Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Necessity of Risk

How often do we pray for God to reveal His exact will to us, so that we can get on with the business of living it out?

I have to confess that this is often a strong theme in my prayer life. When faced with an impending choice or question, I try to picture God sitting next to me, patiently listening to my request, and then answering me with a clear “Yes” or “No”, followed by details of exactly how things should happen and what I should do. I don’t expect Him to magically drop a note with directions in my lap, but I do yearn for Him to give me a leading within my heart as to what my next move should be.

I’m beginning to think that God rarely acts in that manner. To be sure, He has provided men and women with some very specific instructions through angels in the past. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” is a pretty detailed sentence, but I have to say that I’ve never received such specific words directly from an angel.

Does this mean that I don’t have the equivalent relationship that Jesus’ father had with the Lord, or that God has somehow left us out of direct communication for a while? Both are very possible, but consider another possibility that I came across recently.

God might not speak to me directly because He wants me to step out and take risks. There actually might not be a right answer to the question of whether I should change careers, or whether I should buy a different house. My mind often thinks that there is only one correct path to my life and that I need to be diligent in finding it. But I’m starting to see that this might not be true.

Instead, it seems to me that God might be pleased with either choice, as long as He is glorified in the result. And that is the challenge for me. John Piper, in his book Don’t Waste Your Life, says this:

‘Jesus had made this clear. He said, for example, in Luke 21:16, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.” The key word here is “some”. “Some of you they will put to death.” This word puts the earthly life of the disciples in great uncertainty. Not all will die for the cause of Christ. But not all will live either. Some will die. And some will live. This is what I mean by risk. It is the will of God that we be uncertain about how life on this earth will turn out for us. And therefore it is the will of the Lord that we take risks for the cause of God.’
Is it really God’s will that I not always have the answers that I’m looking for? In the past, I thought it might be more a function of how sincere I was in prayer. If I really worked at prayer and my own devotion to the topic, if I drew myself into a room and earnestly cast aside any distractions, and if I honestly believed that God was listening and that He would answer my prayer, then eventually I could break through the walls and He would reveal Himself directly to me. These desires are not bad, and can contribute to a greater prayer life. But I’m learning that God might be less concerned about the “work” of my prayer, and more interested in me simply placing my trust in Him – in simply acknowledging that He is in control of my life. That is where risk enters my life. That is where things get uncomfortable.

Just like a father or mother desires their children to trust that he or she will take care of them when they are ill, God desires us to place our lives in His hands – not necessarily to know in advance how things will work out. “Trust me to take care of you and to take the right steps for your well-being” are often the words that a parent gives to their child. Sometimes, those steps are painful and require a complete giving over of wills. In the end, I think God is more glorified when people see that we are fully dependent on Him – even more than if we were to live a nearly perfect, unstained life. In fact, risk can result in failure in this life…and still be exactly what God wants us to do. John the Baptist took a risk by preaching about Jesus’ coming. He was beheaded for his efforts – something most people would consider as failure – and, yet, that is exactly what God’s will was for him, because his life and his message are a large part of the Messiah’s story.

This may change the way I pray in the future. Rather than asking for specifics, and being disappointed when I don’t get a tangible answer, I desire to spend more time just placing my life in the Father’s hands, and trusting that He is in control of everything. Taking risk and facing the fear of the unknown require me to do exactly that.

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