Hebrews 11 presents stories of people who walked by faith. They trusted God. They were risk-takers. Using a rating scale of 1-10, one being you may be crazy but I’m not and ten being sure I’ll try to tightrope walk that high voltage wire, how would you rate your willingness to take a risk? With the plethora of lawsuits out there it would seem that we live in a day that suggests that risk should never have to be part of living. Our restaurants must post their latest health department grade, our meds must list all possible side effects, and our favorite fast-food coffee must have a warning label to remind us that it is hot and we should be careful. All these are to minimize the risk of possible harm that may come our way even if the chance is slight. Risk, on a scale of 1-10 how would you rate yourself?
But life is full of risk. The word carries equal opportunity application. However, if you listen to some of the God only wants the best life for you now genre of preacher you might come away thinking that risk is not part of life for the truly faith-filled believer.
Enter two guys, Peter and John in Acts 4:1-21. As you take a moment to read their story, assess for yourself, on a scale of 1-10, how much risk were these two followers of Jesus Christ willing to take and what the end result was.
The early church lived in constant risk. Granted God brought in a great harvest of souls at Pentecost. As well, those first Christians were looked upon with favor by many (Acts 2:47). But at the same time we must not forget how those first believers were able to come into God’s family. Jesus Christ died for the very truth that these men and women were proclaiming; the truth that Jesus was both Lord and Christ. As a result, the religious leaders had no qualms about putting the Jerusalem Christians into their cross-hairs.
This is the story of Peter and John in Acts 4. They were coming off a great and undeniable miracle, the healing of the crippled beggar (Acts 3). Working off this miraculous act which drew a sizable crowd, Peter preached the Gospel, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He also reminded the people that it was because of their sin He died. This is where the risk came in. The religious leaders, including some who planned the crucifixion of Jesus, “were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (v.2). So they “seized Peter and John” and threw them in jail (v.3).
Why were Peter and John so willing to risk their lives? The answer is easy. First, they loved the Lord. Their lives had been totally transformed because of Jesus. As well, Jesus told them to go into all the world and be His witnesses and make disciples. Secondly, they wanted others to know Jesus as they did. And others did come to Christ despite the great possibility that it would cost them. Peter and John were arrested and still “many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand” (v.4). These two apostles more highly prized the people coming to Christ than they did their own lives. It was more than worth the risk.
This story is repeated today. Around the world believers are still being imprisoned and dying and the church is still growing. But what if it were left up to you or me? Are we willing to risk it all for the sake of Christ? Or, as it seems to be, have many believers have picked up on the no-risk mantra of our day.
But how can that be? Christians in our neighborhoods and communities do not live with near the risk that Peter and John faced that day. At most we might be laughed at or ribbed a bit. But when was the last time that you or someone you personally know were harmed or arrested for witnessing? Have the churches in our towns taken on a no-risk mentality when it comes to sharing the Gospel? I think the answer is yes. Am I being a bit judgmental? No, just looking at the facts. In a recent report, 97 out of 100 Christians will live their entire life having never shared the Gospel. Why? Could it be fear of risk-taking?
Back to Acts 4. “The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” (vv.5-7). These were some of the same men who plotted and carried out the murder of Jesus and Peter and John knew that having been at the home of the high priest during Jesus’ trial.
What did they do when asked a question that could have brought them to the same end as Jesus? Peter preached salvation in Christ alone (v.12) and that they killed the Christ, the Messiah (v.10). Risky? Absolutely. But Peter and John were ready to take the risk if it meant others could hear the good news.
This story ends well. Peter and John were threatened and commanded to no longer tell people the story of Jesus (v.18). To this Peter said he must obey God rather than men (v.19). He went on to say they had to tell for the story was too good not to share (v.20).
However, one day in their future both would suffer for Christ. Peter was nailed to a cross to die. John was sent to a Roman penal colony on an island called Patmos, a place that claimed the lives of most who quarried stone there.
May we be so bold today. No doubt the world is still hostile toward Christ; and no doubt people are still hungry to hear and ready to respond to His story.