As Christ followers, we embrace the truth of having His very Spirit living in us. It is on one hand a complete mystery, yet on the other, something very real that we can experience in our day-to-day, work-a-day lives. In this sense, living by the Spirit is the ultimate paradox.
Hearing from – or following the direction of – the Spirit is an endeavor that we can grow in and get better at – but something we’ll never really “master” or become proficient in. There will always be an element of faith in responding to the unseen, whereby we’ll be challenged to take action without assurance of a particular result.
If you have regularly followed any of my other blog posts or speaking presentations, you will recall the subject of risk coming up frequently – and how taking risks is something I am passionate about, and how it expresses our submission to and commitment to what God is doing in our lives.
A risk is defined as an action that involves potential gain while at the same time involves potential loss. The potential gain or loss may be financial, emotional, physical, relational, psychological – or a blend of more than one sphere. Risks, of course, range from the very small to the very large – with corresponding sized consequences! As you’ve heard elsewhere – big risk, big (potential) reward – and its corollary, big risk, big (potential) loss.
In order to respond to the Spirit, in order to align our story with His story, I believe that we must invariably take risks. This usually means stepping outside of our comfort zones, outside of our normal routines, and taking an intentional step to do what we believe the Spirit is leading us to do. The risk may result in gain – and it may result in loss. But one thing is certain – it will cause us to have a new experience and it will offer us the opportunity to grow as a human being.
In fact, I believe that taking risks is one of the key mechanisms whereby we can each experience the rich, abundant life that Jesus intends for us to have.
John 10:10 says, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Now, a full life is not necessarily a problem-free life. Embracing Jesus doesn’t typically translate into friction-free existence. Quite the opposite in fact. The enemy will do everything he can to throw obstacles in our way. He knows that when we step out and take a risk in responding to the Spirit, there will most likely be an advancement of God’s kingdom. And whether there is actual gain or loss from our limited, human perspective, there is nearly always a “reward” of being more conformed to the image of Christ.
The avoidance of risk, on the other hand, will likely result in living a diminished, more narrow life – perhaps at the expense of fulfilling what Jesus has ultimately called you to do. The enemy’s plan is for you to believe the lie that staying in your comfort zone and not taking a particular risk is the better, safer choice. Furthermore, our human inclination is often to avoid change (i.e. risk) and stick with what we know.
Ultimately, we’ve got to trust the Spirit that he will “have our back” regardless of the specific outcome of the risk. That the loss we may experience can be “composted” into something useful, meaningful and even joyful. I know personally some of the most disappointing outcomes in my taking of risks eventually righted themselves into meaningful lessons and profound joy.
As a final note of encouragement, consider these powerful words from the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. Colossians 3:23.
Whatever we do – whatever risks we embrace, whatever steps of faith we take – let us do it at the direction of the Spirit and for His glory. And let us do it with all of our heart, knowing that our steps of faith will be richly rewarded.