Take great risks, make great sacrifices

Published 7:06 am Sunday, November 6, 2022

Chip Ingram wrote, “Good to Great in God’s Eyes: Ten Practices Great Christians Have in Common.” Two of those practices stood out for me: Take Great Risks and Make Great Sacrifices. This is where going from good to great gets harder.

My best friend in high school belonged to a Mormon church. I visited his church on a Friday night for a youth dance held in their church gym. My church didn’t have a gym or Friday night dances. I liked those two reasons so much, I was tempted to change faiths. Two good reasons to change. Right?

But the Mormons you and I usually see are young people wearing white dress shirts and ties, riding bicycles who knock on your door and want to come in and talk to you about their beliefs. I confess to not having much patience and usually told them: “I’m not interested.”

I once asked my friend, “Why does your church do that? Does that door-to-door evangelism work?”

He smiled and said, “No! Not many people come to our faith because a missionary visited them. But, after our missionaries sacrifice a year of knocking on doors and having them slammed in their face, their dedication to God becomes much stronger.”

Serving God can involve great risk and great sacrifices. But anything worth doing usually does.

Suppose you were diagnosed with a disease that in order to live you needed to go on a special diet. If you don’t diet, you would likely get sick and die. Would you do it? Suppose you are walking downtown, and someone threatens your child or grandchild. Would you risk your life to protect him/her?

When we’re truly devoted to someone or something, we’re willing to take risks and make sacrifices. If you want to know what you really love, look at how you sacrifice with your time, energy, money and dreams.

Paul wrote: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1)

Nothing consequential happens without risk or sacrifice. Abraham risked and sacrificed to pack up his bags and travel to the unknown. Moses risked and sacrificed everything to go back to Egypt. Esther risked her life to stand before the King and ask for help. Peter risked everything to stand before the crowd and boldly declare his faith. Paul was stoned and beaten many times as he preached.

One quote from the Good to Great book: “Where there’s no risk or sacrifice, there’s no faith; where there’s no faith, there’s no power or joy or intimacy with God.”

As Christians we are called to give it all for Christ. As the hymn proclaims: “I Surrender Some?” No, of course not. “I Surrender all! All to Jesus I surrender; all to him I freely give; I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live. I surrender – some? No! Never! “I Surrender All!”

I heard a message from Bishop Pereira in Cuba. During his time as Bishop the Methodist Church went from the verge of extinction to creating hundreds of new churches throughout Cuba. How did this miracle leading to thousands of transformed lives happen?

Bishop Pereira tells of a Communist Official who immediately started poking a finger in his chest and promised that within five years, his churches would disappear. Several years later, Bishop Pereira noticed that same communist official in the front row of one of his churches during a worship service. This same official who threatened to close every church in Cuba gave her testimony of how God changed her life.

People came to him wanting to be a pastor. His answer? “Go and start a church and then we will talk about you becoming a pastor.” Bishop Pereira smiled and said: “Here is the best part. They do it. They start a church and ask what to do next?”

Are the Communists allowing new church buildings? “No! There are only a few old church buildings left and there are many restrictions. Our churches are formed in homes, in fields or wherever Methodists can meet. But make no mistake. They are churches. They have life groups, study the Bible, worship with intensity and lives are being changed by Jesus Christ every day.”

Pereira pointed out: “Churches in America are too attached to their buildings. We miss opportunities to be the church, serving the community. Every church in America should have people who want to be pastors who could be starting churches within churches. They do not need buildings. They need encouragement through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“If we are being the church within our community, people will do more to serve our Lord, Jesus Christ. We can invite people to our homes: Form a Bible study or a prayer group.” Bishop Pereira added: “God can and will do miracles within our churches, but we must do our part.”

Bishop Pereira is an example of a church and people dedicated to taking great risks and making great sacrifices. He challenged us to move from belief to faith to action. If we believe, then we will have faith that Jesus will guide us. We will then boldly act on those beliefs as guided by the Holy Spirit.

Bishop Pereira ended his message with a poem written by a Sixth Grader Shannon Blair Poque:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

– Shannon Blair Poque

Larry E. Davies can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.