Risks of Faith, Especially the Risk of Rest
Copyright 2008 Rev.
We have taken an eager look into the scriptural challenge to honour God with our bodies by not wasting our lives. And looking at how Israel ended up going around in circles in the desert, their lives, wasted, we discovered that the best assurance that our lives will not be wasted is taking the obedient risks of faith as we follow God’s lead in our lives. And so we were challenged “what will you do?” with your life, what risk of faith will you follow through and so be sure that your life is not wasted? The paradox of the Christian life is that the best security against wasting our lives is obedient faithful risk taking for the Gospel and the kingdom.
Jesus summed this paradox with these words 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
The question then is: Do we all have to be involved in dramatic acts of risk taking like the heros of faith - Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Paul? What about all those Christians who have lived what we might call “normal” lives throughout the centuries? Did they waste their lives?
This morning my intent is to demonstrate that there are basic risks that are required of every one of us - basic risks of faith that God expects of every one of us, risks that keep us from wasting our lives, risks that are a part of every normal Christian life. I will mention four, there are more risks, but my focus here is risks that every faithful Christ will face. The first three I will touch on quickly, and fourth I will spend a little more effort on.
The first area of Risk that God wants every one of us to be involved in is the Risk of Reconciliation
Turn with me if you will to Matthew 18
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Rather than an extended exposition of any of these passages, notice how risky reconciliation is. It’s a risky business. It would be so much easier to slide things under the carpet. Reconciliation doesn’t always go well. Notice the flow of this passage. First a person goes by himself to show another his fault. It doesn’t go well. It’s risky business. We hardly take this passage to heart anymore because in our affluent society, it is so easy to live without each other. We don’t need each other. So rather than reconciliation, divorce is an option. Rather than reconciliation, avoidance is the option. But that wastes lives because it wastes God given relationships! The scripture says to all of us “take the risk of reconciliation.” If your first attempt does not go well, then take the risk again, but this time with a witness that is objective and neutral, a person who can referee the process. If that does not go well, you get the elders involved and if that does not go well, then there is room for church discipline because someone is misbehaving. Now many of us are saying to ourselves: "Get the elders involved?!" Now that’s risky business! We are reluctant to get the church involved in our messes. But taking the risk of reconciliation with one another is a calling that all of us have. If we don’t it will have the consequence of shaping us, wrecking our obedience and destroying community. All of us are called to the disciplines of reconciliation, as risky as that may be. Every day that we live in unreconciled relationships is a day wasted. Don’t waste your life.
All of us secondly are called to the Risk of Financial Giving.
Turn with me to Luke 21:1-4
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Giving to the causes of the kingdom has always been an expected part of the believers life.
In the OT, people were expected to give one tenth. It was called the tithe, under the simple expectation that that tenth was not their security. Under the simple expectation that the Lord who is faithful to his promises would provide for them, so much so that they could trust in his provision. You might well know the dynamics of life. It seems that that 10th is very important. Many of us live with very little left over at the end of the month and some of us discover that there are too many days and not enough paycheck at the end of the month. We tend to trust in our money to make it through. We are not willing to risk the first 10% because we know the dynamics of how fluid our money is and how quickly it slips through our fingers. In the OT, God expected the first 10th to go to him with the promise that he would bless so that they would not need more. Notice in this passage, God honored this women, not because she gave a 10th, but because what she did give took great risk. The rich, they gave a lot more than her in terms of dollars and cents, but their giving took no risk, it was out of their wealth that they gave. This women gave out of her poverty, it took deep trust in God to give these two copper coins, it took every ounce of trust in God’s faithfulness to her. In God’s view, our giving is measured by the risk we take to give!
In contrast look at Luke 12:13-20
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Jesus called him a fool, he was building his security in things in this world, he was choosing not to be rich toward God. In the end it was the biggest risk he could take. It was an investment with absolutely no return.
Everyone of us to called to invest in eternal treasures, and so be rich toward God. This man wasted the blessings that God poured out on him. Don’t in a similar manner, waste your lives or the blessings that God has poured out on you. Take the risk of faithful giving to God. If you are not giving, there is something wrong with your faith. You are wasting your life.
The third Risk is the Risk of Witness
Now there are many passages in scripture that point out that we are witnesses. The key question in scripture with regard to witness it this: “Will we be witnesses who have integrity or will we purger ourselves on the stand?” Everytime we deny him, everytime we remain silent, and hide behind our excuses, we are committing purgery.
Let me just focus on one possible passage where Jesus is talking about the days of trouble, the days of risk that lie ahead.. Luke 21:12
12 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
This passage has everything to do with risk. Fear and self preservation would say that when we are hauled before judges and rulers, we should keep our mouths shut and our heads low, avoid the attention, avoid the focus on our witness, save our skin. But Jesus says: Don’t worry what you will have to say. I will give you words. Some of you they might kill. But my purpose from bringing you in front of these judges is to witness to them. I am your future. Don’t worry about what you will say. You see, the simple dynamic of this passage is this. If we are hauled before judges and we remain silent, then we have wasted the very reason why God has hauled us before them, so that we might witness to them. To keep silent, to maintain our own security, to save our own skin, is to waste the life that God has given us. Remember, Jesus said: “Whoever loses his life for me we find it.” Don’t waste your life, speak up for your Saviour, and when the difficult times come, don’t worry about what you will say, the Spirit will give you the words.
Now there are many other risks God might call you to. And please do not see this as a short exhaustive list. My focus is on the risks that Jesus expects from all of his followers. There may be other risks for you, ministry ventures, obedience in relationships, in marriage, in your work, in your leisure. If only God’s people would be willing to put themselves at risk for the kingdom more often than the short term rush of extreme sports. That’s another issue...
The final area that I want to address is the faith filled Risk of Rest. Turn with me to Exodus 16
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.
19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ”
24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”
27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
Please notice with me just one themes.
First, Israel was once again grumbling, they wanted the security of Egypt. They were already tired of the risks of faith that journeying through the desert required of them. But the Lord to demonstrate to them that he was their future, their security, gave them Manna and Quail every morning and every evening. And the person who gathered much did not have too much and the person that gathered little did not have too little. The Lord was guaranteeing their future food supply for them. Now there was a condition attached. And the condition was that they were not allowed to save some for the next day, except on sixth day, they were allowed to gather twice as much. On this one exceptional day, they were told, it would last through the Sabbath, a day that God expected them to rest because God would make sure of their provision.
That was a risky venture. What if I go hungry if I fail to work for one day? What if others have and I have not? The Lord said: "Rest! Depend on me! I give my servants rest."
They had to learn first the hard way, and then continue to live the risk of faith, that even if they took a rest, God would provide for them. This was a very minimal expectation. It applied to every Israelite. It applies to us today.
You see, Jesus invites us to come and rest. We who with our type A personalities love to work hard, long hours, and feel guilty when we rest. We who think that toiling hard is meaning and purpose giving need to remember King Solomon’s words “What does a man gain for all his toil? Vanity, all is vanity." And this culture tells us that we must keep our businesses open on Sundays or else the competition will get a leg up on us. We are fighting the spirits of the age which tell us production is meaning and purpose.
Jesus calls us to the risk of rest knowing that if we have made it our business to be about the business of obedience, he will make our business his business. Knowing that he will provide for our future, all we need to do is obey him today. He will take care of us.
On this last day that I am preaching, two weeks before I take a rest. Next weekend I will be participating in the youth camp. The Sunday after my daughter’s wedding, I will be taking a Sunday off to be with my brothers and sisters. But I find before each summer rest time I have to remind myself again in the obedience of faith to take the risk of rest. There are so many things that need to be done. And I will continue to work hard to get them done. But the Lord is the one who builds his church.
You see, rest, because it is God ordained, is a sure way not to waste your life. Rest with God, rest with your loved ones. I have never heard anyone say with regret on his death bed, "I should have worked harder."
What about you? Taking a rest - trusting in Christ to take care of your buisness, that is a minimal expectation for a Christian, just like bringing your offerings to the Lord, like speaking your witness, like working at reconciliation, all minimal expectations. If we do not do these, there is something wrong with our faith and we are in the process of wasting our lives.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.