Taking Risks by Randy Rowley 3/22/14 ©


Early on a Saturday in mid-November, I sat in my pop-up blind and listened to a commotion behind me.  I couldn’t see what was coming, as my blind doesn’t have a rear window, but from the sounds it was making whatever was coming my way was big and it didn’t care that other creatures knew it was there.  The closer he came the louder he got.  It must be at least an 8-pointer, maybe a 10.  Or maybe a 300 lb. boar.  I readied my gun.  Just a few more steps and I’d see him and then I’d have him.  After a few more seconds he finally popped into view!

But instead of scratching my very itchy trigger finger I let him go – not because he was too small or too young.  No, I spared him because, well, he was a squirrel!

This wasn’t the first time that a rat with a big tail had tricked me into thinking that he was Muy Grande or Pumba, and it undoubtedly won’t be the last!

The place where I hunt deer near Round Rock, in addition to a decent whitetail population, has a tremendous population of squirrels.  In fact, I probably don’t see deer on half of my hunts, but a hunt doesn’t go by without seeing at least a handful of bushy-tails.

Often, in lieu of looking at deer, I’ll pass away the time by watching squirrels going about their antics.  The two predominant characteristics of squirrels is their above mentioned ability to sound like an animal that is 100 times bigger than them and their unwavering propensity to take risks.

In fact they seem to delight in taking risks – scurrying up and down trees with breakneck speed and jumping from limb to limb and tree to tree with utter abandon.  This is especially true when one or more is chasing another.  Of course the higher up a tree they go the smaller the branches become, but this doesn’t slow them down in the least.  And I’ve never seen one fall.

Watching the risk taking of squirrels often causes me to examine my life.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m reluctant to take risks.  I’m a salaried state employee and I like having my paycheck deposited in my account on the first work day of every month.  I drive the same way to work and back.  I wear the same basic set of clothes each week and part my hair the same way.  I eat at the same places and watch the same TV shows.  I usually hunt and fish at the same places too and follow the same routines.

Part of the reason for my behavior is it is my nature, but another part (perhaps the larger part) is learned behavior.  Part of what I learned I learned from my parents, part from society, and part from our church.  Boys and men are taught to play it safe – to not take chances, and to provide security and predictability to their families.  These are not bad attributes, but they have the potential to strangle ambition, drive, pursuing excellence, dreaming, and even following God’s will.

To aid my self-examination, I examined what the Bible had to say about taking risks.  Joshua 1:6-9 says, ““Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.””

These weren’t just general principals to live by.  To put this passage into context, the Israelites had just arrived back at the edge of Canaan (the Promised Land), after wandering in the desert for 40 years as punishment for rebelling against the Lord’s command to possess the land when they first arrived at Canaan’s boundary.

The Israelites were former slaves – primarily brick makers and layers.  They were not a nation of warriors.  And they were going up against fortified cities that had standing armies with strong warriors.  The odds were not in their favor.  It was much more likely that they would all be killed or enslaved again then it was that they would be successful in possessing the land.  Joshua was about to take a risk and he knew it.  But he didn’t hesitate to obey God, who rewarded him with getting the job that Moses started.

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told his disciples a parable about a businessman who was about to go on a journey.  To one servant he entrusted five bags of silver, worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wage.  To another he entrusted two bags and to a third one bag.  The servant who was given five bags put it to work and earned five more bags.  Likewise the servant who was given two bags earned two more.  However, the servant who was given one bag dug a hole and hid it.  When the businessman returned he settled accounts with his servants.  He rewarded the servants who had doubled his money, but he punished the one who just buried it, giving the money to the servant with 10 bags.

Certainly, the main theme of this parable is to exhort us to use the talents that God has given us.  However, another theme is God expects us to take risks with what he has given us.

Taking risks is consistent with the character of God.  Did God/Jesus not take a risk?

  • When he commanded Abraham to slay Isaac?
  • When he chose Moses as the deliverer – a man who clearly lacked the confidence to do the job and wasn’t even interested in the job?
  • When he sent his son to be born of a woman?  They didn’t have anything resembling hospitals or birthing centers back then – giving birth often resulted in the death of the infant.  He could just as easily had Jesus come to the earth as a full grown man.
  • When he told Peter to walk to him on the water?
  • When he called Paul, a persecutor of Christians, to preach the Gospel?

For each of these occurrences there was no indication that God had a Plan B.  Our God is a risk taker, and he expects his children to follow his example.

I am not suggesting that you should play the lottery (you are three times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to win the lottery), swim with Great Whites, climb El Capitan without a rope, invest in historically poor performing stocks or multi-level marketing schemes, run with the bulls, or engage in similar reckless behavior.

Rather I am exhorting you, when you think that God might be leading you to take a risk in your life, whether it be as major as quitting your job and becoming a full-time missionary or as minor as ministering to the homeless one Saturday a month, to:

  1. Pray.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
  2. See what God’s word says.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
  3. Seek Christian council (talk to Godly men and women).  Proverbs 11:14 (NASB) says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

One day my son, Ryan, called me about a couple job offers that he had.  One was safe and predictable – $10/hour and 28 hours a week with a Top 500 company that would always be needed, no matter the state of the economy.  The other was with a company that I had never heard of and it was a sales job – 100% commission.  I heard myself begin to espouse the virtues of the salary job and to downplay the virtues of the commission job.  In essence I was telling my son to play it safe, and not take risks.  But I caught myself in the middle of our conservation.  I asked myself, what harm would there be in trying the sales job?  If it didn’t pan out I’m quite sure that the offer from the other company would still be there, or he would get an offer from one like it.  Ultimately, I changed my tone to favor the risk of the sales job.

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  When you know that God has called you to take a risk I encourage you to be like a squirrel – jump out in faith and trust that God will not let you fall.

Categories : Devotionals

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