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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
Great Christians think great thoughts. Great Christians read great books. Great Christians pray great prayers, and dream great dreams. And one thing great Christians do: All through Scripture, as you go through this Book, you will find, whether it’s Moses, or David, or Esther, or Deborah, or Peter, or Paul, God brings windows of opportunity, and each one of them took a radical step of faith.
And that radical step of faith meant that if God didn’t show up, Peter was going to fall through the waves. If God didn’t show up when Paul returned, after persecuting the Church, he was going to die. If God didn’t show up, Esther was going to knock on the door, and the king, instead of holding up the scepter, would have said, “Sorry, Esther.”
Every person’s life that is greatly used by God, that experiences God in powerful ways, takes great risks. Great risks. How in the world do you live out a life of great risks, when, down deep in our heart, you’re human? There are some of you with a personality – you have bungee jumped. You have jumped out of an airplane. Your portfolio is all the high-risk stocks, and the idea of bonds just sort of nauseates your stomach. You want to take great risks. But for most people, risks are scary.
God’s calling on our lives, if you want to be a great Christian, it always demands we take great risks. Now, what I want to do is, I want to prove that, from Scripture. I want to give you some Old Testament examples, and I want to give you some New Testament examples. I want you to see that this isn’t something that superstars do. I want you to see, this is the normal Christian life.
Let’s look at the Old Testament. Old Testament examples of great risk takers: Abram. I call him “Abram,” because he wasn’t Abraham until after he believed. What does he do? He leaves his home, his land, and his family. Would that be scary? When we read in the Bible, “And Abraham went out from…”
I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t like that for him. He had a home. He had a family. He had security. An invisible God, gives him a voice and says, “Abraham, I want you to leave this, and I want you to go.” “Where do You want me to go?” “I’ll let you know later.” He took a risk. He believed that the invisible promises of God were more real than the visible reality that he lived in. He leaves.
Or take Moses: He returns to his home to deliver God’s people. Can you imagine the risk that he felt? The last time he was in Egypt, he had killed someone, and they had a contract out on him – “Reward for Moses: Dead or Alive.”
Forty years later, God says, “Moses, I want you to deliver My people. You had the right idea. You did it in the wrong way. I want you to go back.” And he’s going, “What? You’re kidding.” And then, when he does go back, instead of being greeted with, “Oh, we’re so glad you’re here,” what happens? He took a great risk, and, early on, it didn’t look very good.
Or you take David: He fights a giant that others refuse to face. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he’s idealistic. But there were hundreds of other people in the army that looked at that giant, about nine feet tall, and they said, “Hmm, yes, he’s sure insulting God’s name and character, and I wish someone would do something about it.” But not a single person stepped up to the plate and took the risk of his life.
I think there were probably a lot of guys that had learned to use a slingshot in Israel. In fact, they were adept at it. But it wasn’t his accuracy with a slingshot. It was his heart that said, “You can’t talk about my God that way.” And so, he took a radical step of faith. He put his life on the line, and he didn’t even do it in someone else’s armor. He had to do it the way God made him. And he stepped up, and a giant fell, and the rest is history.
Or, finally, Esther: She confronts evil in the highest position of authority. And we read through that, and we think, Oh yeah, that was really great. She was a beautiful woman. You’ve got to remember the culture. It was easy to get a new wife back then. The guy’s got a harem of hundreds of women, and when he didn’t like – remember the last queen? She had a bad day, and she’s gone. And so, Esther, she risks her life to save her people.
The point I want to make is, all through the Old Testament, what you find is great risk is a part of radical steps of faith. And if, for some reason, you think, Well, maybe that was the Old Testament, and God’s economy has changed, let’s look at New Testament risk takers.
Peter. We read through those gospels, and it seems so natural. And Jesus is walking on the beach, and he says to Peter, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” And Peter drops his nets, and follows Him, and we think, Oh that’s a nice story. We go onto the next verse: Peter’s dad is thinking, Wait a second, Pete. You’re going to do what? What do you mean? I’ve been building this business. And James and John, they dropped their nets. And Peter’s wife – later, we learn he’s married – she’s going, “Hey, honey, what’s this deal with this itinerate preacher? What do you mean you’re going to be gone from home for weeks at a time?”
Peter left his security. Peter left his financial base. Peter confronted his fears. Peter confronted the status quo of a religious establishment that said, “Anyone who follows this itinerate Rabbi Preacher is going to be cast out of the synagogue.” You think that’s a radical step? You think that’s risky? You better believe it is.
Or Paul returns to those he sought to kill, to obey God’s call on his life. Remember the Damascus Road? He comes to Christ. Then, he preaches, very briefly, and then they lower him in a basket. And then, remember, he goes back, and the apostles – he’s been killing them. He was not a welcome visitor. If it wasn’t for Barnabas, they would have not even seen him. And then, after he goes back and meets the apostles, and confronts that, then he returns, and God gives him this little time in Arabia, where He does, apparently, some very personal counseling to prepare him for his ministry.
And then, there’s a time of waiting, and Paul returns – are you ready? – to Tarsus. Guess where Tarsus is. That’s where he grew up. He was a Roman citizen. He was wealthy. He was taught by the supreme of the supreme rabbis, Gamaliel. And for a period of years, he lived in the city where everyone’s thinking, Paul, you’re a fool. You’ve learned under the best rabbi, and now you’re a follower of this sect? You see, sometimes, risk means leaving. Sometimes, risk means returning.
The third example is Jairus. He fights the religious status quo, and lays his reputation and career on the line to seek help for his daughter. You would be cast out of the synagogue. This isn’t just a Jew. Here’s a leader of the synagogue. And he takes his career – he’s going to ask help of this Man named Jesus. The religious leaders have already said, “Anybody who messes around with this guy named Jesus, you’re out of here.” But he’s desperate, and he’s heard His words, and he believes His promises, and he’s seen His power, and he takes all of his life, and he puts it, literally, you know those poker things that they have on TV now? It used to be, like, ESPN; now it’s the Travel Channel. You can watch poker on four stations, and they’re all playing this Texas Hold ‘Em. What’s the big moment? What do they do? “I’m all in.”
You know what a radical step of faith is? It’s saying to God, I’m all in. I’m all in with me and my family. I’m all in with me and my finances. I’m all in with me and my future. I’m all in with my reputation. Lord, I’m all in.
And what do you know? When they push those chips to the middle of the table, they start dealing the cards, and there’s great risk, and there’s great reward. And what you find is that Jairus said he’s all in.
And then, you have the woman with the issue of blood. And if we had time to study it, when she reaches out and touches His garment, she violates so many cultural norms. A woman reaching out, touching a man, a very private culture. And then, remember what it was? She was trembling with fear. And then, Jesus begins to question what’s going on. Even in our day, but can you imagine in that day? And she’s going to explain, “Well, I sort of had a female issue, and I’ve experienced a healing.” There’s such humility. There’s such a radical step of faith.
But I think, behind it, is her sense that – what? She had expended all of her money; she had tried everything else. She’s desperate.
Radical steps of faith often aren’t taken because you come to some noble, godly moment in your life, where you want to be God’s man, or God’s woman. God often brings these windows of opportunity at times where you are desperate, and you don’t know anywhere or anyway to go. And what you think is for bad, God means for good.
And He causes you to say, You know what? I want you to take a new job. I want you to deal with this marriage issue. I want you to go to counseling. I want you – yes, I really do. I want you to take this amount of money that has become your security, and I want you to give it away. I want you to stop what you’re doing, and I want you to get your family around the table, and talk about the real issues. I want you to own your stuff, and face that addiction.
And I mean to tell you, it is people who take a radical step of faith that God greatly uses. And the reason most of us don’t is radical steps of faith are risky – very, very risky.
There are a couple of observations I’d like to make. Number one is pretty obvious: Faith involves risk. Right? And number two, risk looks very different in different people’s lives. If you think of risk or faith, we always think it’s stepping out. But from those examples, sometimes risk means you leave. And for some of you, God may say, You know what? That’s an unhealthy relationship. Or, That’s not the right place for you, and you need to leave.
But for others, risk is what? It means you return. It means you face the broken relationship with a mom or a dad, or an ex-mate, or with one of your kids. And for others, it means you fight. Like David, you step up and fight. And for others, it’s confront. And you either confront someone else, or, like the woman, you confront your own issues, at a very deep level. And so, we’ve got to be careful of thinking that faith is always something “out there.” Radical steps of faith, what they have in common is God’s clearly defined will, and they always involve risk.
The other observation is, what I’ve observed is that all great risk takers have three things in common. And this is very encouraging. And I wish you could see your face right now. And this is good. God is speaking. When I look at faces, and the brows that are going, Oh man, should I leave? Should I go? Boy, you are messing with my mind today. I just wanted to hear God’s Word, and my mind – that’s God. Don’t fight it.
Here’s the thing that risk takers have in common: number one is fear. Does that help you? Those emotions that you’re feeling and thinking, risk takers all have – they fear what might happen. People who take great risks – Esther, she wasn’t at the door, going, “Okay. Come on, come on, come on. I’ve got to go talk to the king. Got to get this done, because I get my hair done at two thirty.” She was scared to death.
Peter didn’t drop his nets and go, “Oh, this isn’t a big deal.” Barnabas didn’t go back to his hometown. That woman, it says she was trembling with fear. Fear and faith are not antithetical. I will tell you, at least my personal experience, the greatest steps of faith I’ve ever taken, I was scared to death.
The greatest thing that’s said, the most common thing said in the Old and New Testament – get out your concordance. Or, now, you can do it on computer. Find the little phrase, “Fear not,” or “Be not afraid.” And what you’ll see is, what God says to His people, through angels, or directly, more than any other thing, is, “Fear not. Fear not. Fear not.” Why? Because we’re afraid. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s not okay to allow your fear to paralyze you from taking the step of faith.
The second thing that risk takers have is, not only are they afraid, they have faith to step out, in spite of their fear. They do it. They’re afraid, but they do it. The last part is very encouraging is they not only have fear, and faith, but they have favor – God’s reward, and God’s blessing on their life.
We often quote the first half of Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it’s impossible to please God.” Right? That’s true. And then, it explains a little bit about what faith is as that verse goes on, “For he that comes to God must believe two things.” And on this one, we usually quote the first half of it, and, like some verses, you memorize part of it, and that last part may not be that important. The last part’s really important: “Without faith it’s impossible to please God, and he that comes to God must believe two things: one, that He exists.” You actually live your life as though an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving, compassionate God actually exists, and cares about you. But the second is, “...and that He richly rewards those who diligently seek Him.”
Do you believe in a God that, instead of His arms crossed, and is down on you, that He literally is like that parent on the edge of the pool, saying to the child, “Come on, honey, jump. Jump. Come on, jump in. I want you to experience the water. There’s a whole new world here.” God is saying to many of us, Take the step. Jump. I want to reward you. I want to reveal Myself. The reason God uses some people more than He uses others is, some people take a radical step of faith. And when you take a step of faith, it pleases the heart of God.
Read the gospels with new eyes. Get a cup of coffee. Get up really early one morning. Or, if you’re a night owl, stay up late. And start in Matthew, and read as fast as you can, only looking for the word faith – and read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It’s a short novel. And just look for only one thing.
And you know what you’ll find? Jesus has one agenda. The only time He ever gets upset with the disciples is – what? Their lack of faith. And the one thing He’s teaching them, the number one agenda, is, “I want you to trust Me – My character, and My word.” And faith is simply doing what God tells you to do, whether you feel like it or not – and in fact, especially when you don’t feel like it – regardless of the circumstances, because He said it, and His word is true.
Great risk takers always have fear, but they operate in faith, and then they experience God’s favor. And the reason people who experience God’s favor is not because they’re better, or smarter, or often know more of the Bible, or come from a better home than you, or don’t have baggage. I think God put these people in Scripture on purpose. I thought I had baggage and I didn’t grow up reading the Bible. When I read through the New Testament, and the Old Testament, I thought, Man, I thought I had a dysfunctional family. Jacob, these people have got real problems! But isn’t it hopeful? Isn’t that neat? If He can use these people, He can use us.
Question for you: Where do you sense God is challenging you to step out in faith? Where do you sense, as I have been talking, as the Spirit of God has been using those examples – where is it, in your life, that you feel maybe that not-so-gentle voice, not-that-small voice? Where is it that you feel, as I was just rattling off – it might be in a relationship. It might be geographically. It might be in your job. It might be in your finances. It might be in your security. It might be – which one of those things resonated in your heart, and you’re thinking of yourself? Would you just jot that on the bottom of your page for you?
Because the key in life, as we come to God in Scripture, is not to get more Bible knowledge; it’s to apply what we know. Life change never occurs as a result of knowing more and more and more. Life change is always a function of acting on what we know. Jesus said, “If you respond to the light, the truth that I give you, I’ll give you more light. If you do not respond to the light or the truth that I give you about your life, even what you have will be taken away.” That’s why it’s a scary thing to be under the teaching of God’s Word, and to be in the Bible, in the sense that we’re held accountable. It’s even more scary not to be in the Bible, and to be ignorant of the truth, knowing that God will hold us accountable for truth.
Well, let me propose something. If, in fact, God is about, in every single person’s life, if He really is bringing little windows of opportunity in your life, and mine, and your life is really going to be determined by how you respond to these windows of opportunity that require a radical step of faith, and if that radical step of faith is going to require risk, here’s the question I’d like to ask: How can ordinary people like me and you become great risk takers?
Even some of us whose personalities are, what you had for breakfast in 1973 is what you have for breakfast now. “Why change it? It’s good. I like it.” Two eggs over easy, whole wheat toast. Or it’s oatmeal, with just a little bit of this, and a little bit of brown sugar. Or you always buy your coffee at the same place. There are some people that do not like risk. But I will tell you, that is not one of the options in the Christian life.