Posted on Sunday, Jul 12, 2020 by Scott Savage
Jesus isn’t primarily concerned with your safety.
I know this might seem surprising or maybe even offensive to some. Many of us were raised in environments where we heard the cliché “the safest place in the whole world is the center of God’s will.” We were raised with prayers about hedges of protection, traveling mercies, and “God, please keep them safe.”
Once I picked up on this theme, I started listening to other people’s prayers more intentionally and my own prayers more reflectively, because our prayers are windows into our values and our mindsets.
Safety isn’t a bad thing to pray for occasionally, but it’s a sad thing to live for perpetually. When I stand before Jesus on judgment day, “I was really safe” is not the phrase I want to share with my Creator. Safety makes for a good wish, but a terrible life goal.
We get confused into thinking that our primary concern, safety, is God’s primary concern when it’s not. Jesus isn’t primarily concerned with yours or my safety; He’s concerned with our surrender and the advancement of His Kingdom.
The men and women whose stories are showcased in the Bible embraced risks and accepted dangers in their pursuit of God’s will in their lives.
One of the best examples of this is the Apostle Paul. Paul pulled no punches in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 when he described what following God’s calling led him into throughout his ministry. He tells the church at Corinth,
“I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys.
I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.”
Paul treated his adversity as a badge of honor and a sign that he was a genuine apostle, while those who were “false apostles” had not endured what he had.
Another incredible account of this kind of boldness comes in 1 Samuel 14. Jonathan and his armor-bearer were scouting out an outpost of their enemies, the Philistines. In verse 9, we read that Jonathan set up a way of discerning God’s will that positioned the more dangerous path as the one God-ordained. Jonathan tells his armor-bearer, “If they say to us, ‘Stay where you are or we’ll kill you,’ then we will stop and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come on up and fight,’ then we will go up. That will be the Lord’s sign that he will help us defeat them.”
When the moment came, the Philistines challenged Jonathan and his armor-bearer to come up to them. So they did! They killed 20 Philistines and instilled a great panic in the rest of the Philistine army.
In these instances and many others, following God’s will means moving away from safety towards exposure, demanding greater trust in God than ever.
Some have called a relationship with Jesus, “the great adventure.” When I was growing up, there was a wildly popular song on Christian radio by that name. If following God’s will for our lives is an adventure, it’s not a tame one.
This is why I find it fascinating that Dictionary.com defines adventure as “An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” Adventures are “typically hazardous.” If following Jesus is an adventure, then it also means that following Jesus is “typically hazardous.” Before you balk, go back and read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Read the stories of how the apostles died after Jesus ascended into heaven. Read about the places where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world today. In all of those places, you’ll find the same thing. Following Jesus is not easy, safe, or comfortable.
Yet in that adventure, followers of Jesus are finding meaning, purpose, and joy, knowing they’re filled with the Spirit and exactly where God wants them to be. They know the truth expressed in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. When Susan asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan, an archetype of Christ, is safe, Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe?...‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
I wonder how you might answer these two questions.
- If you listened to your prayers, what would you hear?
- If you created your own filter to discern God’s will like Jonathan did, where would safety fit in, and where would adventure fit in?
Take some time to reflect on those questions and ask God to help you be okay with not always being safe. Then invite a friend or two you trust to discuss those reflections with the next time you are together.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer who believes he has the best last name ever. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He is the creator of the Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com.