Originally published January 29, 2016
Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of preachers and divangelistas out there teaching that Christians have to constantly take “risks” as proof that we’re growing in Christ, that we have to perform acts of faith that take us outside of our comfort zone, that we have to dare to attempt things that could never be done without God’s direct, miraculous intervention or empowerment.
Well, I’d like to challenge all the proponents of that teaching to take a risk that (I hope) won’t be out of their comfort zone and doesn’t require any miraculous intervention from God:
Find the prescriptive passage of Scripture, chapter and verse, in context, rightly divided, that teaches this “risk doctrine”.
Because I don’t see it.
I see 1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 exhorting us to love the brethren, live quietly, work with our own hands, and walk wisely before outsiders.
I see Titus 2:1-10 telling Christian men and women to learn to be, and teach others to be, submissive, self-controlled, loving, reverent, and kind.
I see the book of 1 John saying that salvation is evidenced by loving Christ, obeying God’s word, shunning worldliness, and confessing our sin.
I don’t see a single Bible character deciding “Hmmm…I’d better come up with some kind of daring deed to do to prove my faith.”
Moses was minding his own business tending sheep when God spoke to Him from the burning bush and called on him to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses’ response? “Send somebody else.”
David wanted to do a great thing for the Lord by building the temple, and God said no.
Paul and the apostles simply obeyed God’s command to preach the gospel. Their earthly reward? Persecution and martyrdom.
Sometimes, as we walk in daily obedience to God’s word, situations will arise that are scary. Circumstances in which we must trust Scripture over our experiences. Life events that require us to obey God’s word even if we lose a job or a friend. Times when we have to believe that God is doing what is best even if it isn’t the outcome we wanted. That’s not a risk; that’s walking in faith and obedience, depending on Christ to carry us through whatever He places in our path.
But the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that we have to prove our faith or growth in Christ by proactively coming up with some big, fat, hairy risk to take, stepping outside of our comfort zone, and daring to do what can only be done by the power of God.
In fact, that kind of thing sounds eerily similar to what Satan tempted Jesus to do. Among other things, Satan tempted Jesus to prove Himself by literally “stepping out on faith” – right off the top of the temple – and trusting God to catch Him. And what did Jesus do? He went straight to God’s word and obeyed it by saying no. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” It didn’t work that way for Jesus, and it doesn’t work that way for us.
The Bible teaches us to act in wisdom, to walk in obedience to Scripture, to trust God even when it’s scary or inconvenient or counter-intuitive. But for a pastor or teacher to say that Christians have to commit acts of derring do as proof of our faith or level of growth?
That’s risky business.