Thinking about Risk
Turn to Luke 21, because we’ll be going there in just a few minutes. But for the moment, follow this line of reasoning with me.
Question: What is risk? Answer: The potential of something adverse happening
Question: Can risk be eliminated? Answer: Risk cannot be completely eliminated; there is always some risk.
Question: If risk is the potential of bad happening, and the risk of something bad happening to us cannot be eliminated, then how do we determine risk? Answer: We would calculate how bad an outcome could be compared to the cost of preventing or mitigating the bad thing happening. We can think of it as a cost-benefit analysis.
Question: Do Christians who live by faith and not presumption have risk? Answer: No.
As Christians we have no risk because whatever that is done to us to work adversity for us, God turns to good. We will be impacted by adversity in this world of sin, but God will turn it to good. Whatever we endure in the power of Christ will work out in us a far more exceeding wight of glory. Non-Christians, however, have meaningful risk, because they are not in the covenant and God may or may not turn it to good. We know that God is for us (Psalm 56:9). But God is against the wicked (Psalm 7:11). Yet He has mercy upon the ignorant (Jonah 4:11, 2).
This is not to say we have no responsibility toward ourselves and others. We cannot say that since we are Christians, we can do anything and God will magically turn it into good for believers. God cannot bless presumption. But if we live by faith, and exercise the helps God gives us, we have no risk. No risk, that is, in the ultimate sense. We tend to think in the moment, the microsecond, the snapshot. God thinks in millennia, nay, on the billions and trillions time scale.
- Question: How does the Christian weigh the value of all things? Answer: Always in comparison to the value of gaining Christ. Gaining Christ means receiving the gift of eternal life. It places one on a different time scale. Before accepting God’s sacrifice for us, the length and quality of our life was measurable for most of us in double-digit years. But for one who has accepted Christ, who accepts His transforming work, life is now measured from birth to infinity. And so, the impacts of risk must be measured against also God’s working by grace.
Notice, we are not saying that Christians do not experience things we don’t want to experience. I’ve never once had a desire in my life to have a dentist drill my teeth. Have you? I’ve never once had a desire to have my bones broken. Have you? I never hoped to be in an automobile accident or receive a speeding ticket, or to experience a health crisis. Have you?
But is it an adverse event, is it bad, if something happens to me in the moment, but when God finishes with His providential development of everything involved in the situation, He brings good out of it for me or for someone else or for His kingdom?
No, it is not.
My life is in His hand. Unless I remove it from His hand, I am in His strong keeping. He will permit nothing to come to me that is not for my good.
Not a Hair Lost
Listen to what Jesus says.
You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My names’ sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls (Luke 21:16-19).
Friend, if you live by faith, you will be persecuted. Some will be killed for being a Christian, for refusal to renounce Christ. The death might be a very painful one. Jesus’ death was very painful. Perhaps yours will be too. But Jesus also said “Not a hair of your head shall be lost.”
In other words, when everything is over, when we see the whole video and not just a single snapshot moment, a single screen capture, the injuries we have suffered, the apparently final losses we experienced, will turn out to be no loss at all to us. Even a hair, the smallest and most inconsequential part of your body, smaller than a toe nail or a fingernail, will not be lost to the believer.
Are we Living by Faith?
Why don’t we live as if this were true? Because it means living by faith. And Many Christians, to our shame, do not practice living by faith very much. We practice living NOT by faith. We practice living by sight. Worse than this, we mostly practice living by impressions. We hear about a risk or a danger on the news. The colors, the moving pictures, the earnest tones of the news anchors, the moving colors that are the background of the video, the faces we have trained ourselves to trust, tell us whatever they tell us in promotion of the ideas the multi-million dollar megacorporations that own the channel make their machinery tell us. Remember, 90% of the news consumed by most Americans is owned by six, count them, just six, mega corporations. Today when the powers of state and media are touting diversity and inclusion, the news industry is almost a pure monoculture. They tell us what to think. Then most of us think that.
Now there is a new phenomenon called “Fact Checking.” If you put a comment on social media, on the internet, and it does not reflect what those six mega corporations want you to think, they add a note to what you have posted. They claim these notes have been researched and provided by nonpartisan, independent groups.
But let me assure you that many of the people running these giant news corporations have been captured by certain ideas which are the outgrowth of postmodernism. For example, the current thinking is that society is formed of systems of power and hierarchies, which decide what can be known and how; that objective truth is unattainable, and consequently, that culture is constructed by us, by humans, with zero intervention from God. Everything boils down to language, to what is said and how it is said. Who chooses this all-important language? The elites, the giant corporations. All is power relations. There is no truth, no right and wrong. All there is is what is constructed, mentally consumed, and accepted.
Be careful about your fact checkers if the people they work for believe that information is all about hierarchies of power. Freedom of speech is under attack in the west. Every attack on freedom of speech is actually a large attack. It is an attack on freedom of thought.
When someone controls every door and every window, they have a degree of real control over your thinking. The Holy Spirit warns us about these kinds of danger. So Paul said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Do not be conformed—formed with—this world—this worldview, this approach to life and what is meaningful in life. Instead of being formed with this world, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. How is the mind made new? Not by living by sight. Not by accepting a parade of experts, media personalities, and politicians. Rather, we are to be Christians, to live by faith and not presumption.
We have assumed, perhaps in true humility, that the experts presented to us really know what they are talking about, and that the politicians do what they do because they are honest men and women who have our best interests at heart. People are basically good. But this is an illusion. All people have biases. All people seek power in some form. People are corrupted, self-deceived, self-serving. You, as sincere Christians, are much more likely to think with honesty and clarity than television news and media personalities that need you to click on their stuff, or politicians who seek power, or corporations which seek to make money.
There are exceptions, true-hearted people mixed in here and there, but do not trust that there many exceptions. The rule should be to remember that megacorporations have many vested interests and the person who you listen to, who you watch, who you trust, is a tiny cog, a person with no power not to tell you what the megacorporation tells them to tell you.
Hear the inspired warning from Proverbs 22:3: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” And Proverbs 14:15: “The simple believes every word, but the prudent consider well his steps.” The prince of the power of the air has his FCC licenses all paid up and current.
Providence--Everything is a Snapshot in Time
Everything is a snapshot in time. Something terrible may happen to someone that in the immediate snapshot of time looks extremely adverse. But in the longer time frame, we see also how God uses the adverse event to bring good. Reality is not the moment; the moment is the illusion. How things feel or seem to weigh out in the moment is not the whole story. The whole story is in the longer term, not only the evil that Satan initiates, but the good that God brings into being in His working-out the triumph of good.
Did anything adverse happen to the apostle Paul? Paul experienced a long list of trials, including physical violence done him, incarceration, beatings, being chained, attacked by mobs, and at last, death by state execution. And yet, he said, “I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
Paul is not looking at the snapshot; he is looking at the long term. He is looking at the video, with its numerous snapshots in time, rather than the one-dimensional, single-moment snapshot in time. This is how he could also say that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“All things” is not hyperbole. This is not exaggeration. God is able to make all things work out to good for us. Adversity is an impossibility. That is, in the end, when the entirety of an incident, a matter, a situation, is taken into account, we will not be able to say it was bad for us, it was adverse to us or ultimately against us. Rather, we will be able to say, God was faithful to us, God did not forsake us. The totality of all that happens to us, seemingly good things and seemingly bad things, works out in the end to His glory and to our good.
Paul said that everything paled in value beside gaining Christ. So Paul was teflon; he was invincible; he was I God’s keeping and nothing could harm him in the long term. Are you and I as clear minded, as resolute? Do we have our priorities in order that well?
How can we Assess Risk?
How can we assess various things? We can ask three simple questions:
- What can happen?
- How likely is it to happen?
- If it does happen, what would the consequences be? I could slip in my bathtub, crack my head on the bathtub or on a cement floor, and die from the resulting concussion. Actually, statistics show that in America about 335 people die in a bathtub or hot tub drowning incident every year. That works out to odds of roughly 1/1,000,000 for each one of us. However, in 70% of these cases alcohol was involved. Don’t get into the tub with liquor or drugs and your odds change dramatically. There is 2.5 times more risk also if you are over 70. Tub deaths are highly avoidable if you don’t approach one, if you don’t drink, and if you don’t turn 70.
What about death by lightning strike? In the year 2019 there were 20 such deaths in the US. If I calculated this correctly, that is 0.00000006 percent risk (1 in 16,750,000). (Unless you are white: 89 percent of lightning strike deaths are to white people.)
How about traffic fatality? 2018 figures show your odds of death by automobile to be 0.0001118.
Deaths do happen. They’ve been occurring since Adam and Eve sinned. Unless Jesus comes in our lifetime, there is basically a 100% chance you will die. The closest representation we can make about death is that it is like sleep.
Let me ask you this. Is it your hope that, when your time does come to die, that God will use that event in some way to spiritually help your loved ones? I’m sure that that is your hope. Who is the best person to control the timing for that event? You, or God. God is the best person, and, He is in control of the timing already. Brother, sister, let me ask you this. If you live by faith and not presumption, do you believe that God watches over you?
Hear again Romans 8:35-37:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
My brother, my sister, we are more than conquerors in our afflictions, not by avoiding our afflictions. We grow as we face our afflictions. We grow as we seek God in prayer and in His Word for help to know what to do. We cannot live sterile lives and expect to be strong.
By the way, a strong evidence we are living by sight and not by faith is trusting in these statistics. Let’s suppose that all these statistics are accurate. Fine. But if our lives are in God’s hand, then are our lives calculations of odds, or each life a painting to show the universe what faith looks like? Good Christians die in common ways every day. It is never because God forgot them or neglected them. Life includes possibilities for adverse things happening. But if we live by faith and not by presumption, we do not even have real risk. Gd will work it all out to our help and His glory.
Who is our Health Protector?
Some people today have come to think that the government, the state, is to keep us from danger. Where do they get this idea? It is not a Bible idea. It is not an idea found in the writings of Ellen White or of the Adventist pioneers. It is not an idea found in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The idea doesn’t even begin until the so called progressive era in the 1890s. Because laborers were being exploited in unsafe working conditions, the government eventually began to step in and laws were created to protect workers. These laws probably did some good, but it was a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous slippery slope. A government that is big enough to enforce such laws is big enough to make and enforce bad laws just as well as to make and enforce good laws.
Jesus is our Health Protector. He designed our bodies, and that means our immune system and the facts that result from healthful living. He is for you.
There is one more line of thought we should look at. Living by faith and not by presumption is important for our character development. Why hasn’t God ended this great controversy war between good and evil yet? Because as Job’s life said something about God, so do our lives say something about God. God is not waiting for the world to become more wicked; He is waiting for believers to live by faith and not presumption. We have not represented Jesus well. We have lived as though by sight, as though there were no hope in God and all the edicts handed down to us are truly for our good, when sadly there is very good reason to believe that other very fundamental purposes stand just behind the scene.
The angels are watching us. They are looking to see whether we are living by faith or kowtowing to fear.
Current Global Renegotiation of Personal Liberty
Let me tell you what I believe. Right now, right this very moment, there is a vast global attempt to renegotiate personal liberty. There is an attempt to take away freedoms and liberties that for the last 250 years have been understood as individual liberties, and, to hand these liberties and freedoms over to the state. This renegotiation is under way this very moment.
But, you say, there is no negotiation taking place. They are simply taking our freedoms away before our eyes. Where is the negotiation in that? The answer is, if you let them do it, you have accepted their renegotiation. More power to the state, less liberty to the individual. And in just a few years or months the renegotiation can be complete. Until they come after more liberties, and then more, and then more. This will not stop, you see. Because when you are determined to be god but you are not god, you can never stop. Satan could never stop trying to control others once he decided that he must be in control. It works the same for angels as for humans. We just aren’t God. We never will be God. Controlling others is not God’s plan for us.
But let me warn you that if we supinely submit to whatever others demand of us, we are doing them grave spiritual harm, for then we--we Christians--are setting the example to surrender to government. Surrender our critical thinking faculties to them. Surrender God-given liberties to them. Let them do our thinking for us. This is very dangerous.
When we stand side by side with them and live by sight rather than faith, we teach them that Christianity is non-essential and that faith has no bearing on power structures and hierarchies of power. We teach them to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.
Friends, refusal to risk is refusal to live. It is refusal to live by faith and not by presumption. What would have happened when, after Satan carried Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus thrown Himself down at Satan’s suggestion? Would the angels have caught Him? Or, would it have been presumption?
Is presumption a sin? Would the angels have caught Him? No, the angels would not have caught Him. This would have ended with His horrible decease on the pavement.
Jesus did not have to trust Satan’s interpretation of His word. He dare not! He had nothing to prove to him. And we have nothing to prove by trusting in the edicts and the power plays and the misuses of power of men. We must be Christians and act for ourselves. We must beware others who want to show their power by triumphing in our obedience to them.
- Question: What is risk? Answer: The potential of something adverse happening
- Question: Can risk be eliminated? Answer: Risk cannot be completely eliminated; there is always some risk.
- Question: If risk is the potential of bad happening, and the risk of something bad happening to us cannot be eliminated, then how do we determine risk? Answer: We would calculate how bad an outcome could be compared to the cost of preventing or mitigating the bad thing happening. We can think of it as a cost-benefit analysis.
- Question: Do Christians who live by faith and not presumption have risk? Answer: No. As Christians we have no risk because whatever that is done to us to work adversity for us, God turns to good.
- Question: How does the Christian weigh the value of all things? Answer: Always in comparison to the value of gaining Christ. Gaining Christ means receiving the gift of eternal life.
Fremont MI SDA 2020-12-05
Muskegon MI SDA 2020-12-05