Charles Stanley - Taking Risks
Are you one of those persons who likes to play it safe? That is, in all of your decision-making, you wanna be sure of the outcome. And you wanna be certain about what's gonna happen in the future. And so, you wanna play it safe. You play it safe in your decision-making, in your finances, in your relationships. Even when you make plans, you wanna play it a little safe and be very certain about what you think the outcome is gonna be because you're not comfortable at all if you're not certain of the outcome. And so, from your perspective, playing it safe is the good life. And that is, you wanna be absolutely sure no matter what's going on, and so you've decided that taking risks makes you very uncomfortable.
And therefore, for you, taking risks is out of the question. And what you have to ask is this. That may be true of your thinking, but is that true of the way God sees your life? Is God in this whole issue of risk-taking or is He not? Does He want us to play it safe in every aspect of our life? Or, are there times when we have to take risks in our life? Well, that's what I wanna talk about in this message, and this is the sixth and last message in our series on "Reaching Your Full Potential". And remember, we said that your potential means the possibilities that are within you, the power that is within you to make reality what is maybe in your imagination or what you dreamed about or what you've planned in your life.
And so, when you think about what your potential is, the truth is none of us know. You don't know what your potential is. That is, you don't understand what your potential is, what you can become in life, what you can achieve in life. And so, in order to find that out, we have to take risks in life. And sometimes if a person is uncomfortable doing that, they hesitate. Let me just say this, you'll never become the person God wants you to be, never achieve the things in life God wants you to achieve until you're willing to take risks.
Well, I want us to look at a man who took risks. I want us to look at some principles here that if you will follow them carefully, if you'll listen intently, and if you will apply this message, God will change your life. He will enable you to reach your full potential. And you remember we said there are a number of steps. First of all, a clean heart. Secondly, a clear mind. A balanced schedule. Right relationships. A healthy body. And now, taking risks. All of these things are absolutely essential if you want to reach your potential in life.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to the fourteenth chapter of Matthew to a passage of scripture that is familiar to many people who have read the Word of God. And what has happened for a little background in this fourteenth chapter, beginning in the twenty-second verse, Jesus has just fed five thousand plus the women and children. And now He's said to His disciples, beginning in verse twenty-two, "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away".
Now, don't you imagine they must have been asking, "Well now, if we're going ahead all the way across the Sea of Galilee, long ways across there, how's He gonna get there"? Somehow, they figured He would. "So after He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat," in which they were in, "was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night..." which was somewhere between three and six a.m. in the morning.
"He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and they said, 'It is a ghost!' And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage it is I; do not be afraid.' Peter said to Him, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.' And He said, 'Come!' And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt Me?' When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God's Son!'"
Well now, here's a man who's willing to take a risk. We think about it, what do we mean by risk? A risk is, watch this now, the possibility of suffering loss or suffering danger, or suffering some ill-will in some fashion. It's the possibility of that. And usually when we think of taking risks, we think of gambling or chance or whatever it might be. And so, sometimes we wanna just put all risks over on the side of something that is not good. But the truth is in order to understand risk, risk is very closely related to faith. Think about it for a moment. Every single one of us who has ever obeyed God when there was some real challenge in our life, to some degree, we have taken a risk.
That is, even when you knew that God told you to do a certain thing or to go a certain place or whatever it might be, you knew He said it, no doubt in your mind about it. Even when you knew He did, you felt you were taking a bit of risk because maybe you felt like you were not capable of accomplishing it or you weren't skilled enough or something. And so, whatever, you felt like you had to take a little risk. And somebody says, "Well, how can you take a risk when God is all that He says He is"? Now, the risk is not with God, the risk is with us. And so, oftentimes when we're challenged, we're challenged in that fashion.
So, think about it. When you take a risk, you are saying, "I am willing, it's possible for me to be a loser at this point or to suffer in some fashion". Well, to take a risk means that you have the courage to do it. Well, courage is always necessary to take a risk, and where does the courage come from? The courage comes from the fact that you believe, either in yourself or in God. So you have the courage, listen, because you have the faith to believe, you have the courage, the courage to do what? To take a risk. And that is head in a direction in your life that maybe you've never been before. Here's what I want you to see. You listening? Say amen. It doesn't make any difference how strong you and I are.
There will be moments in our life when we will suffer the weakness of faith, those brief moments maybe, or something will come along. In those brief moments, there may be a moment or two of fear. Listen, God understands that. And He doesn't hold that against us. What He wants us to do is get our focus back on who He is and let Him lift us out of the muck and mire of our doubt and our fear at that moment, back on the top of the water to head in the direction that He calls us to head in, in the first place. That's who He is. If you're gonna live a godly life, you're gonna have to take risks. If you're gonna walk in the will of God, you're gonna have to take risks. If you're going to obey God, you're gonna have to take risks. If you're gonna accept the challenges of God in your life, you're gonna have to take risks. If you're going to grow and become the person, achieve the things that God wants you to achieve in life, you're gonna have to take risks.
It's not gonna always be so safe and secure where you can count it all up. Any man, for example, who starts his own business knows he's taking a risk. He could lose it all. For example, once in a while, somebody will say to me, "Well, God told me to quit my job now and to trust Him". Well, now think about this. God doesn't usually tell people, "Just stop and do nothing". When God tells you to stop something for some specific reason, He's getting you ready to take you somewhere else. And I think about people who say, "I don't like my job. I don't feel like I'm growing in my job. I don't think I'm getting anywhere. I don't see any opportunities," and on and on they go. Well, ask yourself the question: God, what do You want me to do? Maybe you're hanging in there because you think that's security.
Let me remind you of something, there's only one secure place in the world to be, only one: in the hand of God, in the will of God, listen, doing the will of God. That's the only safe, secure place to be. So, when God tells you to move in this direction or that direction, move in this relationship or that relationship, what is He doing? He is enabling you to take a step to become the person He wants you to be, to achieve the things He wants you to achieve, to reach your full potential in life. Listen, we all take risks. And we never think about it. But then God calls us to take one and we begin to hesitate, well, let's think about something for a moment.
When I think about taking a risk, and I think about a lot of risks that I've taken, and ask myself sometimes what was I thinking? When I look back and see what God did, but I can tell you this, He's never failed me. You know why? Because that's not His nature. He's not gonna fail you to do what He calls you to do the way He calls you to do it. But let's ask this question. That is, what is it? What can I be absolutely assured of when I take a risk with God? What can I be absolutely assured of, no question about it? There are three things. You need to get 'em down. Listen to this.
Number one, watch this, and this'll surprise you, you can be assured of being challenged. You can be assured of moments of fear. You can be assured of moments of doubt. You can be assured of hesitation at times. Absolutely. Because we're human. You can be assured that if you begin to take risks in your life, you're gonna have those moments when there are moments of fear, moments of doubt, moments of feeling incapable, inadequate. You're gonna have those.
That's number one. The second thing you can be absolutely assured of is this: God's presence with you. He says, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you, no, never forsake you". It is impossible for a child of God, listen, to live a single second without the presence of God. I didn't say whether we were aware of it or not, without the presence of God. So that wherever He calls you, He's gonna be there. Whatever He calls you to do, He'll be there to help you to do it.
That is, you can be assured of His presence. And that what saved the Apostle Peter as a disciple there walking on the water, he looked at Jesus, he had His presence and He knew that it was Jesus, and therefore, even though he cried out, "Lord, save me". I don't think he doubted that the Lord would save him. He was just telling Him, "I'm going down, help me"! And Jesus pulled him out. How many times has He pulled you out? You know what? You can't even count 'em. He's pulled every single one of us out of sinking. We've all at times faltered at some point, probably, in our faith because of fear or whatever it might be, and He's pulled us out every single time.
So, the second thing you can be assured of is His presence. The third thing you can be assured of is this: His, listen, the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to enable you to achieve or be victorious in whatever the challenge is. Every single time you have that awesome promise. The promise of the challenge, yes. The promise of His presence, yes. The promise of an enabling power of the Holy Spirit, yes. And when you have the power of the Holy Spirit enabling you, strengthening you, undergirding you, then what do we have to fear? It isn't that we don't have it, it's just the fact that we forget it. Because we begin to look at the opposition, look at all the possibility of things that could happen. And you know, you can sit in your chair, have a nervous breakdown thinking about all the things that could happen to ya. Or you can sit there and praise God because you know that your focus is upon Him and He's not going to let you down, He's not gonna fail you no matter what happens. So, you can be assured of those three things.
Now, what's that? That I'm gonna be, that God's gonna call me to some challenge in my life. It's gonna test me. It's gonna challenge my abilities and talents and skills and my gifts. And it may be something that I don't particularly wanna do, go somewhere I don't particularly wanna go, have to face something I don't wanna face. Is that possible? Absolutely. What's the other promise? What's the other thing that's inevitable? His presence. What's inevitable? Power of the Holy Spirit to enable you to achieve, to accomplish no matter what it might be. So, when you think about the risk, here's what I want you to remember. It isn't that you're risking God, it's the feeling we have. Because the truth we know is this. Anything God tells you to do is not a risk.
You say, "Well, but suppose He calls me to do something that costs me my life"? Did I blow it? No. Did God fail me? No. He knew before He called you that He was gonna take your life in that particular situation. You know what? You obeyed Him, you get rewarded. What's the risk? The risk is maybe me not having my way. The risk is the risk of danger, harm, loss. Every single time a child of God obeys God, we get blessed and we're to get rewarded. All of our blessings and rewards coming in this life? I certainly hope not, because we've got rewards coming in the other life, the life that comes after this. We're gonna be resurrected one of these days into a brand new life. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord". And one of these days we'll be rewarded for being obedient to Him.
Risk-taking is a part of the Christian life. Safety first, secure, everything just... in other words, the comfort zones where many people wanna live. And so what happens, they work most of their life trying to prepare comfort zone. And soon as they get there, God says, "Time to come home". They never become the person God wants 'em to be, oftentimes because they were unwilling to take a risk with the Living God to become what He desired, to achieve what He desires in your life. Now, we said, watch this, we said when you think about this idea of taking a risk, what can you be assured of? And we said there are three things you can be assured of. The challenge, His presence, and His power to enable you to do it.
Well, there's something else I want you to notice, and that's this. When I think about what's involved and times that God's challenged me to take risks, and I could tell ya a lot of those, and I can tell you this. He's never failed. Did I ever doubt sometimes? Yes. Have my moments of fear? Yes. Did He grab me and pull me out of the water? Yes. Did I ever say, "Lord, save me"? Yes. Am I glad about it? Yes, I am. But you know what, I'd rather fail than to have gone through life and never tried. That's inexcusable.
I'll give you an example of that. Jesus talked about a man with talents: five talents, two talents, one talent. First man took a risk. He invested his five talents and he gained five more. The master said, "Well done". The other man had two talents. He invested his two talents and what happens? Lord paid off, and he came back and he said, "Well done". One man played it safe. Safe and secure, sift everything through that sifter, safe and secure. "I was afraid that I would lose. I was afraid of failure. So I decided to just keep it to myself and just dig a hole, bury it, hide it, keep it". What did God say to him? What did Jesus say to him? "Throw him out".
Now, this may be a little tough on you but listen carefully because I'm telling you this because I love you. Playing it safe is not God's way. Secondly, playing it safe and denying God His rightful place in your life and your positions is disobedience to God. You say, "But you know what? I'm just afraid, and God understands my fear". He understands your fear, but you know what? He wants to jerk you outa that. And you know why He does? Because He sees your potential. And one of the greatest challenges to me is this. When I come to some challenge, I'm thinking, "Okay, Lord, I see all the things it could be".
And then I think about it this way. "Lord, whatever You're calling me to do or to become or whatever, You've already seen the end result and You're happy about the end result. Therefore, if I could see what You can see, then I'd be as happy and as brave and as courageous as You are. So Lord, I'm gonna risk it. I'm gonna jump no matter what". Because I know He would never ask us to go anywhere He's not gonna be with us, not going to enable us no matter what. So, let's think about this for a moment. We said here are the things that you can be absolutely assured of. Now, what can we anticipate? That I said, three things I can be assured of, but what can I anticipate? You need to jot these down, so you won't give God an excuse 'cause you've heard it. And you see, this is the kind of message I just wanna screw it into your mind so you can't get it out. Because every single one of us get challenged and we have to take risks.
Now, listen to this. What can you expect? What can you anticipate if you're willing to take a risk? Number one, He may call you to go somewhere you've never been. He may call you to go somewhere you've never been. You have to take a risk. He may call you to do something you have never done, take a risk. He may call you to give something you have never given, take a risk. He may call you to surrender something you have never surrendered, you've held on to it all these years, got to take a risk.
Now, I wanna stop there for a second. Listen to this. Isn't it interesting how the mind works? And this is one of those very subtle Satanic attacks. Now, imagine this. Here's God who calls you to surrender your life, which He's called all of us to do. He's called all of us to surrender our life to Him. That means just turn over to Him completely and let Him be in control. Now, who is this that's in control? This is this unconditional loving Father who loves you and me enough to give Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins to do what? Make it possible for us to be forgiven, have a personal relationship with the Father, and have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us to enable us to do whatever He calls us to do. So that's who it is who's calling us to full surrender.
What is a full surrender? It's yielding total control of our life to Him. Now, anybody would think, if you think rationally for a moment, that is the wisest, safest thing you can do is to turn your life totally over to the Lord Jesus Christ and let Him control it, amen? That's pretty weak. Now, let me ask you again. Now, watch this. Are you alert? Say amen. Isn't it the wisest thing you could possibly do to turn the full control of your life over to a sovereign God who is in absolute control, loves you unconditionally, has the best for you. Isn't that the wisest thing to do? Amen? Right. Then why don't we do it? Why don't we do it? I'll tell you why. Because this old fallen nature of ours is very fearful of giving up full control of ourselves to anybody, including God.
We just don't like the idea of giving up full control. And here's the reason, here's what Satan does. This is strictly from the devil. Watch this. He says, "If you give up, you give up full control of your life to God, do you know what He may do to you"? That is exactly what we think, and every single one of us has thought it. Now, if I ask you to raise your hand if you ever thought it, some of you'd have to lie and I don't want you to commit sin sittin' right here. 'Cause you wouldn't wanna raise your hand. All of us have thought it. Because that's one of his... listen, he loves to fling that flaming missile at us.
Now, wait a minute. Do you realize what may happen if you turn your whole life over to Him? No, we don't know what's gonna happen. Are you willing to risk that? Full surrender, total surrender to God whom you cannot see. Wait a minute, this is that sovereign, absolute, in control God, who loves us unconditionally, only planned the best for us. Has given us the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill His will for our life no matter what it may be. Only has the best in mind for us. Yes! Yes, I'm willing to give full surrender of my life to Him no matter what. Satan'll do his best to keep you from doing it. So, what are we saying? What can you anticipate? You can anticipate going where you've never been, doing what you've never done.
Listen, giving what you've never given, surrendering what you've never surrendered. Watch this, loving whom you've never loved. Why? Because you got hurt, and you're afraid to take the risk of loving once again. And so, you know what happens? You go through life alone, complaining to God, moaning and groaning because you're afraid to take the risk of loving somebody and maybe getting rejected once again. You can anticipate, listen, you can anticipate Him requiring you to forgive somebody you've never forgiven. Somehow in your mind, you just can't forgive 'em, you can defend yourself and defend yourself.
You know what? To reach your potential, you gonna have to take the risk of forgiving. Are you willing for God to change something deep down inside of you? Something that needs to be changed. Listen, instead of fear, He wants you to have a joy and a confidence and a happiness in your life. Are you willing to give up some of this other stuff in your life as you think through your life and think, "Well, what about this and what about that and what does God wanna change in my life"? Are you willing to take the risk and let Him change you? Do you ask God for direction so you can consider whether you wanna do it or not? Or do you ask Him for direction for your life because you're committed to being obedient to Him? What can you anticipate? You can anticipate all of these things. You can anticipate Him, listen, calling you to trust Him for something you've never been able to trust Him for.
And what is the end result? Blessing on top of blessing on top of blessing. If you're gonna live a Christian life, you're gonna have to take a risk. If you're gonna be godly, you're gonna have to take a risk. If you're going to achieve in life, you're gonna have to take a risk. So, somebody says, "Well, but suppose I don't. Suppose I'm one of those persons and, you know, I read the scripture and I understand what it says, but I'm not willing to take any risk. I'm not willing to take the kind of risk that you're talking about". You say, "Well, what can I anticipate"? That is, what's the end result of that?
So let me talk about that a moment. Number one, you'll never become the person God wants you to be. You'll never be able to achieve the things in life that God has equipped you to achieve. That won't be a part of your life. You'll never discover who this God is that you say you serve. If you're not willing to take any risk, you'll never discover who is... like Peter did, for example. What happens is you limit your usefulness for God. If you're not willing to take a risk, then God can only use you to a very, very small degree if you're not willing to do that. You, listen, you are willing to live a life of rationalized disobedience. You rationalize it away.
Well, I know that I know that God may want some people to do so-and-so, but not me, I'm, you know, I'm an exception. There's... and what you do, you rationalize disobedience. And when you look at Peter, you think, "Well, certainly Peter did not do that," why? Because he didn't let his life be governed by that. When you refuse to take risks, here's what happens. You're governed by fear: fear of failure, fear of criticism. You don't wanna live that kind of life. That's not the kind of life you wanna live. Listen, if you're not willing to take risks, you're gonna suffer loss of reward here, reward in Heaven, loss of blessing here. And we could go on and on and on of what it's gonna cost you in this life, not in just in the life to come but in this life.
What does it cost you? If you can't forgive, if you're not willing to risk loving somebody, not willing to risk trusting God, not willing to risk stepping out where you've never stepped before. You say, "But I", and here's what happens. You think about yourself in light of your strengths and your gifts and your talents and your abilities, and you know what you do sometimes? You just extract God from the whole equation. He's not asking you to do that. He's saying, "Trust Me for who I am. Take the, listen, take the risk of trusting Me. I love you unconditionally, I want the best for you. Trust Me"! You willing to give all that up out of fear? I certainly hope not.
And you see, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, what you've said is, maybe you didn't realize you were saying it, I'm not interested in the potential that God has for me. I'm not interested in the potential of becoming the person God wants me to become. And what you're also saying is deep down inside, I'm afraid of what will happen if I surrender my life to a holy God. I'm afraid of what He may take out of my life, only the things that shouldn't be there. I'm afraid of what He may call me to do, what's absolutely best.
And you see, if you'll think about it, it is foolish, it is foolish, it is fool hearted to live your life taking risk after risk after risk after risk that you take with the world, having extracted God out of your life. You say, "Well, I believe in God. Believe in God, but, well, I'm not into this Jesus bit". You know what? Then you're not into God. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me". You wanna reach your potential in life? Gotta take a risk. You willing to take the risk? Then you open the door for the very best that God can provide for you. You're not willing to take the risk? You shut down your potential, the rewards, the blessings that God has in store for you. And if you're wise, you'll take the risk no matter what.
And Father, how grateful we are that to take a risk with You is the safest, soundest, most assured thing we can possibly do. And I pray that You'll speak to many people today who've given all kinds of excuses to themselves and to others for just remaining in their comfort zone. And the truth is they're not really comfortable there. It looks like it's safe, but in the seat of disobedience there is never safety. And so I pray the Holy Spirit will open their eyes, open their mind, get them to thinking what is the truth? And be willing to take the risk of trusting Jesus Christ as Savior for all eternity. In Jesus's name, amen.