a) Rabbit,
b) Rodeo,
c) Red Kool-aid, or a
d) Riding without a helmet?

You know which one just doesn’t belong?

It may have started when I stopped wearing my bike helmet. Or when my shower came while I was on my bike, miles from home.

It wasn’t exactly free-solo climbing or cliff jumping. Still, hearing thunder crack yards away as my calves brushed the metal bike frame wasn’t exactly tame. Whatever the reason, I’ve been contemplating RISK a lot lately.

A late summer rodeo might have something to do with my recent risk assessment, too.

Gabe’s premonition came well into our first rodeo. We yahoo’d through bronc riding, tie down roping and breakaway roping. The ladies’ barrel racing was riveting. All an opening act for these last thrilling minutes.

Mom, I think someone’s gonna get hurt in the bull-riding.  Can we go now?

Seven-year old intuition is strong. It should have tipped me off; that it wouldn’t end well.

Bull riders live for the most dangerous 8 seconds. A few die for them.  Each rodeo they don face masks, neck braces and grip the bull rope. Bull riders rush to it. No guts, no glory.

Sure enough, four cowboys in and Gabe proved prophet. A bull rider got hurt. Bull-stomped bad. Show-stopping bad. Cowboy hats shifted from heads to hearts. Cheers hushed to whispers.  Medics and gurney appeared. The chatty announcer went mute.

Do you play it safe? Is your MO to risk or run? What should it be?

If you run from risk, you’re in good company. Especially when it come to love’s liabilities. C. S. Lewis described his own risk tolerance in The Four Loves:

Don’t put all your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of…I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love on makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.  I doubt whether there is anything in my that pleases Him less.  

Risk exists because of ignorance. If the outcome is unknown, it’s a risk.

Absent omniscience, our lives are risky. Our decision to adopt our family’s first indoor pet is laden with risk. Dinah’s already lunched on a lamp cord. Who knows? Rosewood victrola legs could be next. There’s always the risk of carpet stains and fetid smells.

There’s risk and then there’s risk for the cause of God. Carefree bike rides, indoor pets and bull-riding are one kind.  Red Kool-aid is the other kind.

My friend took a huge risk last week. Quiet, reserved Kelly was convicted. She knew our ladies’ growth group had outgrown its host home. So she crept out of her comfort zone and took a righteous risk. Kelly opened her pristine home to a dozen ladies and their crumb-tracking, juice-toting toddlers. And I do mean pristine.

One tyke had red Kool-aid in his sippy-cup. It leaked. A bright pink spot- a la Cat in the Hat Comes Back– appeared in Kelly’s beige frieze. We froze. Oh that spot! It may never come off. It may not! 

Kelly scrubbed. And scrubbed. The pink spot paled. Then Kelly sighed-and smiled at us. We exhaled. All that was left of the red Kool-aid was a faint rosy splotch.

Risk is right, precisely because it might not turn out.

If your risk doesn’t turn out, it doesn’t mean you were wrong to risk. That’s why it’s called a risk. If it were a sure thing in the short term it wouldn’t require faith. And without faith it’s impossible to please God. Your guts, God’s glory.

Which means risks taken out of love for God please Him. It also means it’s wrong not to take risks for God. Some of Christ’s harshest words were for the security loving Pharisees. Remember his condemnation for the foolish servant who risked nothing?  He cautiously hid the talents, rather than take a right risk to expand His master’s wealth.

Taking risks for God is right.  Sometimes we see success even in the short-term:

  • Joab’s, Be of good courage, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. (2 Sam 10:12) Israel won. 
  • Esther’s, If I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16) She didn’t.
  • Jonathan’s, Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. (1 Samuel 14:6) He did.
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s, God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace…but if not… (Daniel 3:17) Unsinged.
  • Paul’s, For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 21:13)  Imprisoned, not killed. 

God does not promise short-term success when we risk for him. John Piper’s words are sobering:

There is no promise that every effort for the cause of God will succeed, at least not in the short run. John the Baptist risked calling a spade a spade when Herod divorced his wife to take his bother’s wife, Herodias. And John got his head chopped off for it. And he had done right to risk his life for the cause of God. 

Paul was beaten and thrown in jail in Jerusalem and shipped off to Rome and executed there two years later. And he did right to risk his life for the cause of God. 

That was then.  Big old Bible-time risk. How about now?

My friends can tell you, show you, what risk looks right here, right now.

It sounds like one friend laying it on the line, with another friend stuck in sin. It sounds like another friend who truthed it in love, urging her friend not to take the worldly way out of financial woes. It sounds like a timid friend breaching a hard subject with her mother-in-law to heal their relationship. And another friend speaking up when he heard water cooler gossip.

It looks like my Gideon friends sharing Bibles with crude college kids. It looks like the colorful time-consuming crafts my friend made for an after-school kids’ club, not knowing if any kids would even come. It looks like my missionary friends flying away to spend two years in a water-logged, malaria-ridden South Sudan refugee camp.

And it definitely looks like Kool-aid stains in Kelly’s carpet.

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Acts 20:24

It could be a wild ride.  You might want a helmet. 
(See 1 Thess. 5:8 & Eph. 6:17 for the right one for this ride.)  
And, yes, the answer is c) red Kool-aid.  You know why, right?

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