How would you rate your appetite for risk?
A) Risk averse. Nothing ventured, nothing lost.
B) Rational risk. Let’s weigh up all the pro’s and con’s and determine the likely benefit and outcome.
C) Risk? What risk? Bring it on!
If you’re like me, you fall squarely in the middle. Option B. We have an appetite for some risks over others and we either consciously or sub-consciously consider the possible outcomes and proceed, or not, from there.
There’s also an element of unconscious risk in our lives. Risk that we don’t know or think about. The risk of a window washer falling out of the sky onto our car. The risk of implicitly trusting your GPS and driving into a river. The risk of being attacked by a crow.
Risk is everywhere. It’s present wherever there is the possibility of either failure or success.
When it comes to risk, I am fascinated by the story of Jesus (and Peter’s attempt at) walking on water. Walking on water is a low risk act if you’re the Son of God and all things were created in, through and for you. If you created the laws of physics then you probably know how to bend or get around them.
But what about Peter? He was just an ordinary fisherman who likely didn’t attend swimming lessons as a child. Attempting to walk on water seemed irrational. This could only get messy. This was clearly option C. The other disciples in the boat must have been thinking that failure was not only likely, but imminent. You couldn’t get odds on it. This was radical, even for someone with Peter’s reputation.
Peter was undoubtedly considered the boldest of all the disciples. He said things that other people only thought. He did things that other people didn’t have the nerve to do. He did things that other people wouldn’t ever dream of doing – both good and bad. Consequently, he failed spectacularly and often.
But, even for Peter, this was a whole new level of risk. He didn’t say, “Lord! Give me your hand and I’ll help you into the boat.” He didn’t try and rationalise what Jesus was doing or simply wait for Jesus to complete His journey. The cry of Peter’s heart was – if that is what Jesus is doing, then I want to be doing it too.
We are often afraid to attempt great things for and with Jesus because we don’t want to fail. We don’t want to fail for ourselves. We don’t want to seem foolish. We’re scared that we’ll cause other people to fail or that we’ll let people down. But it’s never about our success and glory, it’s only about Jesus’ glory. And it was Peter’s attempt and failure at walking on water that brought glory to Jesus, not his success.
Have you ever wondered what would have happened had Peter not begun to sink when walking on the water to Jesus? What if he’d stepped out of the boat, walked to Jesus, walked back and not needed to be rescued? Here’s what the other disciples witnessed from the boat …
- Jesus walking on water
- Peter asking to come out to Jesus on the water
- Jesus inviting Peter to come out to Him
- Peter getting out of the boat and beginning to walk on water
- Peter sinking and crying out to be saved
- Jesus rescuing Peter and returning him safely to the boat
This series of events prompted spontaneous worship. As soon as Jesus and Peter entered the boat all the other disciples worshipped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Had Peter not failed and not needed to cry out for Jesus to save him – the glory would have gone to Peter, not Jesus. Peter would have got back in the boat and everyone would have been high-fiving and chest bumping. “Whoah Peter, that was amazing! You walked on water bro! How did you do that!?”
We have to be willing to attempt great things with Jesus, for the sake of His glory (not ours). We may begin to sink. We may stumble along the way. But as long as we’re willing to keep reaching out to Jesus then we will continue to bring glory to Him.
We have to be willing to fail. We need to be willing to allow people to see the fullness of our journey. The great bits where we’re getting out of the boat and walking on water as well as the messy bits where we’re sinking and Jesus is saving us. This is what it means to die to self. Risking our physical, mental and emotional comfort for the sake of something bigger than ourselves. To be willing to attempt great things. Because love risks failure.
Following Jesus, is risky. Because it requires us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do. It requires us to love people that we wouldn’t normally love. To pursue the lost. To gather up the broken. To welcome the stranger. This is messy, risky stuff. Yet how tedious and empty would our lives be if we were to choose the safe option?
Risk inspires moments of wonder and delight. Without it we embrace the mundane. Has there ever been a moment of profound beauty, discovery, or triumph that didn’t involve risk? The risk of getting lost. The risk of a broken heart. The risk of the unknown. The risk of failure.
What is Jesus doing in your life, family, community, and workplace?
Are you willing to join Him in what He’s doing or are you waiting for Him to get back in the boat?
What are you willing to risk for the sake of His glory and seeing His love move powerfully in and through your life?
I’m stepping out of the boat.
How about you?
image credit: Walking on Water by David Mach