By and large, we live in a world that discourages risk-taking. Many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, have been conditioned to take the safe route through life’s twists and turns. I sometimes wonder how many people have been dissuaded from doing risky, world-changing things simply because it wasn’t “realistic” or in line with “the way the world works.”
Not only have we been conditioned to avoid risk, many of us have bought into a narrative that promotes a one size fits all mentality to success. For instance, we’re told if we want to have a successful career, we must train at the best universities. We’re told if we want to live with financial security, we must invest while we’re young and maximize our earning potential during our working years. We are sold youth at every turn through advertising and social media and then spend tons of money on anti-aging products to appear younger than we actually are.
Am I the only one, or does something about the success narrative seem off? Does anybody else feel like they’re being lied to?
Maybe I’m being overly critical of the world’s approach to life and success. After all, I believe education is a gift. My education is serving me well. I also think maximizing one’s earning potential can allow for greater generosity, which is something Christians should take seriously. Furthermore, when people care for their bodies, whether through exercise or anti-aging products, couldn’t the case be made they are simply stewarding what God has placed in their care?
I’m not necessarily opposed to the success narrative. Some of it can be redemptive. My real concern lies with fixating on the status-quo because it can be destructive to a person’s God-given, God-glorifying mission in life.
It’s not wise to avoid taking risks, especially kingdom risks, simply to maintain the success narrative. God has placed us on earth for a reason. We live where we live and during the time we live because God has stuff for us to do. Right now. In 2021.
It would be a regrettable thing to miss out on God’s plan for our lives because we were more concerned about our own plan or the opinions of others.
Time is Ticking, Don’t Waste It
One thing we often fail to consider is that we all have an expiration date. One day, likely sooner than we realize, our hearts will stop beating and we will gaze upon eternity. Regardless of how wealthy we are or how young we appear, death is coming for each and every one of us. Something beyond this world awaits even those with PhDs.
The Bible says there is wisdom in learning to number our days (Psalm 90:12). After all, we are merely a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes (James 4:14). According to James, it’s arrogant to assume we know what tomorrow will bring. We can’t know. We should simply leave outcomes to God.
I remember reading a book in college called Don’t Waste Your Life. It has had a lasting impact on me. The author is John Piper. If you’re familiar with Piper, it won’t surprise you that he wrote these words in the book, “It is better to lose your life than to waste it. If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.” He also says, “God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.” How’s that for a calling?
Instead of living as if our days have no end—pursuing our own glory without a passion for the supremacy of God—maybe it’s time to take crazy risks for His glory. Instead of seeking comfort and avoiding pain, maybe the better way is to count it all loss and do something for God’s kingdom. We will waste our life and lose it if we seek our own agendas through it.
I believe taking risks glorifies God and will produce in us a joy unmatched by playing it safe.
God’s Glory and Your Joy
Risk takes faith. For the Christian, the outcome of endeavors that require risk is entirely in God’s hands. We can pursue giants because we know God has slayed them through His people before. When we have faith in God’s goodness, when we have faith in His ability to accomplish difficult things, and we act out of such faith, God is glorified. What father doesn’t find joy in seeing his children do scary things because they know dad is nearby?
When we take risks, particularly ones that advance the kingdom in some way, God is glorified; but we also experience joy. Have you ever done something you knew you were made for? Maybe it was having children or starting a business. Perhaps it was pursuing a creative outlet or serving overseas as a missionary. When we engage in activities that advance the kingdom of God, we will experience joy while glorifying our Creator. Things won’t always be easy, but they will always be purposeful. We will not waste our lives.
For lots of Christians, it’s time to give up the success narrative and take some risks. Remember, your days are numbered. Life is too short to play it safe.