God Takes No Risks
20 Jul 2022
It was a warm Highlands Day in Papua New Guinea as we passed through Goroka and headed out by road to climb over the 2478 metre Dalu Pass into the Wahgi Valley. Once into the valley it was along the highlands highway to our home at the Christian Leaders’ Training College at Banz. With our three young children we had driven to Lae on the coast for our holiday. The road up the pass was very steep, so it was impossible to maintain any speed. Just as we slowly came to a very steep pinch in the road, three young men jumped out in front of the car with big rocks poised to throw into our windscreen. It was one of those moments of split-second decisions: keep going and run the risk of injury to them or us or stop the car? We stopped – doors already locked!
It was instant prayer time! Two men quickly came up against the front of the car and one to the passenger side, demanding money from Margaret. She wound the window down a crack and passed through the few Kina she had in her purse for this kind of emergency. The thief wanted more and started pulling on the window to get his arm in to snatch the empty purse and the other men moved closer to see what was going on. Another split-second decision – I attempted to get away! The alternatives did not really bear thinking about with three petrified children in the back seat. I flattened the accelerator and oh so very slowly the car moved forward and, although they could still walk alongside, strangely they allowed us to go. The rest of our trip was uneventful as we tried to debrief and reassure three fearful children! The next day while we were having our faculty afternoon tea at the College, I spoke about our experience. When I finished, Makapiya, the Dean of our women’s training program, quietly asked, ‘what time yesterday was this?’ I said around 2.00pm. She raised her finger and said, ‘That is exactly the time the Lord strongly prompted me to pray for you!’
Whether on the road, flying in circles in small MAF planes to find a way down through the clouds, facing angry local warriors with spears, lying in bed with a pulse of 160 if I got up, sitting between a student husband and wife who had been fighting (his axe was on the floor), out in the remote Ramu Valley for a conference and suddenly a young son experiences an extremely high fever, a spiritual attack – or many other examples over our 16 years in the country – the truth is Christian mission and risk aversion are incompatible!
We sought (not always successfully) to surrender the risks and our fears to the Sovereign Lord who called us, who does not give up control on the things that impact our lives.
Does that mean we do not concern ourselves about the risks? It seems from the biblical evidence (e.g. Jesus and Paul) that we should rather think about risk minimisation. What practical things minimised risk?
First: the foundation of a loving relationship with Jesus our Lord more than anyone or anything else. Gladly going out in obedience to the will of God – always the safest place to be. Our Bible reading reflection and prayer daily nourished that relationship and our faith in our Sovereign Lord. That needs to be in place and healthy before departure to places of ministry.
Second: understanding that following Jesus as Lord means that suffering is inherent in our discipleship. ‘When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance’(James 1:2). Faith involves the risk of being on the edge. This will be strongly affirmed through our study of the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus removed our eternal risk and calls us in mission to continuing daily risks.
Third: our prayer and those of our partners, are vital in facing the daily risks in front-line mission.Before departure the priority of partnership development was not just about funds, but people who committed to pray for us. Routine communication with them was vital. In our field team context regular and spontaneous prayer about our ministry and for each other were a central aspect of our life together.
Fourth: applied wisdom as we lived each day confident that as we ask the Lord, he gives the daily wisdom we need.Things like planning to travel on the road at the safest times; making sure the car was checked and safe; driving carefully; not walking alone in urban centres; watching over our children in the unique pressures they faced; giving attention to health care, food and water; taking time for family rest; recreation and well- being; listening to the counsel of experienced colleagues and national leaders about local cultural issues and our response to them.
All these things were not generated by the fear of taking risks, because insidious fear is a great hindrance especially in a context of unreached peoples. There are very real risks in being a faithful and obedient disciple following in the steps of Jesus wherever we are.
We knew our travel down and back along the highlands highway was a risky dangerous venture. But we made prayerful preparations as best we could and went, trusting in the Lord Jesus who had called us to leave family, church, culture and nation for his glory among the nations.
Risk is based in ignorance – we don’t know what is going to happen. God takes no risks because he has no ignorance about what is coming. Faith rests in that assurance.
‘To live is Christ, and to die is gain.’