Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4; 13-15From Martin Hayward:
We hear a lot today about “risk-assessment” which is often mis-understood as meaning that all risks must be eliminated so that no one can ever sue for damages. But the fact is that life is full of risks and so what we each have to do is to identify potential hazards and weigh them up against potential benefits. Then, once sensible safety measures have been put in place, we can choose whether or not to go ahead.
But how do we relate to that as Christians? After all, we know that God is all powerful, all providing and all satisfying. Won’t He have our backs and look after us? Isn’t that security enough?
Well yes, but it certainly doesn’t mean that we should abandon common sense or (in today’s circumstances) government guidelines and deliberately or carelessly walk into avoidable danger. After all, as Jesus himself quoted when he was in a risky situation, Scripture says: ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ And we must certainly not put ourselves or others at risk due to our own foolhardiness.
On the other hand, if we need to make a sacrifice which is expressly for the sake of the gospel then we shouldn’t be worrying about short-term, here-and-now temporary hardship, but focus on the longer term prize of life in heaven. After all, as James reminds us, from a worldly viewpoint we are no more than a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
I can’t put it better than John Piper puts it in his little book, ‘Risk is Right’:
“The strength to risk losing face for the sake of Christ is the faith that God’s love will lift up your face in the end and vindicate your cause. The strength to risk losing money for the cause of the gospel is the faith that we have a treasure in the heavens that cannot fail. The strength to risk losing life in this world is faith in the promise that he who loses his life in this world will save it for the age to come.”
Perhaps whilst others are getting on with risk-assessment, Christians should be undertaking motive assessment: “Will what I’m about to do show that I love God and also love my neighbour as myself? Have I followed James’ advice and asked for God’s guidance? Can I honestly say that ‘It is the Lord’s will that I shall live and will do this or that?’” If so, I’ll go ahead.