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Risk-Taking: Holy Investment Challenge
Luke 19:12-27
targeted to college and career

Doing risky business with

  1. Our opportunity to be students
              Those who go off to college often find themselves in a different life stage than the rest of us who are workin, building marriages, and raising children.  They have the opportunities to build close friendships (how many say their life friends were made in college), study academics with vast resources around them, to talk late into the night.  Examples of those who have taken advantage of this include a trash outreach in one of the biggest dorms in the nation.  “We are Christians who just wanted to serve in a small way.  Would you like us to take out your trash?”  Some wanted to pay them, others gave them even more trash, but by the end of the night four joined them to see what they were about.
  2. Our money and possessions
              John Ortberg wrote a book titled When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back in the Box.  What do you win that you get to keep?  We need to invest what we have before it all goes back into the box, before we leave this earth, before the Master returns.  A college friend of the speaker’s barely had enough to pay rent.  But whenever JP would come upon some cash he would immediately celebrate by spending it with a friend.  He’d want to play tennis with the speaker so JP would use the money to buy a racquet.  He bought a television set for his roommate.  He’d give (not sell back) his books to incoming students.  And sure enough, there would always be enough by the end of the month.  A couple in their thirties wrote the speaker a $10,000 check because they believed God’s work through his ministry and wanted to invest in that.  A group in Harvard donated $20 each and then used that combined amount to serve their classmates on campus with free coffee during finals week.  The speaker himself, at his initial job, would hold a raffle at his desk to give away free stuff.  Coworkers would congregate around his desk and eventually they built personal bonds.
  3. Our social networks
             Instead of sticking to the same subjects (e.g. weather, daily routine, television shows), we need to risk conversations.  The speaker said that one time the Spirit prompted him to ask his nonbelieving roommate about God.  “Anybody but him!  He’s my roommate!  I have to live with him!”  But eventually he finally asked, “What do you think about Jesus?”  “I’m glad you asked.  I was just thinking about the time I had this near-death experience in a car crash.  I told God if he saved me I would start seeking him.  I went to church for a little while but eventually stopped….”
  4. Time
              We start out all the same, as the parable demonstrates.  Instead of imitating the attitude of the third servant, who knew the minas weren’t going to be his soon anyway and thus did not pay much attention to it, we need the attitude of Schlinder in Schlinder’s List.  At the end he still realized that he had not done all that he could have (e.g. his pin and car).  “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”  Being trustworthy in a small matter, the first servant was given more.  The command is to invest (not to make as much as possible). 

What prevents us from risk taking?

  • Fear (of the Master, of what others think, of failure, of a language barrier..).  “Do not fear” is mentioned 366 times in the Bible, perhaps due to our cowardliness in investing what God’s given us?
  • Asian adverseness for risk.  We recall what our parents tell us essentially: “We took those risks so you won’t have to.”  We’re encouraged to keep a low profile so as to not make waves. 

Pastor Dick asked what we thought of this idea:  He would give everyone in the congregation $5 (financial risk for the leaders) and ask us to give it to the kingdom in some way (social risk for us congregants).  Maybe we want to take someone out, maybe we could pool the money and do something bigger.

Middle of Nowhere: Mongolia 2002 – 2006
I Kings 19:1-19
targeted to the English congregation

Elijah’s Gobi Desert experience:

  • Beersheba is a desert
  • he left his servant behind
  • he made an additional day’s journey deeper into the desert
  • broom tree is only about ten feet high
  • suicidal

Speaker’s desert experience

  • sixth and eighteenth months were the hardest
  • strained marriaged
  • declared he’d buy plane tickets back to the States
  • issues unresolved from the States were brought up in Mongolia

Our own dry isolation experience

  • Quarterlife transition.  We moved away to attend college and miss the familiar community we had at home.  We’ve moved back and find everything different.
  • Family transition.  We recently became engaged, married, had children….
  • Tragedy.  A loved one is severely ill or has died.  No one understands.  We’ve experienced loss and disappointment.  “Where are You, God?”
  • ‘Dry’ spiritual life.  The spiritual connection with God is not felt.

Four stages of desert life:

  1. Stripping process.  Elijah, by leaving his servant behind, he was declaring that he quit his job of being a prophet for God.  There appeared to be external successes but he still felt like a failure inside.  There was the incredible demonstration by God on the altar and yet Jezebel is still unrepentant and wants him dead.  Victory after victory and yet there is still failure. 
  2. Wrestling with God (v. 10).  We complain to God.  “I’ve done all this for You, and there’s nothing still.  It’s unfair!”  The critical decision comes down to this:  Do you give up on God, or go deeper with God?  Coming to this point is a given, but it is especially keenly felt among leaders.  The only question is WHEN (not if) this point will come.  Horeb, the mountain of God, is actually only a seven-days journey from Beersheba, yet it took Elijah the “long time” of forty days, probably because he was wandering and wrestling with God.  Note that though Elijah gave up, God did not give up on Elijah.  God helped Elijah continue to wrestle.
  3. Intimacy with God.  “Angel” in the text means a messenger from God.  This can be a human being who is doing God’s work, or simply feeling the presence of God.  In other words, God doesn’t always come “supernaturally.”  Intimacy is God meeting us at a time of great need.  Sometimes you wonder if it was right that you moved, that you were supposed to be here.  The place where you are now is not a mistake but the very place where God has brought you to meet Him.  Elijah didn’t run away to Horeb; God brought Elijah to Horeb.  And then God asks, “What are you doing here?” (v. 9).  Why did God bring you here?
  4. Transformation and release
    1. From self-seeking confidence to dependence on God and others.  In verse 14, Elijah speaks as if he is the only hope for God’s redemption of Israel.  For the speaker, he was doing pretty well in the States.  But in Mongolia, the children made fun of his since he couldn’t speak Mongolian.  It was quite clear that God would be doing the brunt of the work there.
    2. From being a lone ranger to a community participant.  We think we’re all alone, very unique, but we’re not. 
    3. From an old identity to a new identity.  Other Biblical examples include Moses and even Jesus.  Moses was a prince but had to go into the desert before returning as God’s prophet.  Jesus went into the desert for forty days and forty nights.
    4. Only then did God told Elijah what to do next.

Practical suggestions for going through the desert:

  • Be honestThis is so hard!  Especially for us, with our emotions.  We need to admit that we have an issue with God.  We need to bring our burning questions to God.
  • Determine ahead of time to go deep with GodOur temptation is to seek a thing, an action, another person to fill the loneliness and void.  That’s what the Israelites did by making the golden calf.
  • Rest with the other 7,000 (v. 18).  If you don’t know who else is in a similar situation as you, maybe your pastor would know and bring you two together.  If you can’t discern God’s voice, ask another fellow believer to help you hear God’s Word and see why you are going through this desert.  Don’t wait; initiate.
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