Many of us do as much as we can to minimize the amount of risk we experience in our lives. That is completely understandable and reasonable. So logical. However, the question we want to interact with today is whether our strategy of risk avoidance is always God’s plan for us. Does God allow us to get into risky situations? Does He actually want us to get into circumstances where a positive outcome is not at all guaranteed?
Have you ever found yourself in a situation and wondered how you ever got there? I wonder if the two Israelite spies sent by Joshua into the city of Jericho questioned the wisdom of their mission once they were inside the walls of the city and trying to avoid detection. Joshua chapter 2 details how Joshua sent the spies into the Promised Land to check out the defenses of the people and asked them to especially take a really good look at the city of Jericho. The officials of Jericho discovered the presence of the spies and attempted to find them presumably to get rid of them permanently. The spies were in a place where travelers would often frequent and a woman named Rahab was in charge. More than just a place for travelers to lodge, Rahab’s “business model” included even more options for men away from home and family.
It was a risk for Joshua to send the spies into Jericho. The obvious risk was that the spies would be discovered, the plans for invasion of the land would be disclosed, and then they would be killed. Maybe a risk you might not have noticed before is the one Joshua was willing to take in sending spies into the land in the first place. Joshua was part of a previous spying mission about forty years prior to this one. He was one of only two of the twelve original spies that gave a positive report about invading the same land. The former failed spy mission resulted in a forty year delay. Why would Joshua risk the future of the nation as well as his own leadership with a method that failed miserably before? That, my friends, is risky living!
But what about the risk that Rahab took? She knew these travelers were spies. The leaders of Jericho had come to her and asked her if she knew where the spies were. She had told them a tale of how they had already left the city to divert the authority’s attention and give some space to the spies. Why would someone whose livelihood depended upon staying in the good graces of the authorities do such a thing? It makes no sense. It is not logical. It is risky. Yet she did it. Why?
I think there are some key lessons for all of us to learn from the story of Joshua, Jericho, and Rahab. A common theme that runs through this story is the willingness, even the necessity, to take significant risks. Joshua took a big risk in sending spies into Jericho based on that strategy’s previous colossal failure. Rahab put her life and her livelihood on the line for two strangers from an invading people. Most of us in today’s culture do as much as we reasonably can to reduce risk in our lives. Even in our careers we try to be a part of a company that has a high likelihood of major success. Most avoid risky investments and even risky behaviors to avoid even the appearance of not being associated with a winner. How do you think God feels about risk?
Sometimes we have to accept risk to accomplish something great. Joshua risked sending spies into Jericho to give him some insight into the defenses he would soon face. The spies risked revealing themselves to Rahab not knowing if she would betray them or protect them. Rahab risked stretching the truth to the leaders of Jericho because she was completely convinced that God was bringing the people of Israel to take the land and the city. So, how did it work out? The spies completed their mission safely and encouraged Joshua and the people of Israel that God had already prepared the land for their arrival. Joshua must have been massively encouraged by the success of the spies’ mission. Because of Rahab’s willingness to hide the spies and obey their specific instructions about the scarlet thread (read it for yourself in Joshua 2:17-20), she and her family were spared the destruction of the remainder of the inhabitants of Jericho and they were welcomed into the family of God. What can we learn from this story?
God encourages taking risks. Sometimes He asks His people to take some pretty big risks. It’s really not a risk, though. You see, we view obedience to God’s nudgings as risky only because we have such a limited view of time. When our sight into the future is cloudy and unsure, we feel the risk level rising and we find ourselves often searching for ways to lower the risk level and our feelings of anxiety. Do you think God was feeling anxious as He watched the action unfold in Jericho? I think instead of being anxious, God was cheering on the players in our story and anticipating their success. Joshua, the spies, and Rahab did not have God’s perspective on this and so it felt like they were taking grave risks. And indeed they were. What was their risk mitigation strategy? Instead of life insurance or a safer Plan B, Joshua, the spies, and Rahab chose as their risk mitigation strategy faith in God and obedience to what they sensed He was doing in this situation. God had prepared the people of Israel for this moment. God had also been at work in this outsider called Rahab to prepare her for the vital role she was about to play in our drama. Faith in God and obedience to the calling He has placed in your life is the best risk mitigation strategy you and I can have in our lives.
So, what do you believe is the risk that God is calling you to take? Does it seem unreasonable? Illogical?The story of Joshua, Rahab, and the people of Israel calls to those of us that are by nature risk-averse and want everything sewed up before we step out. It calls us to trust God and give it our best, all the while keeping our eyes and ears focused on Him for any further directions. In the end, what I believe we will say as our life on this earth draws to a close will not be that we regret that we risked too much for God and that we were really a bunch of losers. I think we will more likely say that we were too afraid of risk and that we only wish we would have risked more for Him. We left too much on the table. So, what about you? Are you going to make that step He has been leading you to do?