You Want to Take A Risk? Four Indispensable Truths That Will Help.
I admire risk-takers. Partly because I've never been much of one and partly because I'm married to one.
Suppose you'd like to become more of a risk taker. In that case, you'll appreciate the insight we can gain from a fantastic story in First Samuel, chapter fourteen. It's about a young risk-taker named Jonathan, son of the Israeli King Saul.
Saul was enemies with the Philistines. The Philistines were known as aggressive, war-mongering people.
Saul's army camped some distance from the Philistines during a military campaign. Jonathan decided, discreetly, to check out the Philistine outpost. So he and his armor-bearer headed out. No one from the camp even knew they had left.
What Jonathan discovered was an intimidating situation. The only way he could reach the outpost would be to descend into a valley and then scale a cliff.
Jonathan assessed the situation and then said to his companion,
"Let's go across to the outpost of those pagans… perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether He has many warriors or only a few." 1 Samuel 14:6 NLT
At first glance, it may seem like Jonathan made a brash decision. But if we unpack the verse and couple it with what we know about Jonathan, we learn powerful truths that can inspire and guide us as we seek to take our own risks.
One of the first things Jonathan's risk required was that he "go low." He literally descended into a valley.
When faced with a risk, the idea of "going low" can stop us before we start.
Go low… may look like having to humble ourselves. Before God. Before others. How very hard that can be.
Go low… may look like agreeing to descend into the depths of a challenging situation. Some risks demand that we open ourselves to pain… low places we'd rather not go.
Go low… may look like going against the grain. The risk may mean we must draw a line that we're sure will not be met with favor.
It is hard to descend, yet many risks require us to journey through a valley.
Ironically, as soon as Jonathan entered the valley, his risk required that he scale a wall. Now, it was time to climb.
Isn't that just the case? When we're taking risks, we sometimes don't know if we're going up or down. That's because we often need to do a little of both.
So, we take the risk. We go low. Only to find that now, we must shift. Now it is time to scale a wall.
In Jonathan's case, he didn't even have a rope to help with the climb. No mortal man was at the top aiding him… helping to pull him up. Nope, he had to climb the wall by himself.
It would be easy to despair but isn't it strange how the moments in which we feel alone are often the very moments we realize someone was there all along.
Jonathan knew this. He knew that whether the risk required going low or climbing high… he was not alone.
His God was with him.
We find another critical clue about risk-taking when we examine Jonathan's climb. Verse thirteen says that Jonathan climbed up (or clamored) using his hands and feet.
Think about that. Jonathan was an able warrior. But those skills did him no good as he scaled the cliff. The climb required BOTH of his hands and feet.
He was utterly vulnerable…defenseless. As he climbed, did the Philistines have a perfect shot? Did they lean over and let their arrows fly?
As Jonathan climbed, His only defense was the Great Defender. Jonathan trusted that God would have his back as he engaged in the risk of his life.
When we take risks, we expose ourselves. We become vulnerable. The greater the risk, the greater the vulnerability. But, like Jonathan, may we remember that we have a Defender.
Even though Jonathan lacked an army, it's important to note he was not completely alone.
He was accompanied by his armor-bearer. This man's loyalty is evident throughout the story. He says to Jonathan:
"Do all that you have in mind… I am with you heart and soul." 1 Samuel 14:7 NIV
We do not need throngs in our figurative camps to be equipped to take a risk. But there is wisdom in having just one person we can confide in, lean on, and trust.
When Jonathan set out on his quest, it's important to note that he didn't depart with fanfare.
There was no big announcement. No post on Facebook. The family wasn't notified.
Nope. He just set out to do it. It was his own quiet mission.
This is telling because it shows us that the mission was not about him. Jonathan didn't set out to take a significant risk so he could make a showing of his valor or of his faith.
He set out for one reason only. The Philistines made a mockery of his God. His heavenly Father's reputation was at stake, not his own.
This aspect of Jonathan's journey is one of the most convicting for me. I have to ask God to help me want my risks to be more about Him than they are about me. It's an embarrassing admission, but it's the truth.
I'm not sure why God puts up with me, but He is faithful and continually helps me pursue the right risks for the right reasons.
History also teaches us that Jonathan had zero doubt that God could do what God wanted to do. However, He wanted to do it!
The NIV version of 1 Samuel 14:6 says it this way:
"Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few."
Nothing. Nothing can stop God.
Jonathan knew that any victory would be because of God, not because of himself.
And he knew that God didn't require anything from him. Jonathan had a thorough appreciation of just how big God was in the story and just how small he was in the story.
The beauty of it is instead of making Jonathan feel insignificant or full of doubt, he brimmed with confidence.
When we realize that outcomes do not depend on us but on God, we have good reason to be optimistic! We can hear it in Jonathan's voice:
"Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf." 1 Samuel 14:6 NIV
For Jonathan, the cup was clearly half full, not half empty! A mighty risk was before him, but Jonathan saw it as an exercise in expectation.
It was a choice. An opportunity. A chance to do something for the God that he loved.
The word brims with expectation. Optimism. Hope.
What risks would we take if we viewed them through the lens of perhaps?
Do we need to descend? Is there a hard thing we need to enter… a way in which we need to go low as we take our first brave step?
Do we need to climb? What wall is He asking us to scale? How will we need to trust Him as our Defender?
Who can we invite? Can we ask one person to join us on our journey? Someone that we could confide in. Seek wisdom and encouragement from.
Are our motives pure? Any challenging journey, particularly one involving risk, needs a good moral compass. If we're struggling with our motives, God can change even that.
This slice of history has inspired me. "Perhaps" fills me with excitement for what may lay ahead! I hope it does for you too!