Life is a risk!
Love is a risk!
Change is a risk!
Risk changing our lives because of love or for the sake of love, is a risk!
It requires us to be vulnerable, to be patient and to trust. To live fearlessly, to love each other regardless of the risk of rejection and heartache, takes courage. But the only way to really experience love in life is to be brave and let people in.
When one chooses to “live”, When one chooses to love someone, one opens their arms to them. When you stand in the open, with both arms wide open, we are exposed and vulnerable for attack. But with the opportunity to trust comes the ability to risk experiencing something greater than all of our “what-ifs.”
In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul writes an extraordinary prayer for the church in Ephesus, asking that they be rooted and established in the love of Jesus. Paul explains that the more we trust God and let Him in, the better we understand how deep His love is for us. His unending grace teaches us to love like Jesus, to give grace to those we consider hard to love and to fearlessly take more risks.
In this day and age, It is a scary thought to trust God with our hearts. Risk being vulnerable with God and trusting His plans over ours takes a big leap of faith. It feels like an impossible risk, but because God is perfect and loves perfectly, it’s no comparison to any other relationship we can have. God always comes through on His promises. His plans were made out of a powerful, overwhelming love for us, His risk to love us, His plans, are much more than we could imagine.
Living and Loving fearlessly are bold risks for anyone to be taking in these days of pandemic, and trusting God is even more exceptionally courageous, but we are loved, we were made to live. Be brave, because the risk is worth the reward.
As we look to today’s devotional text from the Gospel of Luke, Reflect upon:
- What’s the biggest relational risk we’ve ever taken? What’s one good thing that came out of that experience?
- What’s one area of our lives where it’s hard for us to trust God? What are we most afraid of?
- What’s one way we can take a step of faith and trust God in that area today?
Luke 19:1-10New Living Translation
Jesus and Zacchaeus
19 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man[a] came to seek and save those who are lost.”
The Word of God for the Children of God. In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
For years car manufactures have been telling us to change our oil after so many thousand miles. Some recommend every 3,000, some every 5,000, and if you have the synthetic oil, it was even suggested that we could risk up to 25,000 miles. The one thing commonality to all of them is a recognition that at some point a change of oil is going to be needed to protect our engines from failure.
So, How long do we think one should go before examining if one needs to risk changing anything in their heart? When was the last time we actually risked genuinely making an intentional change to our hearts and within our souls?
Now for those of us who are believers, the heart is actually the part of our mind that decides what we are going to do about our behavior. When we say, invite Jesus into your heart, we’re not talking about putting a wee little man inside of our heart. We are talking about wrestling with decisions we have made and have yet to make. We may know what we did already, we may know what we want to do tomorrow, but because of our relationship to Jesus, we are not free to do it.
For instance, if somebody does us wrong, in our heart our first response is to want to get even. But if Christ is in your heart, he says chill out, and let me show you how to handle this. We must first risk letting go of our anger so we you can see straight. Jesus is looking into our eyes; “Now let me handle it from here!”
When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we are giving Him permission to change our hearts, to change our way of thinking and our way of acting and reacting. How many of you know, there are some parts of our hearts that we do not want to ever have changed? Ever made up your mind you were not going to speak to somebody for a certain number of hours or days just to pay them back for what they did or did not do. That’s a heart condition that we do not want changed.
Do we realize some of us do not want to risk letting go of these “untouchable” places in our hearts for Jesus Christ. When we think about a changed heart, we have to think in terms of the whole heart. What would we do if we went to get an oil change in our car and the guy changed the oil, and the filter, but was short on new oil. So he tells you, I put in three quarts of new oil before I ran out. “I just put back some of the dirty oil back in to fill it up completely but you don’t have to pay me for that.” Are you going to say thanks, I really appreciate it?
Sometimes we pray to be drawn closer to God, and yet at the same time we insist on leaving in some of that dirty oil in our hearts. What “dirty oil” do we carry around right now? Are we going to be brave enough to let it go and admit to God we need another change today. Or will we settle for less than what God has in mind for us. Will we drive out of here today protecting all our dirty oil?
These verses from Luke’s narrative reveal Jesus’ willingness to risk being uncomfortable. It was his idea to walk to His crucifixion and His idea to walk with His disciples through Jericho, knowing exactly what he was leading his disciples and followers into. Tax Collector Zacchaeus with his own limitations, risked everything to get “above the crowds,” to “climb the Sycamore Tree.” It is also apparent that this risk taking behavior was rewarded greatly when Jesus called him down from the tree with the prospect of redemption and salvation. He also experienced the saving power of Jesus when “trust” overwhelmed him.
As we practice stepping out and taking a risk, we too will develop more tolerance for the unknown. When we treat risk as a learning opportunity and we give ourselves permission to fail, we can gain valuable insights to help us to succeed in our tomorrows. It takes a great deal of courage to climb above from the crowd, risk going against the prevailing attitudes, ideas or trends of society.
You’ve got to understand this about Zacchaeus. He was rich and he was hated by his own people. Zacchaeus was a Jew. In those days for a Jew to be a tax collector made him both a thief and a traitor. He was a thief because tax collecting was a job that went to the highest bidder. He could charge whatever fee he wanted to collect taxes. If your tax bill was $500, he could add on another $500 collection fee. He’s the ultimate role model for all the bankers and credit card lenders who charge you for late fees when it cost them nothing to get the check a day later.
It takes great courage to risk being authentic, knowing some people might not appreciate, support or accept you. However, those who are truly authentic are a breath of fresh air. Our risk of authenticity can open the door for others who are trying to find the courage to break away from the status quo. When we are each willing to risk being authentic, we make room for Jesus to be authentic with us and in turn for others to be authentic with us and that is exactly the moment when life-giving relationships are given birth and Father, Son and Holy Spirit given permission to happen, to abide, to grow, branch out to bear good fruit! (John 15:1-8, 9-17)
- Today, consider taking a risk to ask God to give you the faith and courage to risk being a wee bit uncomfortable in order to learn, grow, gain valuable insights.
- Today, do the Zacchaeus thing, Pray for the courage to risk being authentic, to finding a tree, in order to make room for life-giving relationships with Jesus.
- Today, risk doing the Zacchaeus thing, risk overcoming your limitations, climb the branches of the “Sycamore Tree” to get above the crowds, Let Jesus see you!
- Today, risk doing the Zacchaeus thing, respond to Jesus’ invitation, follow Jesus into your “home” (John 14:19-24). Risk everything which has ever been or ever will be, for all your God given tomorrows, for surely “thy Salvation is at hand!”
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Let us risk a Prayer,
Dear God, please give me the desire to find and the insight to discover my God-given life purpose and goals and, with your help, the courage and determination to pursue and reach them, and do so for your glory. May they always be in harmony with your will and be a part of what you are doing in the world today. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.”