Faith is spelled R-I-S-K
I am in the process of going into business for myself again, and it has brought to mind the first time I did so.
At that time, I was of the belief that God rewarded risk. I had heard from the pulpit that faith is spelled R-I-S-K on more than one occasion, and was persuaded to believe that God was not only most pleased when we engaged in risky activity in His name, but also that He was just waiting for us to step out beyond our own comfort, resource and abilities so that He could show His greatness. God could not resist the one who put himself or herself in an impossible situation by faith, trusting in Him to come to the rescue.
So in the fifth year of my business, struggling to make ends meet, I chose to purchase a house that I could not afford.
Now common sense told me I should wait. But for me, common sense was the enemy. If the goal was to place oneself in a position where God alone could rescue, of what use was common sense? Common sense keeps you from risky behavior. It weighs a decision based on your capabilities, not God’s capabilities. That is its purpose. If risk was the goal, common sense was the stumbling block, plain and simple. That is what I believed.
And I do not believe I was alone. Many churches that emphasize and espouse “faith” — focusing on the power of God and His desire to bless His children beyond their wildest dreams, alone — rarely provide guidance as to how that message translates to daily living. Combine that with a message that God wants us to take risks, and common sense is no longer welcome at the party. Put simply, it is difficult on the one hand to believe in the imminent and seemingly unlimited provision of God, and on the other hand say, “How do we approach this situation practically?”
And so I reasoned: If faith is about taking risks and trusting in God’s provision, then I will risk it all. Better to arrive at the end of my life having risked and trusted than never risked at all and missed God’s best for me. And so I bought the home I could not afford, trusting in God to be my provider.
It was several years later in the wake of a failed business, a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, as I reflected upon the end of a very difficult season, that I heard God say to me quite clearly, “There are better ways to express your faith than to raise your cost of living.” And then I got this strong impression in my mind of a doorway, and above the doorway were written the letters, I-N-T-I-M-A-C-Y. And then I understood.
Faith is not spelled R-I-S-K. Faith is spelled I-N-T-I-M-A-C-Y. That is, faith is not actions performed for risk’s sake; faith is actions performed for relationship’s sake. God wants us in intimate connection with Him. This is the perfect expression of faith. Our understanding of His power and His love is supposed to lead us to risk deeper intimacy with him, not reckless behavior. This is the piece of the puzzle I was missing.
Ironically, deeper intimacy produces a life lived differently, and much more radically. And lives lived out from and led by that deep connection can appear, from the outside, as very risky. The apostle Paul faced danger daily, and so did Jesus. As did Moses, and David and Daniel. But risk was a by-product, not the goal. These individuals did not awake each day and say, “What crazy thing am I going to do with my finances/reputation/being so I can get noticed by God?” No, Jesus said it best: “I can do only what I see the Father doing.” And also: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” And also he prayed to the Father for each of us “that they may be one as You and I are one.” God is not looking for extreme sports contenders; God is looking for extreme lovers.
From the moment God spoke to me, he has taken me on a journey of deeper and deeper intimacy. The risks I take on the outside only reflect my growing love for and confidence in God and His leading on the inside. But for me, it is no longer about risks. It is more like being a child on a walk holding the hand of a great big Father. I do not need to do something crazy to attract Himself to me. He is already here, And all I need is to take the next indicated step.