Risk, Reward, and the Redeemer

I’ve had risk on my mind of late.

It may have been taking three middle school boys (whose prefrontal cortices are not fully developed yet) hiking on a dangerous trail that triggered such a topic. Then again, it may have been the fact that we recently switched our youngest son from a small private school to a larger public school. My risk-mindedness may also be attributed to the fact that my husband and I transitioned from a ministry we have served for decades into church planting. Likely, all of these rivulets have added to the river of risk into which I have been wading.

According to a model devised by Gerald White and his collaborator John Adams, every human has an optimal risk threshold. In order to stay within the risk threshold that feels most right to who they are and how they are wired, each person is constantly balancing three factors: risk, safety, and reward.

If their theory is true, my risk temperature is arctic. I do not like the heat of change or risk. I would much rather stay within the lines and follow my norm than try something different, especially if it causes me to feel insecure or unstable. I eat the same breakfast nearly every morning; I walk the same walking route every morning; we eat a rotation of essentially the same meals every week. I sure hope the rest of my family does not have a higher risk threshold than me. If so, my methodical nature is blunting them.

Underneath these tendencies is a deep desire to perform well and get things right. I do the same things because I know those things work. I have learned to perform well in certain lanes. As such, I tend to limit my world to those lanes where I know what to expect and what is expected of me. While I would never outright say it, I don’t feel a desperate need for the Lord when I stay in my risk threshold.

Thankfully, the Lord is constantly turning up the heat and forcing us into risk thresholds that feel terribly uncomfortable. He won’t let me settle for false-safety and insulated risk. He continually calls us to new tasks and new risks which induce healthy fear, new successes and failures, and deep dependence.

The Christian life should be marked by obedient risk which is motivated by the promise of reward. Like a catalyst that helps to lower the rate of reaction, God’s promises and presence help to get us over risk high thresholds as we seek greater reward. While heaven will be rewarding, the secret to its reward is the presence of Christ. As God told Abram, who risked all he had ever known to follow a barely-known God, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1; NIV).

We leave known jobs and known cities to faithfully follow God’s call on our lives only when we are convinced that the reward is greater than the risk. To get more of Him, we leave what we know and love.

My husband and I encouraged our son to risk a new school because we want him to know Christ not only in exposure but also in his own personal experience. We want him to have a record of God’s faithfulness to him. We want new risks to produce new rescue which produce new songs of praise to God.

Knowing our unconditional security in Christ and the unshakeable nature of the kingdom, we are enabled to take real risks this side of glory. For, as scary as they are, these risks will induce new rescue and new songs of praise.

Sing to the Lord a new son; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day! (Psalm 96:1).

If you find worship falling flat or self-reliance gaining strength, perhaps there is a risk which God is calling you to consider ? It may be as simple as initiating to someone new or seeking to share the gospel with an old friend. It may be as elaborate as a career move or a new venture. Whatever it is, let your Redeemer lead you through risk to more of Himself!

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