When we think about worship, particular images come to mind – gathering in a church service, listening or singing along to spiritual songs, rocking out to a worship band, quietly praying or talking with God, or perhaps kneeling, bowing or raising our hands.
But there are other, less obvious forms of worship.
Risk-taking is one such act of worship.
In what way, you ask?
To start, contemplate this scripture from the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 28, the Message):
Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
From the above scripture, we see that risk-taking and worship are vitally linked.
Jesus’s disciples risked it on a daily basis to follow him, just as many others have done and continue to do throughout history. I’ve come to understand in my own life that risk-taking in each day’s course of events is essentially an expression of worship.
As we listen to the voice of God’s Spirit and attempt to the follow the instructions he provides, we’ll often be prompted to take a risk.
For some of us, that risk will involve a major life change, such as a cross-country move, taking a new job, or going back to school in search of a new career.
For others, a risk could mean starting a new activity or joining a new affinity group, saying “no” to an opportunity, reaching out to a neighbor in need, or praying for a stranger.
Each person’s opportunity to risk will look very different from those around him or her. And each day’s opportunity to risk may look different from yesterday’s.
Again in Gospel of Matthew we see the parable of the servants’ investments, and how each risk or lack there of, spoke meaningfully to their master (from the Message):
After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’
The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’
The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.
The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.
Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.
This story is the ultimate expression of devotion to the Master, via taking risks. He has given each of us so much – each according to his or her ability – and he continues to give.
He wants to see us use our talents, gifts, personality, and experiences in order to serve and glorify him, even if that means taking actions that make us vulnerable or uncomfortable.
He invites us into the risk – and warns us against playing it safe.
This might look different for each individual, but we each have gifts from God that can be used – risked – in order to multiply his goodness to those around us and to expand his Kingdom on earth.
John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, was fond of saying “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.” I always liked that saying, but generally interpreted it to mean expressing my faith through overtly spiritual acts like praying for someone, offering spiritual counsel or by giving gifts of charity.
It does indeed mean each of those things. But Wimber’s admonition is just as applicable to everyday life situations like the practical ones mentioned above.
I’m convinced that one of the most important ways that we align our personal life stories with God’s bigger story is through acts of risk-taking in the ordinary, everyday, work-a-day decisions we make.
As we step out in risk-taking, we’re saying to God, “I love you. I trust you. I worship you.”
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