RISEN!: Week 2
“The Jesus Who Calls You To Stop Playing It Safe” 
“Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” —John 14:12 
“‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
‘Come,’ he said. 
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” —Matthew 14:28–29
Today is the second message in a five message series where we are focusing on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Last week we took a look at the cross and realized that once we put our faith in what Jesus has done for us, we discover redemption, a relationship, followed by responsibility. In today’s message we are going to focus on one aspect of that responsibility, the idea that we need to stop playing it safe. 

There is a new idol in America. It’s not one of the usual suspects—sex, drugs, or materialism. This new idol is so powerful and pervasive that it can dominate your decisions and determine your destiny. People who succumb to it see their dreams discarded, their hearts shrunken, their faith diminished, and their growth stunted. Its victims live with shriveled souls. 
What is this idol? The idol of safety.
Americans have grown up obeying signs posted everywhere: Safety First! 
A pastor named Scott Dudley noted in a sermon how, over the last thirty years, we have created the most risk-averse society in history. We are the most seat-belted, bike-helmeted, air-bagged, kneepad-wearing, private-schooled, gluten-freed, hand-sanitized, peanut-avoiding, sunscreen-slathering, hyper-insured, massively medicated, password-protected, valet-parked, security-systemed, inoculated generation in history—and all it has done is make everyone more afraid of everything.
I’m not talking about taking risks for risk’s sake, but I believe this new safety idol is destroying our faith.
Most Christians don’t serve.
Why? It might not be safe!
Most Christians don’t dream great dreams.
Why? It might not be safe!
Most Christians don’t share their faith or take a stand.
Why? It might not be safe!
Most Christians don’t tithe or give sacrificially.
Why? It might not be safe!
Most Christians don’t break habits, take risks, build relationships, or have adventures . . .
Why? All for one reason: It might not be safe!
Have you ever received one of those direct-mail envelopes in the mail? Stamped on the outside are words like “Your Invitation to Adventure!”
You think, Awesome! What’s in here? A trip down the Amazon? Hang-gliding lessons? An invitation to the Oval Office? A safari in Africa? Not a chance. Usually the “invitation to adventure” is just a packet of coupons for stores at the local mall.

Now, if you’re looking for more out of life than a trip to Target . . . 
If you refuse to believe that the ultimate goal in life is slowly walking up to your grave and safely falling in . . . 

If you want more on your tombstone than the phrase “What a Relief—Nothing Bad Happened” . . . 

. . . then this message is for you.

Let’s take a look at four price tags of playing it safe, 

Price tag #1 – Playing it safe – Limits our Impact
Price tag #2 – Playing it safe – Shrinks Our Faith
Price tag #3 – Playing it safe – Stunts Our Growth
Price tag #4 – Playing it safe – Shrivels Our Hearts
Playing it safe will limit your impact, and it will also send you down the road to stagnation, unrealized potential, and unfulfilled dreams.
When I arrived at Damariscotta Baptist Church, seven years ago, our Trustee meetings were spent figuring out how to keep the doors open. It took time, but eventually I was able to help the Trustees take their eyes of the “bottom line,” and put them on God. We prayerfully asked God what He wanted us to do with even the little money He had given us. What we discovered was our finances have always been there when we needed them. The doors remain open because we didn’t “play it safe.” Here is a list of just a few of the things we have accomplished. 
We have solar panels that generate electricity and will in just a few years, we will own and no longer have to pay for the electricity for not only what is used by the church but also for the parsonage. 
We have rebuilt the roof on the southern side of the sanctuary to place the solar panels upon. That roof will outlast most of us. 
We have put a new roof on the education building. 
Every window has been replaced in our buildings to help with our fossil fuel consumption. 
Take a look at our new kitchen, the new rug and stairs in the narthex. 
The new entrance on the south side of the church.
All of these structural improvements, because we didn’t play it safe with the money in our account. 
That is just the beginning, the more important features of our not playing it safe has to do with the people we have touched. 
Our building is used by more people during the week than on Sunday mornings. Even during the pandemic we have opened our building for AA Groups who needed a warm place to meet and stay sober. 
Plus, this is the best part, because our Council, “didn’t play it safe” our Missions Budget has gone from $0 dollars when I arrived, seven years ago, to over $5000! We are helping to spread the gospel all over the world! 
And for those of you who still might hold on to that smidgeon of “but do we have enough in our account to take care of ourselves?” In 2020, during this world-wide pandemic, our church budget was in the black.
God is good! We have allowed God to take a hold of our finances and He has done a great job. Our Trustees and Council are living examples of what happens when we don’t cave in to the idol of “safety” but allow God to provide.  
Got any God-honoring risks you are being called to take? The impact you can make explodes the minute you remove the handcuffs of fear and decide to make your life count.

I can’t find a single verse in Scripture where Jesus says, “Come, follow Me. Play it safe.” Playing it safe shrinks our faith.
Francis Chan, an American Protestant author, teacher, and preacher was speaking at a conference and  called Christians to stop living safe, comfortable lives with no real failures, risks, or struggles.
Francis had a balance beam put onstage. While standing on the beam, he described the desire for security and stability in all of us. He shared his own history. By the time he was sixteen years old, his mother, stepmother, father, aunt, and uncle had all died. That kind of loss creates a desire for a risk-free life of safety and security. 
To illustrate the danger of that choice, Francis said, “Imagine you’re at the Olympics . . .” Then, instead of doing a risk-filled routine, he lay down on the beam, wrapped his arms and legs around it, and hugged it. He explained how people respond to instability by refusing to venture out. They say, “I’m just going to have my nice little family. I’m going to homeschool my kids. I don’t want to do anything crazy for God. 
I just want to go to church on Sundays and maybe give like 2 percent, and maybe help in the nursery.”
He went on, “You do this your whole life, and then you say, ‘God, You know what? I would love to die in my sleep and not even feel it, and then just go up to heaven.’” 
Then he crawled off the balance beam and threw his arms into the air as if he’d just dismounted from a spectacular Olympic performance. 
Francis then asked, “Could you imagine watching the Olympics and watching someone do that, and then expect a great score? What is the judge supposed to say?”
Lousy balance beam routine, but great point. 

Try to turn to a passage, any passage in your Bible, where God calls someone to something safe. Abraham leaves the familiar. Moses goes to Pharaoh. Esther puts her life in danger to persuade the king. David takes on a giant. Peter gets out of the boat. Jesus goes to the cross. 
Authentic faith is developed only when we respond to the call of God and take a risk. That’s because when we take a risk, we learn that God can come through. We learn that God can do what we can’t do on our own. 

Playing it safe stunts your growth so your faith doesn’t deepen and you don’t fall any deeper in love with God.
I was a youth pastor in California. We were planning a mission trip when a dad in our church took me aside. “I’m thinking about letting my fifteen-year-old daughter go on the mission trip to Mexico,” he said, “but I have one question. Can you guarantee me it’s going to be safe?” 
What would you tell him?
It was while kids were signing up and everything was getting off the ground that the concerned dad asked me his safety question. I felt his concern, but I believe God has a greater concern.
 I responded something like this, “No, I can’t guarantee complete safety. But I can guarantee you this. It’s going to be much safer for your daughter to go to Mexico, learn to trust God, go public about her faith, serve the poor, develop a heart of generosity for other people, and live where she actually has to depend on God than it ever will be for her to grow up in our community without stretching her faith or learning to take risks, and much safer than following the same routine every day where she thinks she doesn’t need God.”
The man looked at me in surprise. So I went on, “When your daughter gets into the kind of situation she’ll be facing in Mexico, she will deepen her faith, have her values solidified, and possibly fall deeper in love with God. She will be a lot safer doing that than never learning that God is real or how to unleash compassion and take some God-honoring risks.”
His daughter went on the trip. I bet you can guess, she has never recovered—in the best of ways. 
The idea that you can insulate your life to the point where you are guaranteed total safety is a sham. You can still be taken out in a freak accident. Here are a couple of unexpected accidents you’ve probably never even considered shielding yourself from.
In the early nineteenth century in London, a giant vat of beer exploded and a fifteen-foot wall of beer cascaded down the street. Seven people drowned in beer. 
In 1919, in Boston, a giant vat of molasses exploded, and the molasses oozed into the street. It managed to kill twenty-one people. I can just hear it: “Molasses! Walk for your lives!”
Christians stop serving because it might not be safe. They stop tithing and giving because they think it might not be safe for their finances. They stop sharing because it might be embarrassing. 
They stop risking, they stop asking God what He wants them to do, and they slowly develop an apathetic, boring, safe faith. 
When you take a risk and God comes through for you, He becomes real to you. That fires up your heart and starts you on the path to rediscovering a faith that is alive.

If you are a Christ follower (and are listening for His voice), Jesus is going to challenge your faith by asking you to do what seems impossible . . .
I want you to go on a mission trip. “I can’t spend the time, God.”
I want you to start tithing. “I can’t afford that, God.”
I want you to go talk to that person about Me. “I’m afraid of that, God.”
I want you to ask forgiveness from that person. “I can’t do that, God.”
I want you to lead a small group Bible study. “I don’t know how, God.”
I want you to work with junior high students. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
Our faith gets tested and stretched only when we respond to Jesus asking us to do something that in our human logic is impossible.
Taking steps of faith is the alternative to the boredom and stagnation that cause most people to wither up and die. 

John Ortberg has a book entitled, “If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat”,  he mentioned:

Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated or deployed—
Until weeks become months
And months turn into years, 
And one day you’re looking back on a life of 
Deep, intimate, gut-wrenchingly honest conversations
You have never had;
Great bold prayers you never prayed,
Exhilarating risks you never took,
Sacrificial gifts you never offered,
Lives you never touched,
And you’re sitting in a recliner with a shrivelled soul,
And forgotten dreams, 
And you realize there was a world of desperate need,
And a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself
You see the person you could have become but did not;
You never followed your calling.
You never got out of the boat.

Paul Tournier wrote, “All of us have vast reservoirs of full potential. But the roads that lead to those reservoirs are guarded by the dragon of fear.”
One night Jesus took Peter on a real adventure. He put the disciples in a boat and sent them ahead of Him to cross a five-mile-wide lake, the Sea of Galilee. Then the storm hit. Late at night, hours into the dangerous deluge, they were still laboring to get to the other side. That’s when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. 
Matthew recorded Peter’s response: 
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said. 
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:28–29)
You may know the rest of the story. 
Peter has gotten flak for two thousand years for taking his eyes off Jesus and starting to sink. But in my book, he’s a hero. Why? The other eleven disciples stayed in the boat and never even gave it a shot. 
They missed out on their once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk on water. Why? They were just playing it safe.
The only way to break the grip of fear is to get out of the boat. 

I have five steps (none of them are easy) we can take to help us get out of the boat and break free from the idol of safety. 

1)  Stop saying “NO” to everything just because it’s scary
2) Start praying some dangerous prayers
3) Get out your wallet
4) Stop watching – Try living
5) Realize what’s at stake

Fear is the darkroom where negatives develop. Fear will cause you to miss the best thing God wants to do with you. I’m going to be honest, I have felt fear, fear for my life, so now when it comes to feeling fear about doing something, it doesn’t compare, so I am not paralyzed by it, I just do it. But I have come to realize that fear keeps others from doing things and had they been able to overcome fear, they would have experienced some of the more thrilling experiences in their life. 
Marie Curie once said, 
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
What needs to be understood, is the power of God. Once you have that understanding, anything is possible, Matthew 19: 26.
You may be feeling that God is asking you to do something, give something, serve somewhere, or launch something, and you’re a little afraid to do it. You just might be on the first day of the best run of your life.

It begins with praying dangerously. We’re not used to praying dangerous prayers. We focus our attention on idols instead.
The most dangerous prayer you will ever pray is “Thy will be done.” Jesus prayed this prayer. You and I need to learn how to pray dangerous prayers more often. Once we pray, we need to start listening for the call of God on our lives and then act on what God tells us.
Back in John Ortberg’s book,  “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” he writes about a guy named Doug Coe. 
Doug works in Washington, DC and has a ministry where he disciples and does Bible studies with businesspeople. Here’s a condensed version of the story:
Bob, an insurance salesman . . . became a Christian and began to meet with Doug to learn about his new faith. 
One day, Bob came in all excited about a statement in the Bible where Jesus says, “Ask whatever you will in my name and you shall receive it.”
“Is that really true?” Bob demanded.
Doug explained, “Well, it’s not a blank check. . . . But yes—it really is true. Jesus really does answer prayer.”
 “All right. I’ll pray for Kenya.”
“Do you know anyone in Kenya?” Doug asked.
Doug . . . challenged Bob to pray every day for six months for Kenya. If Bob would do that and nothing extraordinary happened, Doug would pay him five hundred dollars. 
But if something remarkable did happen, Bob would pay Doug five hundred dollars. . . . 
Bob began to pray, and for a long while nothing happened. Then one night he was at a dinner in Washington. . . . One woman said she helped run an orphanage in Kenya—the largest of its kind. Bob roared to life. . . . 
“You’re obviously very interested in my country,” the woman said to Bob, overwhelmed by his sudden barrage of questions. “You’ve been to Kenya before?”
“No.” . . .
She asked Bob if he would like to come visit Kenya. . .  
When Bob arrived in Kenya, he was appalled by the poverty and the lack of basic health care. . . . He began to write to large pharmaceutical companies, describing to them the vast need he had seen. . . . The orphanage received more than a million dollars’ worth of medical supplies. 
The woman called Bob up and said, “Bob, this is amazing! We’ve had the most phenomenal gifts because of the letters you wrote. We would like to fly you back over and have a big party. Will you come?”
So Bob flew back to Kenya. While he was there, the president of Kenya came to the celebration . . . and offered to take Bob on a tour of Nairobi. In the course of the tour, they saw a prison. Bob asked about a group of prisoners there.
“They’re political prisoners,” he was told.
“That’s a bad idea,” Bob said brightly. “You should let them out.”
Bob finished the tour and flew back home. Sometime later, Bob received a phone call from the State Department of the United States Government. 
“Were you recently in Kenya?”
“Did you make any statements to the president about political prisoners?”
“What did you say?”
“I told him he should let them out.”
The State Department official explained that the department had been working for years to get the release of those political prisoners, to no avail. . . . But now the prisoners had been released, and the State Department was told it was largely because of . . . Bob. .
All that happened because one guy connected to a Savior who is alive and started believing He answered prayer. One guy started believing God is not dead but alive and is not done working in our lives, through our lives, and in the world. One guy dared to pray a dangerous prayer and then act on the answers God gave him.
Gratitude is one of the healthiest human emotions. Maybe that’s why the apostle Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Somehow joy and giving are connected.
This runs counter to the prevailing American opinion that having more will make us more happy or more fulfilled. If a lifestyle of acquisition and affluence led to a happy life, Howard Hughes would have had a ball. As described by Bill Hybels:
All he ever really wanted in life was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. 
He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two U.S. presidents became his pawns. 
All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true satisfaction. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise. . . . 
He concluded his life emaciated; colorless; sunken chest; fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews; rotting, black teeth; tumors; innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction.
Howard Hughes died believing the myth of more. He died a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards.

Giving breaks the grip of materialism in life. That may explain why sacrificial generosity was one of Jesus’s themes and became the lifestyle of the early church. 

The first church was barely up and running when it was described this way: “They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45, nasb).
Generosity is risky but also far more fulfilling.
When you start giving and living and developing a heart of sacrificial generosity, you will find that you have come fully alive!

Imagine the impact on our country if every one of the roughly two hundred million self-professed Christians in America for one week took all the time normally spent in front of the television or online, got out of their homes, and served the community. It would make national news—so when we turned on the news, we would be watching ourselves making an impact.
Many Christians will listen to a sermon about getting out of the boat and then go home and spend the next six hours in the top-selling chair in America—the La-Z-Boy. Think about the number of Americans sitting on their couches day after day. We consume, on average, five hours of television every day. Instead of watching reality TV, try living some reality!
Here’s a story of one very effective youth worker from Seattle who was also a successful businessman. When asked how he got connected to teenagers, his wife responded,  “He was becoming a couch potato. He’d come home from work and sit on the couch and watch television until it was time for bed. I kept watching him do this and finally got fed up with his sedentary lifestyle. On a Monday, I called Young Life and donated my husband. I asked when their next meeting was and told them he’d be there to help. At first, he didn’t want to do it. 
I told him, ‘I donated you and told them you’d show up.’ He showed up that next Monday and found out that teenagers liked him. So he started working with the teenagers in the schools. Then we started opening up our home to teenagers.”

That year, his impact on the teenagers was so great that the high school students dedicated their annual yearbook to him.  The adventure of your life begins the minute you stop playing it safe.

The four most depressing words in the English language are these: It’s just too late. 
For Moses, it looked like it was. 
Moses killed a guy trying to do God’s work his own way. He ended up a fugitive hiding out in the wilderness, a runaway murderer, an escaped felon—a has-been. 
Despite thinking he was washed up, Moses saw God in a burning bush, heard the call, and eventually went back to Egypt. After a ten-round prizefight, Pharaoh let the Israelites march out of Egypt, only they ran straight into the banks of the Red Sea. They were trapped. So Moses stopped going forward and prayed. 
I love what happened next, because it’s the only time in the Bible that I can find God telling somebody to stop praying. God said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15, esv).
God said not to stand still or move sideways but to go forward. He said, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:16). 
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and God drove the sea back. The Israelites were able to walk over on dry ground, with a wall of water on the right and left. 
The Egyptians pursued, so all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots followed them into the sea. Then God told Moses to stretch his hand over the water again—and the entire Egyptian army had to learn to tread water.
Think about it. Moses’s best moments in life began when he finally said yes to God. In other words . . .
when Moses finally stopped saying no,
when he finally stopped making excuses, 
when he finally stopped being overcome with fear and discouragement,
when he finally stopped thinking, It’s just too late,
when he finally stopped saying, “I’m too old,” and, 
“I’ve messed up too much,” 
when he finally stopped being driven by his insecurities, 
when he finally said yes, obeyed God, took a risky step, and moved forward . . .
. . . look at what happened!
The minute Moses said yes to God, he experienced the unlikely but commanding performance before Pharaoh. 
After he said yes, two million people were freed from hundreds of years of slavery. 
After he said yes, he watched the Red Sea part and two million people escape on dry land. 
After he said yes, he received the Ten Commandments, wrote the first five books of the Bible, and experienced the miracles of the manna, Mount Sinai, the Promised Land, the glory of God . . .
The best years of Moses’s life happened only after saying yes! None of these experiences would have happened had Moses not stopped wallowing in self-pity and finally started to say yes to God. 
When you say yes to God, incredible things happen. 
On the other hand, nothing much happens to people who always say no.
So which are you going to be? 
You want adventure? You want a sense of purpose? Say yes, and then hang on for the ride of your life.

G. K. Chesterton wrote of our need for “a new kind of prophet, not like the prophets of old who reminded people that they were going to die, but one who reminded them that they are not dead yet.”

I say, “Let’s live!”

Let’s pray.