Psalm 71:3 – “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.”
God’s plans are big, risky, scary plans when we look at them with our natural eyes. Whether it’s giving beyond our “budget”, talking to a stranger, standing against a law that contradicts the Word of God, or leaving everything behind to “go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), God’s plans for us can intimidate us. Every time God uses someone in a big way, it requires a risk on his or her part. When we encounter risk, we can begin to make a litany of excuses as to why the plan is not a good idea. Moses tried that. “I’m not a good speaker, Lord. How can I go to Pharaoh?”…as if being a good speaker would have helped him be able to talk Pharaoh into something? Or maybe he thought being a good speaker would make it easier to part the Red Sea? Gideon tried it. “My clan is the weakest clan in Manasseh, and I’m the youngest in my family, Lord. How can I rescue Israel from the Midianites?”…as if being from a bigger clan or a few years older would have made the difference? God said, “I need fewer people, Gideon. Send a bunch of them home. Start with the ones who are afraid.” All God needed was a man who would take the risk to do His will, REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME. Fear can cripple us and keep us from doing the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
I spent much of my early parenting years trying to create a safe environment for my children. We moved to Missouri from California because this area was “safer”, with less crime and less antagonism toward the things of God being promoted in the culture. We moved to a large property away from the city, and I homeschooled the children to shelter them from the propaganda I knew they would encounter in school that was contrary to the truth of God’s Word. And guess what? Despite all my efforts, my children became victims of a crime. Yes, even here in our “safe place”, evil still tried to destroy us. I could not, in all of my strength, keep them safe. This was a difficult but important lesson for me—to learn to trust God with their safety, and with their healing. I had to let go of my attempts to control everything and give it to God. In doing that, God showed me how incredibly faithful He is—faithful to comfort, shield, protect, and restore; faithful to complete the work He has started; faithful to hold us safely in His hand in the midst of danger.
So what risky thing is God telling you to do? Sometimes the risk is to stand when everything and everyone is telling you to do something else. Sometimes the risk is to step out and do. Is God prompting your heart to stop your car and speak to that hitchhiker? Wait-- isn’t that dangerous? Couldn’t I get hurt doing that? Yes, yes, you could. In fact, I’ve taught my own children not to do that…”You have to be careful,” I’ve said. I wonder if that’s what the Lord would have told them to do. When we really consider life on earth in light of eternity, I know the correct response would be to stop and talk to that person when God is leading me to do it. If I do, and the guy kills me, wouldn’t that be a better way to arrive before the throne of God? “Father, I’m here early because I took a risk and stopped to share Your love with a stranger in need.” Isn’t that a better opening statement than, “Well, Lord, I made it to 100 because I was very careful to stay safe”? Well, couldn’t I get hurt? Yes, yes, you could. And Jonah could have been slaughtered by the Ninevites. And Daniel could have been eaten by the lions. The Bible is clear as to which of these men responded correctly to the risky situations they encountered.
I am reminded of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. The first two servants took a risk with what had been entrusted to them, and saw an increase (fruit) because of it. The third was “afraid” (verse 25), so he kept his master’s money “safe” in the ground, and his master judged him to be a wicked servant because of it. It’s interesting that this parable is immediately followed by Jesus talking about separating the sheep from the goats at the judgment, the sheep being the ones who “when I was a stranger…took me in” (verse 35). I think we can make an idol out of safety. An idol is anything we allow to take the place of God in an area of our lives. God says He is our refuge and our hiding place (our safe place). If safety is something we cling to at the expense of obedience, it becomes an idol in our lives. Life is terminal. We all end up leaving this life at some point. Let’s find our safe place in Christ, our Rock of refuge. Let’s be willing to take a risk to follow His leading, and watch what He will do!