“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.””
Luke 1:28 NIV
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”
Luke 1:38 ESV
Mary was highly favored of the Lord, chosen by God. She accepted the call put in her life. So, all would go well for her, right?
“…And a sword will pierce your very soul.”” Luke 2:35 NLT
She’s blessed and highly favored of the Lord. She humbly accepts the call of God on her life (and yes, she did have a choice.). And a sword will pierce her very soul.
We want our Christianity to be safe. We think that being blessed and highly favored of the Lord means that we will be healthy, wealthy and wise, and we will be kept “safe” by God. We avoid taking risks.
But…we are saved by faith, right? Faith, simply defined, is “a strong belief or trust in someone or something.” Almost by definition, how can you say you have faith when there’s no risk involved?
Look at some our biblical “heroes”.
Abraham was called by God to leave his city, leave his family, and go someplace God would only show him as he was on the journey. Risky.
Moses probably was not terribly comfortable telling Pharaoh to “Let my people go!” After all, Pharaohs weren’t real big on being told what do. Or being defied at all.
David could have looked at Goliath and just headed back to his sheep. Nobody would have thought anything of it. But instead he chose to fight the giant in the name of the Lord.
Daniel chose to follow God in a hostile environment. He wound up in a fiery furnace, then the lions den. Sounds risky to me. Probably took a little bit of faith.
The prophet Elijah took on Jezebel and 400 prophets of Baal. He beat the 400 prophets of Baal, and THEN the danger got so great he wound up in the fetal position praying that God would just take his life.
Think about Mary again. The safe thing for her would have been to say “Thanks, but no thanks.” Sorry Gabriel. It’s just not a good idea for me to be a pregnant, unwed teenager in THIS culture.
How about John the Baptist? He could have just been an ordinary priest like his dad. But no, he had to go be a prophet heralding the coming of the savior of the world. He went and got mixed up with that Jesus guy. He had a ministry that lasted about a year, got arrested by Herod for preaching the truth, then as they say, he lost his head.
Peter had a pretty good life running his fishing business. He know he had a wife. Maybe he had kids. But Peter got involved with God, walked away from it, and followed Jesus. Things eventually got so risky, it finally came to this – “Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed.” Matthew 26:74 ESV. It just got too risky.
What about Paul?? From the time he encounters Jesus, his life is non stop risk. “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 ESV
If you read through the bible and see all this danger, why do we expect to have it so easy? Sooner or later, I know that if I follow Christ (really follow Christ) it’s going to cost me something. I don’t know what it is, but I know I’m going to have to risk something.
Think about Jesus himself. He was in danger from birth. His family had to escape to Egypt just to keep the king from killing Him. We say we want to be like Jesus, but do we forget what happened to Him. He started His earthly ministry as the truth of God in the flesh, and lasted three years before He was crucified.
It seems as though most Christians today want to check that box, declare themselves “saved”, and go on about their happy lives. We have to do bible studies to even know what “take up your cross and follow me” means. In Jesus time, there was no doubt what it meant. Being crucified was nothing unusual. Over a hundred thousand Jews were crucified around the time of Jesus. There were days when thousands would be nailed up. Even Jesus didn’t get His own special crucifixion – He was hung there right next to two others.
There is nothing safe about the Gospel. Jesus Christ was not crucified because He was a nice man or a good moral teacher. He was crucified because of the original Gospel proclaimed by the apostles – “Jesus is Lord.” That means that all the other systems of government bow their knees to Him. That’s the Gospel that Peter was crucified for. That’s the gospel Paul was beheaded for. That’s the Gospel all the apostles (except John, who Jesus loved best) died bloody, violent deaths for.
We don’t get to pretend that life is always supposed be easy as Christians. Sometimes, we’re just going to have to take risks. Christianity is not always about making and keeping us happy.
The challenge for us is that the Gospel is not just something to be believed. The Gospel is to be lived. And if we take the call to live this beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ out, we can expect to be at the front lines, sometimes loving the unlovable. Not everyone we meet will want what we have to offer. There will be challenges, there will be resistance to our message.
We don’t expect to die bloody, violent deaths, but we can expect some challenges. There will be times when we find ourselves in the lions den. We might wind up in a fiery furnace, where the pressure just gets unbearable. Maybe we get rescued like Daniel – “And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.” Daniel 3:27 ESV. Maybe we come out all squeaky clean, smelling like we hadn’t even been in a fire. Or, a sword of sorrow might pierce our very soul.
We can say no, and stick to our nice, comfortable, safe Christianity. Drive our nice cars, eat in our nice restaurants, sit on our comfy couches, watch sports on our big screens. We can stick with our expectation of God that our lives will just be safe, and He will protect us from all troubles, all problems, and live life with the aim of making that happen. We can simply claim we’ve had our ticket punched and go about living our happy lives.
Or we can say yes to the call of God on our lives. We can live out the Gospel, not just claim we believe in it. We can proclaim “Jesus is Lord“, and actually put Him in charge. Maybe you might take that step in your life. You might say “Ok Jesus, you’re in charge! What do you want me to do??!!” Then maybe He’ll say “Let’s start small. Let’s just start with 10%. Because where you’re treasure is, there your heart will be also.” To which you will probably say “Come on now. Let’s be serious. I’m ready to go to the ends of the earth for you. I’m sold out Lord!! I was thinking of some action and adventure!”
Jesus told us to count the cost. Following Him is always going to cost us something. There might be some risk involved. It may not always make us happy. CS Lewis once said “I didn’t become a Christian to be a happy. I always knew a bottle of Port could make me happy!” We might have to risk our own happiness at times. But, with Christ, is risking too little risking too much?