Am I Taking a Risk or Being Reckless?

This Sunday I will be preaching on “Risk” from Numbers 13 and 14.  Hope you will be blessed by this sermon excerpt.

John Piper in his book Risk is Right defines risk this way, “risk is an action that exposes someone to the possibility of loss or injury.”  God expects His people to step out in faith and to embrace discomfort- for His glory.

When we start to talk about risk, one of the first questions that people ask is, “How can I tell the difference between risk and recklessness?”  Is there a way to tell the difference between godly risk and sinful risk?

I believe the Scripture is clear.  The difference between Godly risk and sinful risk can be summed up in one question: Are you trusting the Lord or are you testing the Lord?

This manifests itself in several ways:

1) People who are trusting adore God’s grace, those who test the Lord assume God’s grace. 

People who are reckless carry an attitude that says, “Whatever I do does not matter.”  “Shall we go on sinning that grace will abound?”  That is far from God’s perspective.  Paul would respond to these people in Romans 6, “By no means!”

Assuming that we can do whatever we want is ultimately abuse of God’s grace and defaming of His name.  The attitude of risk is one of adoration for God’s grace which propels us to recognize that we are freed from prideful attitudes to step forward in faith.  The attitude of recklessness is one that says, “God doesn’t care.”  The attitude of risk says, “God cares profoundly.”

2) People who are trusting the Lord accept God’s Word, while people who test the Lord Abuse God’s Word.

Consider Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  Satan brings Jesus to the top of a building and claims a promise in the Word of God in order to get Jesus to jump off the building.  Jesus responds back with the Word, “I shall not put God to the test.”  Jesus, of course, believed the Word of God.  He claimed and accepted God’s Word.  But, He also understood that recklessness came out of abusing God’s promises. Yes, God promises to protect us, but we cannot use God’s Word as a license for craziness.

3) People who are trusting the Lord have “Yes” hearts, people who are testing the Lord have “Unless” hearts.

Habakkuk is a fascinating prophet.  He argues with God throughout His book.  But, ultimately God uses His words to teach us about faith and by extension risk.  See how the book closes:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
– Habakkuk 3:17-18

An attitude that tests the Word will hinge their worship on His “Yes.”  If God does not come through, they will not worship Him.  Their hearts say, “Unless.”  But, a hear that trusts is one that recognizes that even if they lose everything, God remains good and He remains worthy of praise.  Do we have hearts that say, “Yes” or hearts that say, “Unless”?

4) People who are trusting the Lord are Humble and Confidence, those who are testing the Lord are Haughty and Cocky.

Trusting the Lord produces humility and confidence (which are not opposed).  Testing the Lord is rooted in pride and self-sufficiency.

At the end of Numbers 14 the people were proud.  They thought they could go forward without God with them.  They thought God would give them a second chance, and when He said no, they thought they could do it by themselves. God brings judgement and makes it clear: He opposes the proud!

5) People who are trusting the Lord act out of calculation, those who are testing the Lord act out of compulsion.

One thing that stands out in Numbers 13-14 is the difference between the two actions of the people.  When they intend to initially enter the land (before chickening out) they were planned.  They sent spies.  They were careful and calculated.  God’s promise to them led them to be careful stewards.  Certainty led to care not carelessness.

Whereas after they chicken out and God sends them back into the wilderness for many more years, they decide to try again.  They do so out of compulsion.

Taking risks does not mean having no fear.  In fact, in the first scenario (which God commanded), they feared God.  In the second (which God condemned), they had no fear.  Taking risks for God requires a proper fear of God.

Let me give an example.  I rarely, if ever, use a fake news story as a sermon illustration, but in a sermon on risk, what do I have to lose?  This past week a fake news story appeared telling of a pastor who was eaten by an alligator because he and his congregation thought that through enough faith, through fasting and praying, they could walk on water like Jesus did.  This pastor tried to walk on water, and the alligator got lunch.

This story provides a perfect illustration of testing the Lord.  They assumed God would be gracious, they abused passages in God’s Word, they put all their hope on results instead of having an attitude of “yes”.  Their perceived humility was actually pride in their own abilities.  They did not fear God truly.  They were not calculated (for they may have prayed, but they did not pick a body of water without crocodiles in it!).  This fake story illustrates a very real truth.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:6 that the whole Old Testament is written for our instruction, that we might learn from them.  God judged His people for not taking risks for His glory and God will do the same for us.  Church, may we take risks for His glory!

May we not confused risk and recklessness and may we step forward in faith, pursuing God’s mission for His glory!

Join us this Sunday at 11am at Garden Green Baptist Church for more.

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