“When you play it too safe, you’re taking the biggest risk of your life. Time is the only wealth we’re given.” Barbara Sher
Periodically, I’ll joke that I’m at an age when I don’t even buy green bananas. Most of us, as we grow older, begin to play it safer and safer. We don’t want to take risks. We forget that life itself is a risk.
Organizations and institutions, even churches, can give into this foolishness of playing it safe. Organizations that desperately need to grow – sometimes just to survive – choose “safe” new leaders from the inside. They promote from within, though it’s obvious they’ve succumbed to the “Peter Principle” (The “Peter Principle” is a concept in management theory first formulated by Laurence J. Peter that people are often promoted one level above their competency). They don’t promote because of abilities, they promote because the candidate is safe. It’s why we elect incumbents election after election, even though they’re ineffective…but they’re safe.
Too many couples play it safe in their marriages. It’s why they have a so-so marriage. They’ve settled for being miserable but it’s not bad enough to get divorced. They continually bemoan how bad their marriage is. Yet, suggest that they go see someone to get help and you’ll hear, “Well, it’s not that bad.” Or, “My spouse will never go.” Relationships are like a mobile. If you change just one thing on the mobile, everything else must adapt. It’s like re-arranging the furniture in a room. If you move the furniture around, everything has to adjust. Too many marriages are like a well-worn script. But if just one partner changes the script, the other partner must change too. It doesn’t make sense to play it safe if you’re miserable.
Too many parents play it safe with their children. If most of us saw another parent doing what we habitually do, we’d be appalled. It often starts very young with what they want to eat or do. The child pitches a fit. To keep peace, the parent capitulates. If a parent finally does do something, it’s often because they’ve become exasperated and are reacting in anger, but then the parent feels guilty. A parent has all of the power. Parenting is not about playing it safe. The biblically commanded goal for Christian parents is godly children. It’s amazing that we know what it takes to educate children, yet would rather play it safe when it comes to their souls.
Too many parents play it safe with their adult children. As your child becomes an adult, your role changes to a friend rather than a parent. Yet, a parent of an adult child has a vested interest – often this young adult is raising a grandchild. Playing it safe is unwise for that grandchild’s soul.
Grandchildren love to stay at their grandparent’s home and most parents are willing to let them to get a break. It’s not complicated. Have them stay over on a Saturday night and bring them to church with you the next day.
If you have a single adult child who’s relocated and not part of a church family, when you visit – ask them to attend church with you. At the very least, as you would with any other friend, have a conversation with them about their spiritual direction. Way too much is at stake to play it safe!
Too many Christians play it safe with lost friends. If someone is truly my friend that means I really care about them. Shouldn’t I care about their eternal destiny? How can we say we really care about someone and never have a conversation about eternity? If that same friend were drunk would we let them get behind the wheel of a car and be silent? No way!
God did not call us to a “safe” life. Playing it safe is b-o-r-i-n-g. It’s the slow soggy death of sameness. Playing it safe is like picking vanilla when you go to Baskin & Robbins, oblivious that there are some 30 other flavors. Playing it safe is going the same way to work every day, going on vacation to the same place, going to the same restaurants, even going to the same church service and sitting in the same seat. It means you have the same style of clothes you’ve always had, listen to the same music, and watch the same shows. And you get upset when something changes that you can’t control in your safe little life.
The Christian life is one of risk and adventure. Churches and ministries who stay the same eventually become mausoleums, and then they have to change. While our beliefs based on Scripture must never change, the application of them in a rapidly changing culture must continually adapt. Believers who settle for safe miss out on God’s best. What a waste to commiserate about the good old days, yet never take a risk to invest in the present. It’s hypocritical to complain about modern day young people but refuse to invest in helping them mature and become more Christlike.
At 62, J.R.R. Tolkien published the ﬁrst volume of his fantasy series, Lord of the Rings. At 81, Bill Painter became the oldest person to reach the 14,411-foot summit of Mt. Rainier. At 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college diploma. At 96, Harry Bernstein published his ﬁrst book, The Invisible Wall, three years after he started writing to cope with loneliness after his wife of seventy years, Ruby, passed away. At 100, Frank Schearer seems to be the oldest active water skier in the world. Because the real question is “Why not?” If you wait until you’re ready you may wait forever. Step out on faith, trust God, trust yourself and leap.
So what will you tell yourself in 10 or 20 years? Or, when they share your eulogy, will they share what a boring person you ended up becoming? More importantly, what will you say at the Bema when the Lord asks why you stopped taking risks and settled for safe? God did not call us to be safe!
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.