Tom Elliff tells the inspiring story of playing a round of golf at the distinguished Augusta National where they play the Masters Tournament. Having come to “amen corner,” Tom was now standing on the tee box of the most famous hole in golf; the dog-leg left, par five, number thirteen. The beauty of the azaleas disguises the fact it is a difficult hole where you must go over water, around a corner, water and trees on the left, water in front of the green, and bunkers on the back of the green. Tom got off a pretty good drive and then looked at his caddy and said, “Willie, hand me a short iron.” Willie was shocked and asked, “What do you want a short iron for?” Tom replied, “Willie, I am going to lay-up.” Willie then spoke these challenging words, “Mr. Tom, you didn’t come all the way from Oklahoma City to hit no lay up at the amen corner.” Tom was hesitant of hitting the ball into the water, but Willie handed Tom a five wood and said, “Put it on.” Tom hit the ball and landed it right on the green. Had he never taken the risk, Tom would have avoided defeat, but he would have cheated himself out of a once-in-a-lifetime victory.
There are only a few times in the life of every man when he is handed a golden opportunity. The chance to alter the course of ones direction in life is something we all dream of, but it often comes with the high risk of rejection, loss, disappointment, or failure. Under such pressure it is easy to find yourself content to simply lay-up and hit short, safe, easy, no-risk shots. Fear of risk will put hesitation in our efforts and will minimize our perception of the reward. In Luke 14:28, Jesus was speaking of the cost of discipleship and He said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost…?” The word “counteth” is the picture of putting pebbles on the scales in order to weigh out a matter. True faith is never based upon hopeful ignorance, but rather the rock-ribbed assurance of a calculated risk. It was by this faith that Moses counted “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” It was by this faith that Paul could “…count all things but loss…that I may win Christ.” It was by this faith that James could “count it all joy” to be faced with a variety of temptations. Mark Twain was right when he said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” Spiritual progress always involves risks, but there is a fine line between faith and foolishness. What are the intangibles that make a risk well-worth the taking?
A God-sent risk is always tied to His promises. In Matthew 10, Jesus is bracing His disciples for the cross they would be expected to carry. There would be persecution, rejection, and hardship. Jesus then concludes in verse 39, “…he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.” It was the promise that difficult obedience would be rewarded. To the child of God, faith is never a gamble, but rather it is a confident response to the promises of God. Ours is a faith that sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and dreams the impossible. Perhaps too often we have conceded defeat due to our fear that daring faith would make us look eccentric. Charles Spurgeon said, “If we would venture more upon the naked promise of God, we should enter a world of wonders to which as yet we are strangers. Based on a promise, “Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet…prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” Based on a promise, “Abraham…obeyed, and he went out not knowing where he went.” Based on a promise, Naaman “went down and dipped himself seven times in Jordan.” God will never require us to do anything that is not backed by His promise to see it fulfilled. Obedient faith will always end with an exclamation mark and never with a question mark!
A God-sent risk is always tempered with His protection. In Acts 15:26, Paul and Barnabas were described as “men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “hazarded” meant they handed over their life to be kept, used, and cared for. Most would have said it was dangerous to give your life over to another, but they saw it more dangerous to keep it! When a child is learning to swim, he maintains a level of confidence with his ability to still touch the bottom. But, touching the bottom does not mean he is swimming. It merely implies he is walking in water. Real living never begins until a man reaches the place where the only thing holding him is God Himself. Esther risked her life to stand up to an evil decree, and God preserved her life, her throne, and her people. Three of David’s mighty men “went in jeopardy of their lives” for a drink of water, but David humbly poured it out to God. Priscilla and Aquila “laid down their own necks” for Paul, and the Gospel spread throughout Rome. Author John Shedd wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Courage and trust only come when we lose sight of the shore and see nothing but God. Once a man is assured of God’s presence with him, any risk he takes is a sure thing in his heart.
A God-sized risk is always timed for His provision. In Matthew 25, Jesus gave the parable of the talents and He said, “Then he which had received the one talent came and said…I was afraid, and went and hid Thy talent in the earth.” Fear of being left empty handed kept him from investing what he had, but it would also cost him everything he could have had. Perhaps the greatest hazard in life is to never risk investing all that we have and all that we are for God. It is not the nature of God to withhold provision from a man who has abandoned himself to God. Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision.” Elijah was only one life standing against hundreds, but once he gave his all at the altar of Baal, “the fire of the Lord fell…” Gideon stood against a mighty army with only three hundred men, but having given his all, “the Lord delivered into (his) hand the host of Midian.” David only had a sling and five stones when he stood against Goliath, but having given his all, the giant “fell upon his face to the earth.” When a man is unwilling to take the risk, he forfeits the miracle that would have been his. If a man will dare to give to God all that he has, God will give to that man all that He is.
A professor of history once said, “If Columbus had turned back, no one would have blamed him, but nobody would have remembered him either.” Life is so short and the opportunities are so fleeting. You may not pass this way again. So, why not choose to swing as hard as you can and hit as far as you can. If you keep walking by sight rather than faith, you may wake up one day and wonder what might have been.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2013 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.