How do you feel about taking risks? Risk petrifies some people. They can’t stand the thought of change or failure. But it exhilarates others. They are excited by the prospect of doing something new or reaping a reward.
No matter how it makes you feel, risk is a normal part of life. Whether you’re applying for college, asking someone to marry you, starting a job, buying a home, or having kids, risk is always present. Any successful person will attest that they are successful not because they avoided risks, but because they knew which risks to take.
In most countries, risk is a normal part of ministry as well. Activities such as evangelism, Bible distribution, and meeting for worship are outlawed or restricted. Christians risk losing their jobs, homes, families, and freedom – sometimes even their lives!
But in America we try to do ministry without risk. Since we have freedom of religion, we think serving Jesus shouldn’t cost us anything. So we stay out of difficult situations. We avoid conflict at all costs. And ultimately, we become more concerned with keeping our jobs than advancing His kingdom.
But when does Jesus ever give the impression that ministry is risk-free? When does He promise safety or happiness? When does He guarantee comfortable offices lined with bookshelves, full-time salaries, expense accounts, or long tenures? He promises nothing but hatred and hardship for those whom He calls into ministry (Matthew 10:22; John 16:33).
Martin Luther understood that ministry is risky. He resigned himself to conflict and difficult situations for Jesus’ sake. He took the risks and paid the price that Jesus requires. And Jesus rewarded him by using him to lead the Reformation.
Luther wrote three major works against the Catholic Church in 1520. The pope issued a bull against him, calling for him to repent. Luther refused and was excommunicated from the church on January 3, 1521.
He appeared before the Diet of Worms a few months later. Standing before a pile of his books, he was asked, “Do you recant?” He responded, “I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything.”
He was condemned as a heretic and put under the death penalty. This sentence was later lifted, but the fact remains that he risked his life to defend the gospel.
Luther also risked his life in another way. The Black Plague struck Wittenberg in 1527. Many of his friends and colleagues left the city, urging him to do the same. But he felt obligated to remain and care for the sick. This put his entire family at risk. His wife was pregnant, and his one-year-old son became seriously ill.
Pastors today would call such behavior reckless and irresponsible. After all, Luther wasn’t required to publish his writings for his job. They were his hobby, the equivalent of a modern day blog. And who would risk their life for a blog? Who would risk their family’s lives to care for the sick?
Luther embraced the risk associated with ministry. He accepted Paul’s invitation to “join with me in suffering for the gospel…join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:3). He appreciated the fact that Jesus not only risked but sacrificed His life for us.
In light of this, how can we not risk losing our jobs in His service? May God grant us Luther’s willingness to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done – no matter what!
What risks might Jesus be asking you to take for Him? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
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