In an excellent little book called Risk Is Right, John Piper points out that most believers in Scripture aren’t given guarantees of safety. “The Christian life,” he says, “is a call to risk. You either live with risk or waste your life.” Obedience to God always involves risk. We either obey by risking what we have, or we disobey with the illusion of safety—and the guaranteed anger of God. Risking for Christ is dangerous, but not risking is always more dangerous.
Nowhere is this seen more starkly than in Jesus’ parable of the talents. Two servants take great risks to increase their master’s wealth, while a third servant refuses to risk, and is condemned as wicked because of it. What made the difference? The faithful servants had two attitudes that the wicked servant did not:
1. Trust in the Master’s goodness
The first two servants had a sense that their master was good and trustworthy. You can sense in their responses that they were awaiting his return eagerly, like a child waiting for his dad. Because they trusted his goodness, they felt freedom and confidence in risking what they had for him.
We should feel the same confidence in light of the cross. If the cross reveals how God feels about me, why would I not feel safe jumping into his arms? And if the cross reveals how God feels about the world, why would I not ask God for great things?
The gospel teaches us that we should measure God’s compassion by the cross and his power by the resurrection. What if we really saw the world through that lens? Wouldn’t that change how we pray? How we plan? How we dream? Does the size of our prayers match the size of his sacrifice?
Our church has avowedly big dreams for our city and our world—dreams like planting 1,000 churches in this generation. Sometimes people challenge us: isn’t it a bit presumptuous and arrogant to have such ambitious goals?
Yes, our vision is ambitious. And no, I can’t guarantee that God will bless all of our plans. But what I do know is that Jesus didn’t die so that we could have a comfortable little fellowship that ignores our community. Jesus died to make our neighbors worship. He died to gather the diverse masses of the world to himself, bowing down together around his throne. He died so that the gates of hell could be trampled down by his faithful followers, bringing the message of life to those who are dead and dying.
Any vision less than that is unfaithfulness to our master and an insult to his goodness. Do not insult his sacrifice through your weak dreams and flaccid prayers. In the words of D.L. Moody: “If God be your partner, make large plans!”
2. A desire to share in the master’s joy
When the master in Jesus’ parable returns, he gives his faithful servants two things—greater responsibility and a greater share of his joy. Sharing in the master’s joy was (and is) a central motivator for God’s faithful servants.
Despite the agony of the cross, the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus faced his execution with joy: “for the joy set before him, [he] endured the cross, despised its shame,” and now enjoys the joys of his labor at the right hand of God (Heb 12:2). That joy was for me and you, looking forward to drawing us into reconciliation with the Father.
When you get a sense that Christ not only died, but died for you, then your life begins to look different. Living in light of the cross means seeing our lives from the perspective of eternity. You ask yourself, Does this have eternal value? Will this matter after I’m dead? You begin to realize that life here is just a vapor. In the words of C.T. Studd, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
It boggles my mind how many Christians have been meticulous with their finances since their youth, planning for the last 20 years of their lives, but have nearly ignored the next 20 million. What does it say about our source of joy when we spend our last 20 years playing golf and visiting the ocean? Is that really risking what Christ has given us?
Risking it all because Christ is my joy means that I can give cheerfully, even when I don’t feel cheerful. Sometimes I give of my resources as an act of faith. By sacrificing what I have now, I am saying, “I know that one day, when the master comes back, I will be glad I did this.” My sacrifice is a risk, but it is also an investment—both in God’s kingdom and in my future joy.
Where is God calling you to obey? To risk what you have to follow him? It may be sharing Christ with a co-worker, going on your first mission trip, adopting an at-risk child, or giving regularly to your local church. The opportunities will vary, but the call is plain: live with risk or waste your life.
For more, you can listen to the entire sermon here.