Knowing God and Taking Risks

Knowing God and Taking RisksPaul writes in Philippians 3 that compared to knowing Jesus Christ as Lord, all else is rubbish—a big pile of smelly garbage. That’s a huge statement, one that can completely flip our world view upside down.

We seek so much in this life—wealth, happiness, love, acceptance, material possessions, health, a good marriage, a nice house, well-behaved children, a good job with good benefits. But knowing Jesus, having that intimate relationship with Him matters way more than those things we chase after. In Him we find true love, we learn that we already are accepted, we find family and forgiveness and healing—the things that actually matter.

But how do you “know” Jesus?

Our quick church answers are to read the Bible, pray, fellowship with other believers, worship. And all of those are true. I get to know Him in those ways. But Jennie Allen in her book Anything throws out an interesting concept she learned from a seminary professor.

We get to know Jesus best by taking risks. Those moments when He asks us to step out in faith and follow Him are when He becomes very, very real.

Think about Abraham. He knew nothing of Yahweh, yet when God invited him to leave everything, Abraham took the risk. He left it all and lived as a nomad. And through him a nation was born.

Moses, when he encountered God in the burning bush, was invited to risk it all and return to Egypt to lead Israel out of bondage. At first he argued. He was afraid. Who was he to go before Pharaoh and say such things as “The Lord God says, ‘Let my people go’?” But he went. He took the risk. Israel was freed, and God met with Moses in incredibly personal ways.

Ruth risked leaving her home to care for her mother-in-law. She risked lying at Boaz’s feet. As a result of those risks, she not only came to know the God of Israel as her own God; but she was also welcomed into the lineage of Jesus.

Rahab risked hiding Israelite spies in Jericho.

Mary risked her reputation and offered herself as a servant to the Lord.

Paul and Peter and John and the other apostles risked their lives daily to bring the Good News to a waiting world.

Every single one of these people took a step of faith for the sake of following and knowing God. The roads weren’t easy for any of them. But in the midst of hardship and trial and human failings, they came to know the Lord. Their faith grew. And in the seemingly impossible circumstances, God showed up in powerful ways.

My family has taken these steps of faith. We risked it all and left Southern California to go to seminary. We left a secure situation and steady paychecks. We left family and friends. We followed.

In college, I experienced my first opportunity to risk it all on my own. I joined the missions team to Papua New Guinea (after kicking and screaming and ignoring the call for months…I wasn’t much better than Moses). There are still times I wonder why I was supposed to go on that trip. I didn’t connect with the place or the people as well as the others on my team. And even in returning and wrestling for years about the thought of teaching missionary kids overseas, God told me to let that idea go. It wasn’t for me.

But this is what I do know about that trip. For the first time I felt God calling me to something bigger, something risky. I felt Him asking me to trust Him; and when I finally took the leap, God showed up in big ways.

Now, I’m beginning to look at a different step of faith. My heart’s being tugged toward ministry. Not preaching as far as I can tell (perhaps you’re brain’s a lot like mine was and any mention of ministry automatically means becoming a pastor). For me, ministry is more on the teaching and leading side, or as one of my friends described it, becoming like the next Beth Moore.

Truthfully, I don’t know what it will look like. I don’t know where this journey will take me. I have a feeling writing will be a big part of it, and hopefully speaking and sharing my story will be too. But even more than that, this tug on my heart is about reaching out and building relationships with women. I want to help people encounter Jesus in new and personal ways. I want to help young women see their worth. I want to encourage people to take those crazy leaps and steps of faith when God calls.

And I’ll be honest, I’m thrilled about the idea. I feel like in a lot of ways, this is where God’s been leading for a while. But I’m also aware of the risk. As I continue to pray through the details and the timing, I realize this is going to require a lot. Stepping into ministry means stepping into the front lines of a spiritual battle. It means being vulnerable with my own story so that others can be honest with theirs. It means stepping aside and letting God use me how and how He wants to accomplish His purposes.

But here’s the thing about risks:

In taking a flying leap off the cliff of reason and logic, and letting faith in Jesus be the thing we cling to, we encounter God in new and exciting and life-changing ways. God shows up. Miracles happen. The impossible becomes possible. And in the midst of it all we fall to our knees, echoing Paul’s words: “Truly, Lord, everything else pales in comparison to knowing you.”

Take the risk!

Live in His love!

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