Majoring in Life
Learn the difference between wrong risks and right risks, and then be willing to take the right risks.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 12: Wrong Risks, Right Risks
(Living dangerously for all the right reasons)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
My youth group was having a scavenger hunt, and we had a list of junk to bring back to the church, everything from teddy bear to lawnmower. Anyone with a vehicle became a team captain. First team to finish the list won.
I was a captain.
And I had a Camaro. Wide tires and a hot 305 under the hood. Five of us crammed into my car and took off. Fishtailing through the gravel, I nearly sideswiped a van. I got around it, who cares how. Now everyone could suck our dust.
We rocketed to my place, loaded up, and scrambled back, lawnmower sticking out of the trunk like a half-closed jack-knife. Using a back road, I hit ninety MPH, trashing the limit by fifty, looking to see if my teammates were scared. It seemed like great fun.
Then came the stoplight. We were a quarter mile away when it turned yellow. I didn't touch the brake. We'd wasted too much time at my place. We needed to make this light. Too bad I had to make a left turn.
The light turned red half an hour before we reached it.
I stomped on the gas, then hit the brakes and cranked the steering wheel. My tires, screeching in protest, fought to grab the asphalt. But cars don't do lefties while speeding. I pushed the brake to the floor.
A flush of panic attacked me. A lamppost rushed for the passenger door. This beautiful car was about to wreck. Worse still, some of us would get hurt.
Great fun? Not even.
Two wheels tapped the curb and it was over. We drove on to our church, laughing nervously, arriving in second-to-last place.
Coming to My Senses: Why Did I Do That?
Wrong risk. Stupid risk. A risk I'm embarrassed I took.
As guys we want to flex our muscles, make our mark, show the world we exist. But we sure pick weird and dangerous ways to go about it sometimes. There's a football player from my hometown who now lives in a wheelchair. On a dare he tried to smash open a steel door—helmet first. Experimenting with drugs at the time didn't help.
I hurt for him—and wonder why I didn't end up like him.
But wrong risks aren't only a guy problem. A museum once had a loaded shotgun on display, pointed at the viewer, set to fire sometime in the future. People lined up by the hundreds for the cheap thrill of smiling at death.
Then there's the whole dark world of initiation rites: new members closed up in a coffin for unknown lengths of time, or forced to strip while being beaten with whips. (This happens in both fraternities and sororities.)
One initiate was blindfolded, then tied to a set of train tracks. When the train came, he had no idea he was on an unused side rail. He died of a heart attack while the train passed by. I think they made him a posthumous member. Great.
Not every fraternity or sorority is evil, but many—better still, most—are. As a Christian, enter with great caution. Whether it's an extreme sport that's gone too extreme or an invitation to trash the dorm on Halloween night, wrong risks are never as rewarding as they appear at first glance. More often than not, they're painful. Proverbs says, "Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools" (19:29). And even if you don't pay the earthly consequences, like a broken leg or experiencing the inside of a police car, you earn yourself a blemished conscience before God.
It's not worth the risk.
Right Risks: God's Glory Is the Goal
If you do something wild just for the head rush, you need to wonder if God is in it. He didn't give us life to waste it on selfish thrills. But God does want our lives to be exciting. He delights in seeing his children be bold and fearless for him
Like Stephen, stoned for his faith, praying for his enemies' forgiveness, too bold to keep silent. He took a risk, told those who hated Jesus they were wrong—and died for his stand. Jesus was so thrilled by this display of holy bravery, he was standing, arms open wide, ready to receive Stephen's soul when it finally left this cruel planet (Acts 7:54-60).
Then there's Dorr Granger, my missionary partner. One night he was returning to his University of Michigan dorm after leading a Bible study. Suddenly a half dozen gorillas from the U of M football team jumped from a second story balcony and surrounded him.
"Hey, Granger, you too good for us? How come you don't party with us anymore?"
These guys were a little high and very agitated. Don had a choice: start partying or get praying. He prayed. And while he prayed, he told them about Jesus, the friend who made life better than any party he'd ever been to. When he finished, the gorillas nodded, stood aside, and let Don go home untouched.
“That guy's got a cool head, man.”
Of all the scary things you could do, telling people about Jesus Christ is definitely a risk, but a high and noble one. Go for it. When you first start, you may say dumb things and make mistakes. That's okay. God sees your heart. With time he'll mix wisdom with your boldness.
And you'll talk about your Savior more than ever.
A Risk I'm Glad I Took: Wonderfully Wild
I stopped to help a truckful of men with a slow leak in their tire. They needed a pump, and I had one. With the pump puttering away, I noticed the bed of their truck was piled with empty beer cans.
I picked one up. I still can't believe what came out of my mouth.
"See this, guys?" I began, holding the can in the air. "God's Word teaches that all drunks will face punishment in a horrible place called hell." Ouch. Did I say that?
I went on. "And I'm no better. I'm as much a sinner as any of you." I shared with them a little of my own foolish adventures in alcohol. Heads nodded, mixed with smiles.
I went on to tell them about the One who loved them—loved them to death.
They still like their beer. But Mike has asked me for a Bible. And Ray would like to hear more.
Sharing Jesus is a risk that never grows old, never loses its thrill.
It's a risk worth taking.