Ray Kroc walked into the Rolling Green Country Club in suburban Chicago several decades ago, peddling his latest scheme he claimed would make millions. He traveled from table to table hunting for the investors who would take the risk and put up the cash he needed to get his latest enterprise off the ground. The idea was a new-fangled restaurant – a hamburger stand. The initial investment $950 dollars per franchise. My co-worker’s dad was sitting at one of the tables that day as Ray came up and slapped him on the back and gave him his pitch. He listened politely, then went home and talked to his wife about Ray’s latest idea, but because it didn’t make sense to him right away, he decided it wasn’t even worth the time to check it out. The next day he told Ray Kroc he didn’t think it would be worth the risk to invest in this questionable hamburger stand he was calling “McDonalds.” Of course, he would live to regret that decision for the rest of his life as several of his golfing buddies became multi-millionaires on that $950 dollar investment. [On the other hand, his cholesterol is a lot lower than theirs!]
But Life is all about risk. There are risky procedures in the medical field, businesses must take risks to enter new product markets. The stock market is risky. Every relationship involves risk. Life is fraught with risks—you have to take them. And there are good risks and bad risks. People make a living off risk assessment. [Insurance people will tell you, you’re 38 times more likely to have your car ripped off if it’s a Corvette than a Ford Escort Wagon. If you’re driving a Ford Pinto Wagon, you can leave your keys in the car with a “take me” sign on the window–zero risk of theft.] Do you know odds you’ll be struck by lightning twice in your life are far better than your odds of winning the Texas Lottery. I’m cheap, so I’m waiting for the second lightning strike, then I’ll buy a ticket. You can risk with the odds or against the odds.
Faith requires risk as well. Every time you step out in Faith to trust God, it requires taking a risk. We’re in week two of this series Your Next Great Adventure, and we’re talking about how faith and walking by faith with God leads you on the Adventure of a Lifetime. We’re studying Hebrews 11, where it says
it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. – Hebrews 11:6
Last week, we talked about how faith is of utmost importance to God because God wants relationship with you. But you can’t have a relationship without faith. Faith is another word for belief, or trust.
Kathy and I have been married 33 years. Do you think it’s the wedding or the Pastor who married us that has kept us married that long? Do you think it’s the state and our marriage certificate that did it? NO—it’s faith, belief, trust in God and each other—that’s what’s kept us married. You can’t have an intimate relationship without taking the risk to trust—to put your faith in that other person. And the relationship grows deeper and deeper as you risk vulnerability and trust more and more, depending on each other, learning about each other—choosing to believe in each other.
Well that’s true of relationship with God—friendship, a growing intimate relationship with God only grows when we take the risk to believe in Him, then to put our faith in God’s promises in His word, and to act in trust more and more. That’s what we said last week—a practical definition of Faith is: Faith is Confidence in God, to Act on His word, Despite the circumstances. Faith is not believing something that isn’t true—but believing it anyway. Faith is putting Confidence in God who is trustworthy. You don’t need a lot of faith—just enough to trust. Jesus said all you need is a mustard seed of faith—the tiniest little bit. Because it’s not how much faith–It’s the object of your faith that matters.
Imagine I’m standing on top of a 50 story building, and stretching across the street below to another 50 story building are two beams 2×2 feet wide and deep. This one beam is made out of balsa wood. The other beam is made out of steel. Now, I may stand here and say “I have faith that this balsa beam will hold me up.” I believe and have no doubt, utter faith BIG faith in this balsa beam. You on the other hand have very little faith, you’re scared to death as you stand in front of the steel beam. But how much faith you have isn’t the issue really. If you have a mustard seed, tiny bit of faith, enough to step onto the steel beam, you’ll see it WILL hold you. Not because of your faith, but because it’s trustworthy. I can have huge faith, in the wrong object, and my weight is going to break the balsa beam no matter how great my faith—because my faith was in the wrong object.
Jesus said—With just a tiny seed of faith, great things can happen. Why? Not because of your great faith—because of Confidence in a Great God. So faith is confidence in God, to Act on His Word—to trust what He said in the Bible, and act on it—walk out on the Beam, despite how the circumstances look. And of course—that can feel very Risky, even scary, can’t it? But it’s a risk worth taking. Ultimately, what are the odds that all you try to control, possess, keep will go with you into eternity? 0% chance—very bad odds. Have you thought hard about that? If you trust in things of earth only, you will lose everything ultimately. But God tells us 100% chance of success if you simply trust God daily. That’s the story of Moses as we continue in Hebrews 11.
23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command. – Hebrews 11:23.
The Pharoah of Egypt had enslaved all the Hebrews—forgetting that God had used the Hebrew Joseph to save all of Egypt. And when the male slaves outnumbered the Egyptian men, Pharoah ordered all male Hebrew babies killed—to keep a male baby was punishable by death of the parents. Well that’s risky to disobey Pharoah at the cost of your life. But Moses mom and dad trusted God more than saving their own skin, and they hid baby Moses, by faith, in the water where young women would come to drink—praying that God would put mercy in an Egyptian woman’s heart to save the baby. God answered that prayer and that act of faith. It was not any woman, but the Pharoah’s daughter, the Princess, who had mercy on the baby. Moses older sister had been spying for her parents to see what would happen, and when she heard the Princess say “This must be a Hebrew baby.” The little sister took the risk to approach the princess and say “Hey, would you like me to find a nursemaid from the Hebrews to nurse the baby for you?” She said, Yes, and so Moses mom got paid by the Pharoah’s daughter to raise her own child to become a ruler of Egypt.
Here’s the thing. When you act in faith, it involves risk. The risk comes from not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s out of your control because you’re putting your trust, not in what You can control, but in God’s control. You’re trusting—that feels like stepping out on a beam–if it breaks, you’ll fall. But if you never take the risk, you never see God’s amazing faithfulness either. You never live the Adventure God created you to live. My favorite Gateway story of faith and risk is when…
Kathleen Edwards was out jogging when our church was doing the Soul Revolution 60-60 experiment, which is just a practical way to learn to walk by faith. So Kathleen is practicing staying connected to God, out jogging, talking things over with God. She said, “God give me somebody to live my life with,” she said, “what I really meant was a husband. But the thought I got back was, “Do you trust me?” I kept getting this Question “Do I trust God to do that, or do I want to power through on my own? If God’s answer to get me there is different than what I think it should be, will I take it?” And she said, “I’ll trust you.” The next thought was “Adopt children.” Well that threw her into a panic. She spent many days asking God “Is this really you? Or just my crazy thoughts? Can I say no? What if I don’t want to adopt—that’s not what I meant by “give me someone to live with.” She said, “I wrestled 2-3 months, thinking “I’ll never find a husband if I’m a single mom.” Friends would say, ‘that will help you meet guys.’ But they’re not puppies, they’re children, usually with child-like behavioral problems.” But 3 months later, she talked to an adoption agency, felt a peace. Exactly nine months after the prompting, she had 2 young boys who had been neglected from age 2 and 4, and now she was trying to care for them with no idea how. Many of you at Gateway rallied around and helped her, her two boys both got baptized here, both starred in our Imagine Christmas production. Then David joined her Gateway small group, he had 4 kids, and their kids started to hit it off, so they started getting both families together, seeing each other more and more. And a year later, David proposed to Kathleen in the small group, and they got married! Kathleen said, “If God had led us together first, I would never have adopted.” And it was the boys that connected them. It’s easy to see God’s plan looking back, but it’s hard and scary moving forward. You have to trust God’s Character to Risk and Act on His Word. But God is Good. And when you take the Risk, that’s when you get to experience His goodness.
What do you feel God is asking you to do that feels risky? There is 0% chance of you remaining in control, never losing anything, forever. So why don’t you risk it—trust the one who 100% guarantees he is in control forever. And you’ll see a greater plan unfold—the adventure of a lifetime. Hebrews 11 continues.
24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. – Hebrews 11:24-26
So Moses is rescued and raised by Pharoah’s daughter. He’s gonna inherit the power and treasures of the Wealthiest Dynasty on Earth! All he has to do is play his cards right and not do anything stupid. And then He senses God’s prompting. Shoot! “Do you see the injustice, Moses?” “These are your people, Moses—they are being abused and mistreated, and I want you to deliver them.” Sometimes faith involves risking yourself for the sake of others—risking what’s easy or safe for you to set others free of injustice, or addiction, or telling them about the hope of a life with God. Is there a risk God’s prompting you to take—for the sake of others? Sharing your faith with a coworker or neighbor, standing up for someone being gossiped about or bullied at work or school, or some other risk?
Just imagine being Moses—no problem God, I’ll just turn my back on luxury, power, wealth, comfort so I can identify with a bunch of slaves, try to set them free. But look at what Hebrews 11 notes again, Moses was looking ahead to a greater reward—an eternal reward. Without having his eyes on a success and a reward that lasts forever, he could never make the hard decisions to Risk and act on God’s word when it could cost earthly success. Neither can we! What kind of success do you want, the kind that fades as your life fades, or the kind that lasts despite the circumstances?
A pharmaceutical exec told me one Sunday, “I just couldn’t stand what I saw—our company was peddling addictive drugs. We knew they were addictive and those were the ones we were pushing because it greatly increased our profit. I just knew I couldn’t sit by and do nothing—God wouldn’t leave me alone about it, so I started speaking up.” Could you do that if you sensed it’s what God wanted? Even if it hurt your promotability? Even if it got you fired? Maybe God is asking you to act in risky faith to stand against unjust business practices, or racism at work, or maybe gossip or bullying or unethical practices. It may be risky, but if it’s right—God will reward it, and you’ll see him come through.
Could you honor his will, even if you felt rejected or outcast by society—do you have more confidence in His character and his reward, or more confidence in doing it your way? These are hard questions, aren’t they? He doesn’t force us to act in faith, he invites us to act in faith—but that’s when we get to see Him act.
Moses does act—he tries to stop an Egyptian from hurting a Hebrew slave—but in the ensuing fight, he kills the Egyptian. He has to run for his life. He was next in line to be Pharoah, or 2nd most powerful in the world. Yet he loses it all. Hebrews 11 continues,
27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. – Hebrews 11:27-29
Here’s the thing—acting in faith sounds great looking back—Moses saw all these amazing things happen, God came through. But looking forward, Faith is downright scary and often feels like a free fall. It’s risky and it requires letting go of what I want to control to trust that God’s really in control and good. Moses does the “by faith” thing to stand up for injustice, but then he also spends many years in the desert learning humility before all these other “great things” happen.
It you’re going to see God do great things, I can guarantee a few things based on scripture and what I’ve seen in my own life. Faith will take Risk—it will feel like risking what’s safe, sure, comfortable, and in my control—to trust God and see what God can do through you. Which is way more than you could dream—the adventure of a lifetime. But God will also test your faith along the way. Not to be mean, but just like testing our muscles with weights makes them grow strong. Tests of faith makes your faith muscle grow stronger—which is often what is needed for God to do greater things through you.
Those were the lessons Kathy and I (John) learned when they started Gateway. It felt crazy at times, like risking everything. We (They) sat down and recalled together the amazing things God did by faith when we took the risk.