Taking risks for the gospel – Joshua 2

Do you care about the destiny of your immortal soul? A few years ago the high street retailer Game Station added the following clause in the small print of their online customers.
“By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from gamestation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions.”

GameStation’s fiendish clause specified that they might serve such notice in “six foot-high letters of fire” too, but also offered customers an option to opt out, rewarding them with a £5 money-off voucher if they did so.

Alas, hardly anyone noticed the clause, let alone the substantial bonus for spotting that this was an April Fools joke. 7,500 people carelessly signed their souls away to GameStation that day. (Fri Apr 16 04:25PM by Yahoo! UK Games Editor)

Newspapers have seized on this story to illustrate how few people actually read the small print when they buy anything. For me the point is much more serious. For most people, “the destiny of their immortal soul” is something to make a joke about. Something they never really think about and don’t care about.

But how much to WE care about the eternal destiny of our friends and neighbours? I want us to think about that this evening by considering one simple question. It’s a question on the form a church has to fill in to apply for a Grant from Baptist Home Mission.

What risks do the church think they have taken in the past year for the sake of the Gospel?
What risks have we as individuals taken for the sake of the gospel? What risks have we as a church taken for the sake of the gospel.

I came across a book called “A dangerous faith” by Peb Jackson and Jim Lund of Saddleback Church in California, the home of the Purpose Driven Church. It tells the stories of some people like pioneer missionaries, who have taken risks for the gospel.

The book reminds us that from our youngest years and our first steps human beings are naturally explorers. We are driven to take risks to find out more and more about the world around us. But then as we grow up we learn to play it safe. To put our trust in a steady salary and a retirement plan and good insurance. We choose prudence over adventure – we learn to play things safe. So we get trapped in our comfort zones and settle for superficial friendships and passionless careers and mundane lives. Our sense of adventure is stifled – even the wonderful adventure of discovering God. We don’t let God surprise us in Scripture and prayer and new friendships and new places to serve and changed lives.

Jim Lund writes, “I’ve found that deep faith isn’t possible without substantial risk, and that faith without risk eventually leads to emptiness. It takes a commitment to dare, risk, trust, and grow to find answers to the questions we all confront. Am I capable of going where others fear to tread? Only our willingness to risk and believe enables us to discover the gifts God offers each of us: love, a sense of being fully alive, forgiveness, hope, and meaning.

We’re all born with that sense of curiosity, with an instinctive need to stretch and learn and discover. It’s one of God’s gifts for this life. Sadly, most of us grow out of it. We become analytical, judgmental, protective. We fear what failure will do to us or make us look like to others, never mind that failure is one of our greatest teachers. … (But) God created us with this innate desire to risk. It’s what makes us grow, spiritually and otherwise. Taking risks for His sake brings Him glory.

Risk. Adventure. Danger.We don’t normally associate those words with a devout faith. But in reality, the explorer and the believer are both walking the same path. The life of faith is a daring adventure, full of risk and danger. Jesus said: “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag” (Luke 19:26, MSG).

The disciples risked everything to follow Christ. So did Stephen, Paul, and the other believers of the early church. In the first century, Paul wrote: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long’ ” (Romans 8:35–36).

In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther wrote: “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times.”

Today … too many of us aim to avoid risk entirely. We’ve worked hard to achieve what we already have—relationships, status, possessions. We don’t want to put our comfortable lifestyles in jeopardy. Yet as we struggle to preserve our complacent existence, we miss out on the amazing rewards of risk.

We are called to pursue a dangerous faith, living every thought, every activity, and every moment at risk for the Lord.It may mean speaking up when you’d rather be quiet. Or quitting a job to preserve your integrity. Or revealing your deepest fear to your spouse. It is an intentional stretching of long-held beliefs. Only here, on the precipice between the comfortable and the unknown, will faith truly thrive. Only here will you discover the ironic truth: the more you risk and trust God, the closer you move to His heart—and the safer you become.”

What risks do the church think they have taken in the past year for the sake of the Gospel?

The story of Rahab is a classic example of taking risks to serve God. She risked death when she hid the spies. Others have taken similar risks. Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian who hid Jews in her home during World War 2 and paid the price in a Nazi concentration camp. Muslims who convert to Christianity face the threat of death today. Jesus warned his followers that they would be persecuted. Evangelical faith is unpopular and misunderstood in Britain today. People can feel threatened by aspects of our faith and react negatively. Archbishop Rowan Williams rightly commented recently that it is a strange paradox where the world around thinks that the claims of Christianity are so unimportant that they can be ignored but at the same time so dangerous that outward symbols like wearing a little silver cross have to be suppressed.

Rahab risked death to help the spies but she reckoned that the risk was worth taking. The price of obeying God was high, but the benefits were out of this world. Risk is a price worth paying. The writer to the Hebrews chose Rahab as an example of true faith. And Hebrews 11 gives us many more examples of believers who have taken risks in order to obey God.

Hebrews 11 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country;

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

What risks do the church think they have taken in the past year for the sake of the Gospel?

“Faith is spelt R-I-S-K”. The problem is, most Christians and most churches are risk-averse. We like to play things nice and safe. Thinking about this topic a phrase came to my mind: “Jesus Freaks”.

I first became a Christian at the time of the “Jesus Freaks”. They were a Christian subculture which started in America but spread around the world, even amongst the young people of Manchester. They brought the gospel to the hippie generation and focussed on the radical nature of Jesus’s message and lifestyle. They were people who were totally sold out for God. Remember people like George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilisation who took Scriptures into countries established missionary societies couldn’t go into. People like Arthur Blessitt who walked the length of Britain carrying a six foot high cross, to proclaim the gospel that Jesus saves. It turns out that “Jesus Freaks” is now also the entirely appropriate name of a series of biographies of Christian martyrs.

And to this day there is a youth movement in Germany called The Jesus Freaks. They began in Hamburg in 1991 when just three people started meeting regularly to pray together. They started meetings called “Hang Out with Jesus” which moved to a café when they outgrew their flat and by 1994 200 young people were coming along. Since then Jesus Freak groups have sprung up all over Germany and they have an annual gathering called “Freakstock” where in their words they “meet together and party with Jesus.”

They say this about themselves.
As Jesus Freaks we claim that in spite of crusades, burning of witches, boring church services, TV preachers who rake in money, and all the pseudo- religious affectation, there is something true and very wonderful behind the story about Jesus!
To be honest we even believe that there isn´t anything better in this whole world than to live with Jesus. Relationship with Him is the meaning of life ,,, a personal relationship with the creator of this earth. Jesus lived on this earth as the son of God. He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead, and is the only one who can close the gap between God and us today. Jesus is the way to God. … He turned particularly to the outcast and poor, to those who do not fit the values of our society. As Jesus Freaks we want to live as Jesus did; he is our example. Everybody can come as they are, no matter which social background they come from.

It is not our aim to entertain people or to improve their lot but to introduce many to the resurrected Jesus. Our vision is to see our generation stand up for Jesus in our country, in Europe and all over the world, because living with Jesus is the most cool, compelling, intense and exciting thing of all.

“Jesus Freaks were never known to be particularly impressed by signs like „No splash diving“ or “please swim clockwise“. On the contrary: when we landed in the big Christian paddling pool, it was with a head-on cannonball and we have made waves that roll till this day. Even if we have learnt not to jump right on people’s heads or necks in the meantime, we still appreciate a good cannonball and are still keen on making waves. Could this possibly be connected to the fact that we have a God whom the lifeguards of this world would certainly have banned from the swimming pool? A God who likes a good wave and prefers a lot of motion to static aquarobics?”

“Jesus freaks.” Sold out for God. A fanatic is just somebody who loves Jesus more than we do.

What risks do the church think they have taken in the past year for the sake of the Gospel?
Some churches are the fortress churches. The goal is preserving sound doctrine and mission is about tossing grenades of judgement into society. Other churches are shopping mall churches, led by entertainers and sales people and full of consumers. Other churches are cemetery churches, lost in time, lifeless and irrelevant. The church is not meant to be a fortress, or a shopping mall, or a cemetery. The church is meant to be the body of Christ, God’s new community, the household of faith, the Temple made out of Living Stones where God dwells by His Holy Spirit! (Jonathan Dodson, “Stop Going to Church”)

There are churches which really rise to the challenge of taking the gospel to the post-modern world. I read the mission statement of one such church:
“To continue to grow as a community of believers radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to one another and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside God’s family with the gospel of Christ.”
A few words there illustrate what I am talking about. “radically devoted” “irrevocably committed” “relentlessly dedicated”. That is what every church is meant to be. 100% commitment. “No-holds barred” discipleship.
Becoming totally devoted to Christ. In Acts 20:24 in the Message translation, the apostle Paul puts it this way. “I no longer count my life as dear unto myself; I have abandoned my personal aspirations and ambitions; I have offered myself as a living sacrifice to Christ.”

Paul said 1 Corinthians 15:31: “I die daily.” Dying to personal ambition, to worldly pleasures, to people’s applause, to greed which is idolatry
Jesus commands us in Luke 10:27 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” This means we need to obey God’s Word and order our lives in such a way that we can live in the constant awareness of his presence. “Seek first the kingdom of God,” “Always abound in the work of the Lord,” or “Set your mind on things above,” “What does it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” This is risky living! This is the adventure of faith”

George Verwer puts it like this. “We who have Christ’s eternal life need to throw away our own lives.” “Anything less than absolute dedication must be considered insubordination to our Master, and mockery of his cause” “There isn’t such a thing as too much enthusiasm for Jesus!”

What risks do the church think they have taken in the past year for the sake of the Gospel?

Maybe we are a bit brave sometimes – but we need to be more brave for Jesus.

I have told you before about a prophetic dream I had a few years ago. I dreamed that on the wall of the church there was a painting. Maybe I might even try to draw that painting some day. Because that painting was of fields next to a river on a bright sunny day. And on the riverbank a large group of people were having a lovely picnic together as rowing boats went past along the river.
But then there was a second painting next to the first. A bit further along the same river, just round a bend so the people having the picnic couldn’t see, there was a Niagara Falls sized waterfall. And all people in all the boats that were passing by were plunging to their deaths over the waterfall.
And all the time the people on the riverbank just went on enjoying their picnic. Nobody was throwing out lifelines to the boats passing by. Nobody was even shouting out warnings to the boats. Nobody had even put up a sign saying, “Danger, waterfall ahead.” They just went on enjoying their picnic.

What risks have YOU taken for the sake of the gospel?

This entry was posted in Joshua.

You may also like...