Taking Risks by Randy Rowley 3/22/14 ©


On an early mid-November Saturday, 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 noise, whatever was coming my way was big, and it didn’t care that other creatures knew it was there.  The closer it came, the louder he got. It must be at least an 8-pointer.  Or maybe a 300 lb. boar.  I shouldered my shotgun.  Just a few more steps, and I’d see it.  And then I’d have it.

After a few more seconds, it finally popped into view!  But instead of scratching my very itchy trigger finger, I let it go – not because it was too small or too young.  No, I spared it because, well, it was a squirrel!

That wasn’t the first time that a rat with a big tail had tricked me into thinking that he was Muy Grande or Pumbaa, 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 large population of squirrels.  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.

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

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 behavior is especially evident 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.  I’ve never seen one fall.

Watching the risk-taking of squirrels sometimes 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 last workday 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 and follow the same routines.

My nature is a reason for my behavior, but another (perhaps the more prominent) reason is behavior I learned.  I learned partly from my parents, partly from society, and partly from our church.  I learned to play it safe (not take chances) and provide security and predictability to my family.  These are not bad attributes, but they can 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 principles to live by – they were also words of encouragement.  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 the generation before them disobeying 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 experienced warriors.  The odds were not in their favor.  It was much more likely that they would all be killed or enslaved again than they would successfully possess 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 to finish the job that Moses started.

Perhaps he feared that the present generation would also falter, and he’d have to wander the desert for another 40 years.  Or maybe he feared what could happen when they went to take Canaan’s inhabitants on.  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 to one servant, worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wage, two bags of silver to another, and a bag of silver to a third servant.  The servant who the businessman entrusted five bags of silver put it to work and doubled the money.  Likewise, the businessman’s servant, who he made responsible for two bags of silver, also invested it, and doubled the money.  However, the servant who the businessman 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 he punished the one who only buried it, giving the money to the servant with ten bags.  He also had the lazy servant thrown out into the darkness.

Undoubtedly, the central theme of this story is to encourage 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, who took the following risks:

  • He commanded Abraham to slay Isaac, his only son at the time.
  • He chose Moses as the deliverer of the Hebrews – a man who lacked confidence and wasn’t even interested in the job.
  • He had a woman 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.  God could just as effortlessly had Jesus come to earth as an adult.
  • He called Paul, a persecutor of Christians, to preach the Gospel to the gentiles (non-Jews) and Jews.

There was no indication that God had a Plan B for any of the above occurrences.  God is a risk-taker, and he expects his children to follow his example.

I don’t suggest that 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 or multi-level marketing schemes, or engage in similar reckless behavior.

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

  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • Seek the counsel of 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.”
  • An Army captain whose position is in danger of being overrun by the enemy is much more likely to implement a successful defense than a general who is 200 miles away.  Likewise, we often hear from God when we’re already serving him and others, rather than sitting on the sidelines thinking about serving.

One day my son, Ryan, called me about a couple of job offers.  One was safe and predictable – $10/hour and 28 hours a week with a Top 500 company that people would always need, 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 began to promote the salaried job’s virtues and downplay the commission job’s virtues.  In essence, I told 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 that 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 – risks and all.

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 – don’t try to figure it out.  Instead, jump out in faith and trust that God will not let you fall.

Categories : Devotionals

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