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Don’t Spend Your Life Watching From the Sidelines

Living by faith means taking risks for the sake of others.

On the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, I saw a story on TV about one fireman who was on the scene when the attack happened in New York. When everyone was leaving the burning building, he was going back in.

He went up the stairs and kept climbing because he wanted to get to the impact area, where the most injured people would be. In this story, multiple people recalled seeing this one firefighter going up the stairs when everyone else was going down the stairs to get away from the trouble.

That’s a beautiful picture of taking a risk for the sake of others.

Life will confront you with a million opportunities to “run into a burning building.” If you live with your eyes open, you’ll see one situation after another where something needs to be done, where someone could use some help, or where something needs to be said. Risk-takers will capitalize on those opportunities to help others address the problem. We want to pursue that kind of risk-taking.

Taking these kinds of risks calls out the best in us. They require us to reject comfort and pursue something greater.

In his book Risky Gospel, Owen Strachan says, “It’s not the absence of any challenge that will invigorate your life and mine; it’s the presence of the right one” That’s what we’re after.

Jesus didn’t give His life so that we would sit on our backsides and play it safe. Jesus died so that we would get after it, trust Him, double down, and take more risks. Jesus is asking us to live by faith and not by fear.

There was a Christian woman who was instrumental in the story of my conversion, and when I became a believer, she told me the first thing I needed to do was get a new Bible. I protested that idea. For one thing, I didn’t like to read. But I also didn’t want to be mocked in the military for carrying a big leather book around.

I finally succumbed to the pressure, and got the smallest Bible I could find. The next thing she told me was to go out evangelizing with her that night. You can imagine how I reacted. I was completely out of my comfort zone. I had zero Bible knowledge. I had been a Christian for 24 hours. And here she was asking me to come with her to share the gospel with total strangers.

She was taking a risk on me. That idea could have totally backfired. But what happened is that her bold example helped ignite in me a desire to see people embrace Christ. It would have been easier for her to go out evangelizing by herself, or take someone who actually knew what to say. But she took a risk by taking me.

A gospel bucket list

There’s a choice before you. You can passively embrace comfort and play defense all your life, or you can pick up your game and play offense. One of the best ways is to develop a gospel bucket list. Set goals for risks you want to take, challenges you want to pursue.

There are all sorts of categories of life where you could take risks. Everyone’s list will be different. For example, take a short-term mission mission trip to a remote place. Learn another language and use it to talk to someone about Jesus. Spend time caring for homeless, helpless, and hurting. Read a minimum of 12 great books a year. “Adopt a child” by supporting a child in need overseas. Attend college internationally. Write a book. Discover a cure for malaria. Plan a fundraiser for missions. Build literacy cultures so that people will have access to Scriptures. The list is as long as your imagination. One thing is for sure: We are all called to take more risks.

You won’t regret taking chances to benefit other people, but you will regret spending your life watching from the sidelines.

About a century ago, President Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech entitled “Citizenship in a Republic.” His message is aimed right at us:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but one who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

You can be that kind of young person, the person who’s in the arena, who will fail and commit error, but who’s willing to take the risk. Who will strive to do the deeds. Who will get in the arena and strive valiantly.

You don’t want to get older and think, Well, I got pretty good at video games, or, I watched a lot of TV. Those things aren’t on your gospel bucket list. You’re built to do greater things than that.

William Carey, the father of modern missions and the ultimate risk-taker, famously said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” That would be a great motto by which to live.

On FamilyLife Today®, Dan Dumas tells why the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. He shares his burden to see kids head in the right direction and find their purpose, which begins by teaching them to live a life of surrender. 

Excerpted from Live Smart, copyright © 2017 by Dan Dumas. Used with permission of Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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