether your work measures up to an impossible standard."

Invisible people, on the other hand, habitually play it safe.  They prefer living in the shadows.  Some of these folks are naturally lazy and just want to get by in life.  Jones writes that "they live much smaller than they should."  They don't volunteer, they don't set goals, and they don't achieve much.

The Lord challenged Peter to take a risk and get out of the boat.  The reward?  Peter experienced walking on the water.  Every other disciple observed from the boat.  None of them would get the t-shirt that said, "Even though I sunk, I walked on the water with Jesus."

Some folks in churches and organizations stay in the boat and observe.  They won't volunteer.  They won't teach a class, join a small group, participate in a team, or help with children or youth.  They carefully stand back and observe at a safe distance.  For years I have said that those folks like to come into the foyer and feel a part but not get too close to the front of the sanctuary.  Other people jump in with the attitude, "Hey, I may not have all the answers and I can't see my way clearly, but I will help be a part of the solution.  What can I do?  How can I help?"  From the vantage point of the boat's safety, observers can point out problems.  But those who jump into the water work on solutions.

Charles Stanley says, It’s in the water that you put your trust in God.  It’s in the water where God will be able to demonstrate things you can never learn as long as you are playing it safe.  (Sermon - Fear of Faith?)

So what happens when we get out of the boat?

7.  We leave the company of our potential support.

Rahab the prostitute, confronted with the reality that the God of the Israelites was real and powerful, made an incredible decision.  She chose to let go of the support of her countrymen, her city with its fortified walls, and the business that sustained her and her family.  Turning her back on her neighbors at Jericho, she vowed her support to the Israelites.  The scarlet cord marked her deliverance from then on, gaining her entrance into the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews eleven.  But she had to go it alone for a few steps.

At times to go forward with the Lord means letting go of familiar people. 

In order for Bilbo Baggins to experience the adventures of the fellowship of the ring, Gandalf challenged him to leave the familiar comfort of the Shire.  Though naturally inclined to avoid adventures, something "woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick."

When God was ready to start Barnabus and Saul on their missionary career, he brought significant changes to the church in Antioch.  For one year the church experienced the "dream team" of leadership from Barnabus, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul.  Suddenly, in a time of prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit instructs the church to set aside Barnabus and Saul for a new work.  The dynamic duo must leave the familiar support of the booming and exciting Antioch church in order to move on with God. 

Charles Swindoll writes about their experience: "Serving in the center of God's will can be dangerous business.  But whether in times of relative ease or abject hardship the primary principles stands: obedience requires change. . . .  None of those folks back in Antioch would have expected God to lift Barnabus and Saul from the mix. . . .  But it's so like the Lord to select the very people you and I wish would stay forever.  Erase all the boundaries.  Tell the Lord you're willing to cooperate.  But don't forget, you may be the next Barnabus or Saul the Lord decides to move.  Remember, we're dealing with change - changing so we might obey."  Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit

When I was a teenager, I occasionally dreamed of becoming a lawyer, politician, or writer.  My dreams always involved, after school, returning to my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, where I would live the rest of my life.  I would live about ten minutes from my parents, seeing them regularly.  I would attend the church of my boyhood with my parents for the rest of my life.  I would regularly see friends from high school and church.  I was a city boy and loved the suburban life of the city.  I had no plan on ever leaving for long the support of the community in which I was raised.  I had no desire to leave the familiarity of that life. 

The past twenty-five years, none of that has happened.  Through the years I have learned that following God often involves letting go of the familiar, of our comfort and potential support, and moving into the unknown.  He often requires that we trade the recognizable routine for the unordinary and unnatural rhythms of discipleship.  We learn to deny ourselves and accept His yoke.

L. B. Cowman wrote, "You must be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the itinerary will happen as you expect.  Your Guide will not keep to any beaten path.  He will lead you through ways you would never have dreamed your eyes would see."  Streams in the Desert

8.  We risk.

Ron Leach says, Jesus was a risk-taker.  "He went places where people wanted to hurt and kill him.  He hung out with people no one else liked.  He did things that seemed crazy and counter-cultural.  When kids see how Jesus lived, they’ll be bold risk-takers." 

Let's be willing to take risks.  Let's be willing to not play it safe.  Let's do something that may receive rejection.  Let's try something new. 

Let's not go through life always trying to control circumstances, the outcome, and other people before making a move. 

Don Wilton counseled a couple who believed the Lord called them to go so seminary.  He asked, "Why have you not gone?" 

They replied, "Well, we are trying to work out details, figure out housing, find schools for the children, etc." 

Pastor Don said, "So in other words you are trying to get your ducks in a row" 


"You know," Don said, "I have read the Bible several times from cover to cover, and there are no ducks in the Bible."

When my wife and I believed the Lord was challenging us to start a new church several years ago, we took the biggest risk of our lives.  Suddenly, after years of working in established churches, we had nothing but a few people and their prayers in our ministry.  No building, no budget, no resources.  My salary and benefits reduced to the smallest in my entire working career.  Every day became a new challenge of trusting God.  But, as American author T. S. Eliot said, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

And Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."

Let's get moving.

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