In information technology and business there is a phrase: “risk averse.” A person or organization that is risk averse doesn’t just look to come up with reasonable ways to deal with risk, but actually attempts to avoid risk altogether. The problem with risk avoidance is it also means life avoidance. Some things in life involve risk. Sports involve risk. Going off to an out-of-town college involves risk. Learning to drive involves risk. We’ve seen cases where parents choose not to let their kids participate in sports, expect them to stick around and attend college locally, and even, in extreme cases, refuse to teach them to drive when they’re first eligible. That’s risk avoidance. This risk avoidance also finds it way into our Christian lives. Following God by faith also involves risk. Too often, though, our Christianity is without risk. That’s not the way the Christian life is supposed to be lived.
And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. – Mark 6:7-9, ESV
This passage is just one example of where God asked His followers to trust Him, even when they couldn’t see the safety net. To follow Jesus’ instructions here would have involved risk. They were to go out and take only the clothes on their backs and their walking sticks. That’s it. Food? Rely on others. Money? Not needed. How about a change of clothes? Leave those at home, too. Nothing is said about having a sword or some other form of personal protection. In that day and age, to journey the wilderness like that was risky, too. It meant they had to rely on God for their safety and provision. It meant they had to embrace the risk of following Jesus.
We don’t like risk much nowadays in our churches. We only go for a program when it’s well funded. We are hesitant to try new outreaches because we don’t know how successful they’ll be. On a personal level, we’re concerned about risking our own safety, whether physical or financial. As a result, we aren’t sacrificial in our giving or in our time. When I say “we” I do mean as a whole. There are exemplary individuals. But they are exemplary because they are the exceptions. They aren’t supposed to be the exceptions. But our churches are too busy playing it safe rather than accepting the risk that comes with following Jesus Christ.
Faith is all about accepting risk. Faith is about trusting that God is going to deliver on something He has called us to, even when we can’t see how it’s going to happen. The key here is that it has to be based on God’s calling. However, I wonder how often God simply doesn’t call any more because He knows the folks who would receive the call aren’t interested because it’s not safe. And I wonder if I am among those people. Faith isn’t logical in that you can see every step like a mathematical proof. However, faith is logical because of the body of evidence we believe shows that God always comes through if His people believe.
The Christian life is supposed to be an adventure. Adventure almost certainly involves risk. We aren’t seeing great things happen with respect to God because we are too risk averse. We are trying to be too safe. We are helicopter parenting God, if such a notion could be done. As a result, we miss out. Our churches wither and die. Why? Simply because we’re not willing to take the risk of trusting God at His Word. Oh, and while we are being risk averse, there are people in the communities around us and throughout the world who could use our help but don’t get it. Because to give it would mean we’d have to move outside of safe and we can’t do that, can we? I can only imagine what Jesus thinks. Lord, help us to put aside risk averse Christianity and embrace a life like the one You would have us lead.