If you are sufficient for your task,
it is too small.
– John Piper
Expect great things from God.
Attempt great things for God.
– William Carey
I love board games. Actually, I love fast-paced games with quick rounds (like, Taboo, Tangrams, or Codenames.) I’ve never been into longer games, especially ones that require strategy (think, Monopoly or Settlers) and I used to say it was because I didn’t have enough patience for them. But in recent years I realized the real reason I didn’t like them: I’m a sore loser.
I don’t want to invest an hour into a game that I might not win. Connect Four is preferable because even if I lose, I can insist on another round–and win it! Is that bad? Probably. Ok, ok, yes it is. But these are just board games, so, not a big deal.
I’m realizing though that my aversion to losing does not only manifest itself when it comes to game night, that I am by nature risk-adverse because I hate failure and would rather not do something than do a less-than-excellent job. This shows in board games, yes, but also in other areas of my life.
This year, God has me in places where I’ve been serving out of weakness, in situations where he has given me enough skill to be of service to others, but not with so much natural ability that I feel I’m excelling. And while some may say, “This is the best way to serve– so God will look great when he helps everything go awesome-ly!” that’s not how it’s been. Rather, he’s allowed me to flop, falter, and at times, fail, and I’ve walked away wishing there were someone else who would take over or feeling silly for trying in the first place.
But I am grateful. Because as I reflect on these experiences, the thing God has been impressing on my heart lately is this: Do not give up. Because risk, for the sake of loving others, is right.*
First, risk for the sake of others is right because what I have is not mine. Paul says that all I have, I have received (1 Cor. 4:7). We are all stewards of our gifts, opportunities, relationships, jobs, and possessions. All that I have came from and belongs to God. So for me to withhold my time, gifts, love, and service out of fear of failure is to, like the wicked servant Jesus spoke of, take the one talent I’ve been entrusted with and bury it in fear or laziness.
Secondly, risk is right because as a steward, life is not about me. There are some that would encourage us to pursue our passions for our own sakes– for the possibility of fulfilling our dreams. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but as Christians, we are not told to pursue our own glory or fame, much less to do so in the name of Christ.
So I think instead of the people in history who have attempted and done great things for the glory of God. For them, working toward national reform (King Josiah) or abolishing slavery (William Wilberforce) was never about self-actualization. But neither were they restrained by fear. Rather, they took risks and dreamed big because they were not thinking about themselves. They were pursuing the glory of God and the good of others.
My life is not my own. It has been given to me for the sake of loving God and loving others. For me, then, it is sinful self-centeredness to be motivated out of self-protection and fear of failure.
So here’s the challenge: Christian, how are we being called to take risks for the sake of love? Fruitfulness in ministry is not guaranteed just because we pour out our hearts, prayers, and time– but it is worth it because our hearts, prayers, and time are given to us by God and because people are worth it. Developing your creative gifts for the sake of building up the church is worth it even if you’re not the best, because it’s not about you being the best. Receiving critical feedback in service to others is worth it because you are learning how to maximize your return for the King.
And here’s the comfort: Christian, you are in the most secure place to take risks. Why? Because, for one thing, nothing that is done for Christ is ever in vain; as long as your service is done unto God, he sees, he knows, and he receives your acts of service as worship to him. We may look at outer appearances, but God looks at the heart. And what may look like loss to the world, is gain if it brings us closer to our Christ.
Furthermore, as you risk, you are also secure because your “worth is not in skill or name / In win or lose, in pride or shame / But in the blood of Christ that flowed / At the cross”. (My Worth Is Not In What I Own)
In other words, you are held firmly in Christ, apart from your works, because of his work. As God’s worksmanship, we joyfully walk into doing the good he has already prepared for us (Eph. 2:8-10) but we who do good in the kingdom of God never do so for our ultimate sense of purpose and acceptance. Our worth is found in Christ. Our joy and hope are not tethered to results in ministry, acknowledgement from others, or our own flawless performances. Thus we are the most free people, liberated to lavishly love others.
Praise God! May we risk it all, for the sake of others and his great name.
* Though I wasn’t thinking about it as I wrote, I absorbed the phrase “risk is right” from a helpful small book written by John Piper called, of course, Risk is Right. It was helpful for me in making a major family decisions a few years ago, and I recommend it!