Pastor Kyle McIver
How do you feel about taking risks? Perhaps the first area that comes to mind is finances and investing. Or maybe it’s the risk of asking someone out on a date. Or the risk of starting a home remodeling project that will challenge your skills… or playing a sport for the first time without much confidence that you know what you’re doing.
Over the last year, I think that many of us, whether at the local, state, or national level, have become risk-averse. We simply don’t want to take risks. The unknown is frightening... We are afraid of that which we cannot control and therefore choose the safest option before us.
And tonight, I want to gently push back on this line of thinking. It is my observation right now that many people are afraid. Specifically, that some are afraid to go back to “normal”, to their life the way it was before we were thrown into a global pandemic nearly 15 months ago. Now, I recognize the risk I myself am taking here crossing into the political sphere for a moment, but to be honest, I find much of the messaging we are getting from those who are in power to be unhelpful. Our elected leaders and those who are looked upon as experts when it comes to navigating life in a pandemic have evolved their positions to the point where risk when it comes to COVID-19 is not permissible. They’re telling us that we should not, even cannot, risk it.
Now what I’m not about to say here is that COVID-19 isn’t something to be taken seriously. Some demographics certainly do have higher risk factors when it comes to this virus, and we should apply wisdom in the way we assess our situations and make decisions. But that being said, the idea that we cannot assume any degree of risk because COVID-19 is out there... is absurd. And I mean that.
Think back to your pre-pandemic self for a moment. How often were you afraid to go to the grocery store? To set up a play date with a few other moms? To share a meal with friends out at a restaurant or in their home? Rarely, if ever, right?
But how much more in control of your life and circumstances were you then compared to now? You weren’t! The uncomfortable truth about life is that risk is everywhere! We are in control of so much less than we like to think. I’m assuming that each of you got in a vehicle and drove here tonight, which is a risk - do you think of it that way? Probably not, because driving is worth the risk. Being able to get to work and to church and to the grocery store is needful, and worth getting out on the roads.
Going down the stairs is a risk! What happens if you trip and tumble down to the bottom?! But it’s worth it to leave your house or apartment so that you can get out and live your life. There are a thousand risks from small to great that we simply assume every day of our lives. We don’t even think about them because that’s normal.
Risk is unavoidable. And it turns out that the way we think about risk is also theologically revealing.
Here’s what I mean: you are not in control. I am not in control. The government and the CDC are not in control. None of us are! Each of us is small in the grand scale of the universe that God created and now sustains. And if you thought you were in control, if you thought that you lived a life with little risk… that you’d manufactured your own safety before a pandemic landed, then honestly, that position was either ignorance or unbelief. We simply cannot mitigate all the risks in our life. We are not in control.
But God is in control. It is God’s control and sovereign care that has brought you safely thus far, and it is only God’s control and sovereign care that will sustain you, moment by moment, for as long as you have left in this life. Hasn’t he already numbered our days? What do we gain by worrying? By living in fear? Recognizing risk, embracing the fact that you are not in control, it is actually a pathway to joy. Think about it: what is there in life that is worthwhile but doesn’t involve risk? Loving others is a risky business. Getting married is risky. Having kids is risky. Following Jesus is risky! You pour your life and your love and your energy and your resources into people and passions that matter and you do not know how it will turn out! But you can walk by faith. You can boldly hold onto God’s promises in the face of all of life’s risks, and walk in simple obedience wherever God leads you.
So now I want to leave you all with a question. I don’t know what is happening in your hearts. I don’t know what motivates the decisions that you make. But I do want to help guard you against being afraid. I want to help you clarify whether you are walking in wisdom, or straying off into fear. So here’s my question: is fear keeping you from obeying any of God’s commands? From loving his people, gathering together, serving those in need, or making disciples... is fear keeping us from obeying any of God’s commands, or the commitments we have made to this church?