2 Cor 12: 23-28
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Most of us want to minimise risk in our lives. We like to stay clear of danger or harm, avoid any situations which might cause us pain or injury.
I know there’s probably one or two nutters reading this who love bungie jumping and jumping out of airplanes and extreme sports. However most of us are sensible and sane creatures who just want to stay safe.
Safety is a big deal in our world today. We have air bags in our cars, alarms in our houses, safety gates for our children, risk assessments on buildings, baggage scans at airports, peanut allergy warnings on our food, vaccinations against disease, hand sanitiser and filtered water. We have health insurance, car insurance, house insurance, pet insurance.
Safety is important. And most of the time, that’s a good thing. But what if we become so risk averse, so scared of danger, so afraid of anything bad happening, that we miss out on the adventure that life is supposed to be? That our time here on earth becomes so safe and sanitised that we don’t die from a horrible accident – rather we die from boredom. In fact the greatest danger might not be dying – it could be that we never really live at all.
Our obsession with safety and security might be causing us more harm than we realise. Especially if we are following Jesus, because by its very nature, the life of faith is a life of risk. We follow a man who was seen as being so dangerous to the establishment of his day that he was executed on a cross. We follow a God who constantly calls us from our comfort and security into the unknown, into impossibilities, to do things which often terrify us. That’s why the most common command in the Bible is: "Do not fear." When God shows up, what He asks us to do is often very scary.
That phrase Christians often use: "There’s no safer place than being in the centre of God’s will."
Who came up with that? It’s not in the Book. Take the Apostle Paul. Most of us would agree that the Apostle Paul lived in the centre of God’s will. Look at the horrendous list of what happened to him (2 Cor 11: 23-28):
- Severe flogging
- Exposed to death
- Five times he received 39 lashes
- Three times he was beaten with rods
- He was pelted with stones
- Three times he was shipwrecked, spending a night and a day in the open sea
- He had to be constantly on the move.
- He was in danger from rivers, bandits, his fellow Jews, Gentiles; in danger in the city, in the country, at sea; also from false believers.
- He laboured and toiled often going without sleep
- He knew hunger and thirst, often going without food
- He had been cold and naked.
Does that sound like there’s no safer place than being in God’s will? Following Jesus was never meant to be safe. It’s not about isolating ourselves into a religious bubble away from all the darkness and evil in the big bad world. Rather it is a life of being sent, called, propelled into the world to bring light into darkness, hope into despair, life where there’s death and God’s Kingdom where there’s evil.
The first Christians didn’t pray for safety; they prayed for boldness, they asked for courage not to shrink back from danger and persecution and suffering.
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4: 29)
So maybe instead of always praying for travelling mercies and parking spaces – we need to spend more time praying for boldness and courage.
This week we're going to think about what it means to risk it all for the Gospel and lives lives of radical surrender for His Kingdom.