Some of us were born thrill-seekers. We crave the adrenaline rush, are wired with the need for speed, and have no problem dancing with a little danger. Others of us are perfectly content within the comfort zone, where caution and order thrive. Wherever you fall on the spectrum will affect how you react to the word “risk”.
I’ll bet a few of you reading this just cringed a little, shuffled in your seat and prepared a mental list of reason why it, whatever it is, is a bad idea. And then there are some who are more like myself, who may find themselves having moved to the edge of your seat with wide eyes and a half-cracked smile that says “bring it”. I’ll bet none of us have the perfect balance of risk and safety worked out. See, risk-taking itself is a bit of an art. Not all risks are bad, nor is all risky business beneficial. There are risks worth taking, and cautions worth yielding to. It takes both to live a life of faith.
I wish I could tell you there is a black and white answer when it comes to good versus bad risks, but we all know that life is full of gray space. Instead, I want us to discover an example we find in the Bible. It’s the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water, found in Matthew 14:22-33, and it serves as a model for you and me of what faith-based, healthy risk-taking looks like in life.
It comes out of personal relationship with Jesus.
Peter was a dear friend of Jesus. He did life and ministry with Him on a daily basis. They journeyed together, shared funny moments together, experienced major miracles together, ate meals together…It was an intimate and involved kind of relationship. Peter trusted Jesus because of it. That prompted his heart to call to Jesus:“Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” –Matthew 14:28
Further, it propelled Peter to get out of the boat and step out onto wild waves, which was totally risky business. His risk didn’t come out of a place of testing, but rather from deeply rooted faith and trust in his Lord and friend Jesus.
It strengthens our faith.
Taking risks in faith forces us to lock our eyes on Jesus to get through when the stakes are high. Peter stepped outside of the comfort that the boat provided and out onto rough waters and began to move towards Jesus. When he shifted his focus from Jesus to the wind and waves though, he found himself sinking beneath the waves. Jesus was right there to capture Peter’s attention again, then reminds us how much our faith in him truly matters: “Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said, “Why did you doubt me?’” –Matthew 14:31
It encourages faith in others.
Peter’s risky move not only set an example for those who remained in the boat, but actually moved them to a place of worship and deeper belief: “Then the disciples worshipped him. ‘You really are the Son of God!’ they exclaimed.” –Matthew 14:33
Risk-taking in God’s design isn’t for the purpose of building up the risk-taker. No one was exclaiming, “Wow, Peter! You really just walked on water. Look how awesome you are!” In fact, the attention was all on Jesus. Taking risks that display our faith should direct praise and focus onto the One who really deserves it. Our risky business is just an avenue for people to see the power, strength, and glory of our great God.
So no matter how we’re wired, all of us can master the art of risky business. Comfort zoners, don’t be afraid to step out for the risks that flow out of relationship with Jesus, push us to develop our faith, and inspire faith in others. Adrenaline junkies, let’s find the intentionality and purpose in our risk taking and assess the ones we should pass up. Risks are simply a part of the journey, and with some practiced discernment and bold faith, we can learn to embrace and leverage them as we become all God has created us to be.