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Episode 17 - Risk and Reward: Part 1


In last week’s episode, Danger in Safety, we explored what it would look like to remove the safety net we create in our little worlds to ensure our comfort and safety in just about every area of our lives. We are hard wired for self-preservation, but the danger comes when we rely on things in our life to be our source of safety instead of allowing our Heavenly Father to be our source. I mentioned there is a real reward when we take the risk of pulling away the safety net, and that’s what I want to talk about today - and share with you some amazing ways God showed up for me.

There are puzzle pieces coming together. Words are repeating and confirming. Words like “This life is not your home,” “the comforts & pleasures of life are of no account, given up for the comfort and pleasure found in God,” “believing faith,” “adventure,” “let it all go.” And wholehearted.

But there have been some other words that were bombarding my head that really got my attention and they are, “radical change that will cost a lot personally,” and “risk and reward.”

I’ve been reading books about people stepping out in great faith knowing if that God didn’t come through they would fail. But they believed He would provide! He called, they said “yes”, and then they trusted God would supply their needs. I’ve been so awe struck, inspired, and convicted by their faith. From the moment I became a widow, I had an unnatural urge to sell everything and serve in Africa; to just totally move away from the trappings of this life. Now, that’s radical change. Obviously I didn’t, but I do believe that’s where the Lord prepared me for another type of radical change - the pulling away of the safety net that is my finances.

So, in the last episode, I shared with you that there were a series of “unfortunate events” that happened right before and right after Brian died. They were huge events that directly impacted me financially, and still affect me to this day. At the time, I was overwhelmed with the fact that they seemed to all happen simultaneously - as if to purposefully wreck my life. As I said, all unfortunate. Or was it?

In order to try to salvage my financial status, I resolved that I needed to find a job that would pay me a lot of money! ‘Cause, you know, money was my safety net. But, with His great sense of humor, God brought a job opportunity with a non-profit. I laughed, literally out loud, when I heard how much the job paid. That amount wouldn’t even begin to touch my monthly expenses. I would be draining my savings account each month just to cover bills. It was ridiculous to even consider. So I didn’t. I forgot about it just as quickly as it came up. And then it began - God exposing my heart, exposing my idols, exposing my true desires in life. This is all happening about the same time I got that phone call from someone saying they were living the good life that I talk about in Episode #4. You can go listen to that one if you haven’t already to get a little more context. Anyway, God was really working in my heart.

A few weeks later I received another phone call asking if I would just consider the non-profit job and maybe have a conversation with someone to find out more about it. I agreed, only because I didn’t want to look rude. I came home from the meeting really appreciating the work this non-profit was doing, but was still sure that I couldn’t afford to take a job at that pay rate. Day by day, the Lord kept drawing my mind back to that job. I kept telling Him, no way, God, are you crazy? Apparently God can take that kind of back-talk because I’m still alive. Funny how I would never tolerate my kids talking back to me like that, right? God’s so patient! Anyway, every time I resisted I felt Him say in my heart, if you take that job, I’ll take care of you financially. What? Really? Are you seriously wanting me to take this job? Do you have any idea how risky this is? Do you have any idea how crazy people will think I am for taking this kind of risk? But He just kept on, until I came to a verse that slayed me: 1 Peter 4: 1 & 2 it says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” Oh man. Everything that I rely on besides my God is an idol and that is sin. Peter’s point is that when believers willingly choose to suffer, the nerve center of sin is severed in their lives; and this opens up an opportunity to choose the best thing, and that is to live - for as long as you get to live in your flesh - to live, not for human passions, but for the will of God. I had lots of confessing to do. I liked living for my human passions. I’ve mentioned that several times throughout this podcast. Don’t you? Come on, now. But God was changing my heart to renounce that sin and to live for the will of God. This meant, for me, that taking a job that would no longer feed my human passions gave me an opportunity to live the rest of my days in my flesh for God’s passions - and that was the work of the non-profit. And my heart started melting. I started praying about the risk and the cost associated with the job, because now I was actually considering and even desiring it. And believe me, when I came to that conclusion, I reminded God that He promised He would take care of me.

Just a few days after that I was reading a devotional I receive via email from First 15 Devotional. The title is The Longing To Be Wholehearted! It said, “God is calling you to a life of wholehearted, passionate surrender. God’s calling you to a life of adventure in which the outcome is only known to Him. He’s calling you to step out of everyday living to a life of staggering surrender so that this world will no longer feel like home. The call is worthwhile. His presence is worth the cost. God has a story for the ages prepared just for you – a story with real, eternal impact. But it will cost you everything to live it. If this truth sounds radical to you, it’s because it is.”

Oh my goodness, are you kidding me? Was this devo written just for me? Was God speaking clearly, or what?! It goes on to say, “Fear grips us; we choose comfortable with minimal impact…never fully satisfied. We will live vicariously through the stories we hear in movies, books, and television of people who lived wholeheartedly. And at the end of our lives, we will look back and wish we had another chance to live for what really matters.” Wow. If this is not confirmation that there is no better time in my life to live for what really matters, something with eternal impact, I don’t know what is. It’s an invitation to an adventure, but it will come with a personal cost. Will the risk be worth the reward?

Matthew Henry says, “We must go in the way of our duty though we foresee difficulties, trusting God to help us through them when we come to them.” For sure, taking this job does not come without several difficulties – primarily financial. Yet, this area has been my biggest concern from the beginning, so it’s fitting that the struggle would be here. It makes sense. Without this difficulty, I can honestly say I would not be as desperate, humbled, and reliant. So perhaps this job at this exact pay scale is exactly what God is calling me to. It certainly would require “advanced” faith-based living. When the devo said, “We will live vicariously through the stories we hear in movies, books, and television of people who lived wholeheartedly,” this is exactly what was happening. I had been reading books about different men and women who had been given their “duty” by God without the resources to carry it out. But they said “yes” to the job and stepped out in faith. Could I do the same? Could I say “yes” to the job and step out in faith? Again, I reminded God of His promise, “You said if I take this job you’ll take care of me financially. Right?”

This was a big risk, y’all. It wasn’t something to flippantly do. I had to make sure I was hearing Him right. So what did I do? I threw out the fleece. Maybe even more times than Gideon did. So do you remember the story of Gideon in Judges 6 being called to serve God? It’s one of my favorites for several reasons.

Starting verse 11, at that time Gideon was hiding in a cave from the Midianites, Israel’s enemy. But here’s the interesting thing. Gideon is not just hiding from his enemy; he’s hiding - all the while - in the Promised Land. I think that’s interesting.

Anyway, Gideon felt weak and useless, but God called Him a mighty man of valor. God said to him, “Go and fight your enemy - the Midianites - in this might of yours…The LORD is with you…I will be with you.”

This “might” of Gideon’s was actually God Himself with him. But because Gideon was coming from an experience where he felt God hadn’t really come through for him, he was unsure. He says, “Please, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His wonderful deeds (of old)?” The Matthew Henry commentary adds, “Why then has all this happened to us…all this loss, and grief, and fright.” Friend, can you relate to that? I know I can. Maybe Gideon was even skeptical. So much so that he tested God’s calling. He knew it was too big to take lightly. The task was beyond himself. The risk was high. Defeat was sure if he was going in his own power, ability, and might. But with God, victory was already done. In fact, when Gideon finally decided to walk the new road God called him to, he found real peace. There he calls the LORD Jehovah-Shalom, the God of peace.

A quick observation here. God is not angry with Gideon’s accusations, even though it was the people of Israel’s fault they were in the predicament they were in because “they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (v1). There is no rebuke for his unbelief, his little faith…and his questioning God. He simply turns to Gideon and says, “I will be with you.”

God is not angry with Gideon and He’s not angry with me when I question Him with a side eye, “Are you sure?” So, Gideon was such a strong man of faith that when God said, Yes, Gideon I’ll be with you and I’ll do this thing for you, Gideon said, “Ok, let’s do this.” No he didn’t. He did exactly what I did. He said, “are you sure? If you’re sure, then show me a sign. I’m going to put this sheep skin on the ground and if there’s dew on the skin alone and not the ground, then I’ll know you mean what You’ve said, God.” So God did exactly as Gideon asked of Him. But then Gideon still wasn’t convinced. And I don’t blame him. He was about to take the biggest risk of his life - to fight the mighty Midianites - and needed to be sure God was going to be with him and bring him success. So Gideon throws out the sheep skin once more and asks God to show him a sign one more time. And God did. Oh, the patience of God!

So here’s my personal crossroads: Stay cocooned in safety and comfort as long as I can, hiding in my cave or I can risk going outside the cave to face my enemies - my enemies being the aloneness, personal struggles, my financial situation - in order to do something BIG that can only be done with the LORD’s power and doing that has an eternal impact; to live for the rest of my time in the flesh no longer for my human passion but for the will of God.” God’s power alone would enable me to do this; to step out of the security of all that I’ve known and into the new. Even though freedom and provisions are promised, it’s still a little scary. And I think God understands that. He knows my weak heart and is okay with reassuring me to what He’s calling me to and asking me to do. He knows my earthly experiences and how they taint my view and dismantle my belief, make me skeptical. He’s okay with building me back up again; happy to show His mighty power in my life - that my faith might be strengthened and restored. Praise God for His faithfulness when we are of weak faith…for when I am of weak faith. He’s not mad about it…or disappointed. He just turns to me and says, “Go…do I not send you? I will be with you.” (v 14-16) So I choose to take this insurmountable risk knowing I’m walking with God no matter what I might face here. Certainly, just as it was with Gideon, the reward is great!

Come back next week for the continuation of this story. I can’t wait to tell you some of the crazy, supernatural things that started happening after I finally stepped out in faith and said, “Yes” to that non-profit job. Be sure to hit that “subscribe button” so you’ll always be notified when the Another Beautiful Life podcast drops.

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