Taking Risks by Randy Rowley 3/22/14 ©


On a Saturday morning deer hunt, I sat in my pop-up blind on a small property near Round Rock, listening to a commotion behind me.  I couldn’t see what was causing the uproar, as my blind didn’t have a rear window, but it appeared not to care if other creatures knew it was there.  Its lack of stealth meant it had to be a buck chasing a doe or a hog.

As seconds ticked by it appeared to be getting closer, and the closer it came, the louder it got.  I shouldered my Browning Gold 12 gauge, stuffed with 00 buckshot.  If it took just a few more steps, I’d see it and be able to take it if I wanted to.

Then it finally came into view!  But instead of scratching my very itchy trigger finger, I let it go – not because it was illegal, too small, or too young.  No, I spared it because it was a squirrel!

That wasn’t the first time a rat with a big tail tricked me into thinking he was Muy Grande or Pumbaa, and it definitely won’t be the last!

The place where I was hunting has many squirrels and a healthy deer population.  I probably didn’t see deer on half of my hunts, but a hunt didn’t go by without seeing at least a handful of bushy tails.

I’m often entertained by squirrels going about their antics.  The two predominant characteristics of squirrels are their ability, as mentioned above, to sound like an animal one hundred times bigger than they are and their unwavering propensity to take risks – scurrying up and down trees with breakneck speed and jumping from limb to limb and tree to tree with utter abandon.  This behavior is especially evident when one or more is chasing each other.  Of course, the higher they climb up in trees, the smaller the branches become, and the risk to their safety increases, but that doesn’t slow them down.

Watching risk-taking squirrels sometimes causes me to reexamine my life.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m reluctant to take risks and prefer routines.  I’m a salaried state employee, and I like having my paycheck deposited in my account on the last workday of every month.  I drive the same way to work and back.  I wear the same basic 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 and follow the same routines.

My nature is a reason for my behavior, but another reason (perhaps the more prominent one) is that my behavior was learned.  I learned to play it safe (not take chances) and provide security and predictability to my family, partly from my parents and friends, partly from our church, and partly from society.  Providing safety and consistency aren’t bad character traits, but if they’re the answer to every question, they can strangle ambition, drive, the pursuit of excellence, dreaming of what could be, and even following God’s will.

I examined what the Bible says about taking risks to aid my self-examination as to why I’m reluctant to take them.  God told Joshua in Joshua 1:6-9, “‘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 principles to live by but also words of encouragement.  To put this passage into context, the Israelites had just arrived back at the edge of Canaan (the land God had promised them) after wandering in the desert for 40 years as punishment for their parents disobeying God’s command to possess Canaan when they first arrived at its boundary.

The Israelites were former Egyptian slaves and primarily brickmakers and bricklayers.  They weren’t warriors.  And they would be going up against fortified cities with full-time, experienced warriors.  The odds were not in the Israelites’ favor.  It was much more likely that they would be killed or enslaved again than successfully possess the land.  Joshua was he was about to take a risk, but he didn’t hesitate to obey God, who rewarded him with getting to finish the job Moses started but couldn’t finish due to his sin (see Deuteronomy 32:51–52).

Perhaps Joshua feared the present generation would also chicken out, and God would punish them again.  He might’ve also feared what could happen when they took on Canaan’s inhabitants.  So, he responded with a pep talk for the ages.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus told his disciples a story about a businessman who was about to go on a trip.  He entrusted five bags of silver (worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wages) to one servant, two bags of silver to another, and a bag of silver to another.  The servant entrusted with five bags of silver put it to work and doubled the money.  Likewise, the servant responsible for two bags of silver also invested it and doubled the money.  However, the servant entrusted with one bag of silver 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 punished the one who only buried it by giving it to the servant with ten bags and having the fearful and lazy servant thrown out into the darkness.

Undoubtedly, the central message of this story is to encourage us to use the talents God’s given us.  However, another message is that God expects us to take risks.

God is a risk-taker and expects his children to follow his example.  Some of the risks he took include:

  • He commanded Abraham to sacrifice (kill) Isaac (his only son at the time) after promising the aged Abraham he would be the father of many nations.  It’s hard to father nations without a male heir!
  • He chose Moses, a man who lacked confidence and wasn’t even interested in the job as the deliverer of the Hebrews from the Egyptians.
  • He had a woman (Mary) give birth to his son.  They didn’t have anything resembling hospitals or birthing centers back then, so giving birth often resulted in an infant’s death.  And Jesus could just as effortlessly have come to earth as an adult.
  • He called Paul, a persecutor of Christians, to preach the Gospel primarily to the Gentiles (non-Jews).

There was no indication that God had a Plan B for the above risks or many others.

I’m not suggesting you play the lottery, swim with great whites without a cage, run with the bulls, climb El Capitan without a rope, invest in historically poor-performing stocks and multi-level marketing schemes, or engage in similar risky behaviors.

But when you think God might be leading you to take a risk, I encourage you to:

  • Examine the Bible.  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.”
  • Seek the counsel of mature Christians.  Proverbs 11:14 (NASB) says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
  • Serve God and others.  An Army lieutenant whose position is in danger of being overrun is much more likely to implement a successful defense than a general who is two hundred miles away.  We often hear from God when we’re already serving rather than sitting on the sidelines thinking about serving.
  • Talk to God about it.  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.”

One day my son, Ryan, called me about two job offers he had received.  One was safe and predictable – $10/hour and 28 hours a week with a Top 500 company people would always need, no matter the state of the economy.  The other, a sales job – 100% commission, was with a company I’d never heard of.  I began to promote the salaried job’s virtues and warn of the risks of the sales job.  I was telling him to play it safe and not take risks.

But then I caught myself and silently asked, “What harm would there be in trying the sales job?”  If it didn’t work out, I was confident the other company’s offer would still be there, or he would get an offer from one like it.  I quickly changed my take to favor the sales job’s virtues.

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  When you’re sure God has called you to take a risk, I encourage you to be like a squirrel – don’t try to figure it out.  Instead, jump out in faith and trust God to protect you.

A deer/hog mimicker

Categories : Devotionals

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