Risk and reward

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In 2005, a struggling artist was asked to paint murals on the office walls of a small start-up in California. When it was time to get paid, he was offered the choice between $US60,000 or shares in the company stock.

The man was broke, desperately needed the money and thought that the concept of the company was ridiculous. There was no guarantee whatsoever that the shares would ever have value or that the company would ever amount to anything. Yet he was a bit of a gambler and chose the stock as payment.

It took several years but eventually his risk was rewarded. That company was Facebook. And those once-worthless shares would later be valued at $US200 million.

For those wondering, this is a true story.

I’ve always loved stories, especially true ones. But my favourites are the biographies of early Christian pioneers and missionaries. It’s incredible to read about the trials they went through and the persecutions they endured, simply for standing up for their faith. Being a Christian meant risking their families, their jobs and even their lives. Yet they were willing to risk it all for Jesus.

And this is not just a long-ago part of history. Even today, people around the world are being discriminated against, threatened and even killed.

When was the last time you took a risk? (Before you start penning letters to the editor—no, I’m not endorsing gambling.) But where is the risk in Western Christianity today? We no longer have to worry about being thrown to the lions or burned at the stake. However, there is a new danger we should be worried about: complacency.

What is complacency? There are several possible definitions. Perhaps it’s being afraid of trying new things, setting your goals too low or being unwilling to listen to other people’s ideas and experiences. Ultimately it means choosing the easy option because you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone.

As a child, I used to read mission stories on Sabbath afternoons and dream about becoming a missionary someday. I envisioned learning new languages, travelling to exotic countries and forming connections with tribal people.

I’ve since realised that being a missionary isn’t about learning new languages or travelling to exotic countries. But it is about sharing the love of Jesus with the people we encounter every day—our friends, our colleagues, the guy at the petrol station, the woman on the train.

When I preach in churches, people often comment on how much courage it must take to speak at the front. To be honest, it doesn’t take much courage at all (I say that after five years of practising public speaking in Toastmasters). But it’s actually quite easy to stand in front of a group who wants to listen to you. It’s harder to talk one-on-one with someone who is apathetic or even hostile about your faith. [pullquote]

I can think of several times when I’ve been complacent about sharing Jesus. Perhaps you can too. It’s so much easier to sit in my comfort zone and keep the conversation light.

But there are also several times when I’ve taken the risk. Sometimes the risk pays off immediately, with someone agreeing to come to church or talk about spiritual matters. Like the artist who chose company shares as payment, we don’t always see immediate reward with risk. Sometimes we doubt there will be a reward at all. There are times when I struggle with this and wonder if the risk was worth it.

I’m reminded of what Paul said to the Galatians: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Sharing Jesus is the biggest risk you’ll ever take. And although you may not see its fruits until heaven, it will be your biggest reward.

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