Living Dangerously - October 28, 2010
I Corinthians 15:30 (Amplified Bible) - [For that matter], why do I live [dangerously as I do, running such risks that I am] in peril every hour?
Most of us have heard the saying: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We would probably concede to the notion that life is full of risks. Some of us are better than others when it comes to weighing out our particular options, for instance, whether it is better to make a wager or not. Many of us probably know someone who seems to have a knack for judging a business opportunity whether it is a good risk or not. Often, we look on with amusement as they more than likely make the right decision and come out smelling like the proverbial rose. For most of us, this "high-wheeling" lifestyle is a foreign concept. However, some have learned the secret of trusting in their own instincts to carry them through to success. We often regard these as "risk takers" but if you asked them they would say that the real risk is not in action but rather inaction. They have learned that through their mistakes they've made a way to success. For them, winning comes through failures and how they're reacted to and mitigated over time.
Paul was certainly one who knew how to take risks for God, and some might say that he encountered more failure than he did success. Festus the governor of ancient Palestine made such assertions, calling the prisoner Paul a lunatic who had wasted his life propagating a false religion about a dead Man crucified by the Roman government whom Paul claimed was now alive (Acts 26:24). However, Paul was so certain whom he had believed that it didn't matter one iota what others thought or said regarding his faith. The apostle understood that to risk his life for the Gospel meant that he would appear carelessly reckless and dangerous to many. The truth, however, is that he was carefully abandoned to the Keeper of his eternal fate, so there was little that man or devil could do to shake him from his divine mission. As an apostle who had been commissioned by the Lord Himself on that fateful day while nearing Damascus (Acts 9:3-6), Paul understood that he must abandon himself to the Lord and His calling. In so doing, he allowed himself to become the "scum of the world" in order to fulfill Christ's Great Commission. He deliberately hurled himself in harm's way to walk the path the Lord Jesus Christ had ordained on his behalf. This missionary who "turned the world upside down" in Asia Minor tells us specifically what it takes to do so as he maps out his personal "risk analysis" for the Corinthian church. Risk and danger, to Paul's understanding, were his greatest credentials as an apostle. In his first letter to the church at Corinth he writes:
For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (I Corinthians 4:9-13)Paul must have felt that the Corinthians needed some more convincing regarding his apostleship. Apparently, they didn't equate his hardships on their behalf to be proof of his love toward them, and equally important, his clout as the apostle who fathered them in the faith. Defending himself against "imposters" that were trying to raise themselves up in the Corinthian's esteem, Paul reveals his apostolic resume' with proof of his love for the church. In the 11th chapter of II Corinthians Paul states:
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?--I speak as if insane--I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (II Corinthians 11:22-28)In the space of a few short verses, Paul not only tells us about the beatings, the imprisonments, the shipwrecks and such, but he also mentions eight times the various dangers that were continually plaguing his journeys. In short, he was telling the Corinthian church that persecutions, danger, and risk were the true credentials of anyone calling themselves an apostle. No other apostle in scripture gives us such a look at what it really means to live so dangerously for God. Paul set the benchmark high, but not out of reach. He was merely confirming his own words to Timothy his beloved son in the faith: Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (II Timothy 3:12)
So is Paul's faith anything like any of us can ever hope to attain? From what is shown in scripture, I believe that a life that is sold out for Jesus -- one lived dangerously for God -- can only start through a revelation of Jesus Christ. As Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6), and Paul saw the Lord on the road to Damascus, so also others can find that starting point to begin living a life of fraught with danger through revelation. We may not have that "burning bush" moment that many of the patriarchs and prophets experienced. However, God has given us another way. Paul understood the paramount importance of the revelation of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, he gave us instance after instance throughout his letters teaching us to keep asking for revelation and the knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:17-19; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9). To the depth of revelation will come the careful, calculated risk of giving ourselves to Him who gave everything on our behalf. When we surrender all through the knowledge of His surrender on the cross and His risen life within us, then we too can begin to live in a way that seems dangerous and full of unnecessary risk to the unbelieving. Ironically, what appears dangerous to the world is in actuality the safest place to dwell. The risk and the danger has all been mitigated by His divine plan for our lives. All we have to do is hear and obey: Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)
Heavenly Father, give us eyes to see You, hearts to believe in You. Then, allow us to live recklessly abandoned to you, ready for every danger that might come our way as we submit to Your perfect will. Give us courage and strength to seek You in a new way with new passion. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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