By Clayton Bell
Friday, January 01, 1999
Faith always involves a risk. Faith is a gamble that we take when we do something without knowing for sure that the results will be good. Our experience and the experience of others may make the odds favor us, but without a 100 percent guarantee in the results, we still take a gamble.We call buying a lottery ticket a big gamble; but we call buying blue chip stocks an investment.
We call taking prescription medicine safe medical treatment. We call self-medication a gamble.
Because life holds no guarantees, there is an element of gamble in all that we do, whether it is driving a car or eating rare hamburger meat.
But the kind of risk that Jochebed took with baby Moses falls into a separate category.
The Egyptians were frightened by the increase in the Jewish population, so they ordered that all male babies were to be killed. And then Baby Moses shows up.
So ... What's a mother to do? Can you put yourself in Jochebed's emotional shoes?
You fear the government; You love your child; You want to save your child; You want to obey the Lord!
So you pray. You pray with great fervor. Jochebed, was a shrewd Jewish mother. She was also a woman of great faith. And then a plan slowly begins to form in her mind She knew the usual location at the river Nile where Pharaoh's daughter went for her daily swim. Jochebed got a basket woven out of limber reeds, waterproofed it with tar from a nearby tar-pit, and lined it with linens. Then she placed little Moses in it, and set it adrift in the marsh reeds along the river. She timed Baby Moses' feeding schedule so he would get hungry about the time of Pharaoh's daughter's swim. She also stationed Miriam, Moses' older sister, in a strategic location, to watch what happened, and gave her instructions on what to say.
Sure enough, Moses' daughter appeared at her usual time for her swim and heard a baby crying. She told her ladies in waiting to locate the source of the cry, and when they did, they brought the basket to their mistress. There was a hungry baby, desperately in need of food and other attention ... and how could a wo-man resist? She did what a woman's maternal instincts dictated, even though she recognized the baby as one of the Hebrew children. Now, you know the rest of the story. Miriam stepped up to Pharaoh's daughter and asked if she (Pharaoh's daughter) would like for her (Miriam) to find a wet nurse for the baby from among the Hebrew women. Pharaoh's daughter thought that would be nice, so Miriam went and engaged Jochebed, Moses' birth mother, to be Moses' nurse, and she got to care for her own child and got paid for it at the same time.
That's the story in a nut-shell. But back up in that story for a moment. Having done the best you can, there comes a moment when you push the little wicker ark into the waters of the Nile. You take your hands off. And the rest is in God's hands.
In spite of your best hopes and planning, and prayers, you quiver with anxiety. Will the baby be saved? That Is the Risk of Faith.
Years ago I knew a boy who was deeply in love with a girl he met while they were still in high school. He loved her very much, and he was convinced she was the girl God wanted him to marry. They talked about marriage, but because they were young, and there were still several years of school that lay ahead for both of them, they weren't formally engaged.
For a couple of years they were separated in different schools. During the separation, the girl was "rushed" by a very attractive young man. He too talked of marriage, and the girl was confused. In her correspondence to her first beau, her confusion came through. The first beau talked with her on the phone, and her confusion was confirmed in their conversation.
So the young man did the only thing he knew to do. Believing that she was the girl God wanted for him, he communicated to her in writing that he loved her, wanted her to be his wife, but until God had convinced her of the same thing, she would not hear from him again. Then he prayed something like this: God, I think she is the one You want for me, but you will have to convince her. I leave her in Your hands to guide her emotions as well as mine.
And he stopped communicating. He didn't call. He didn't write, and he placed his future relationship in God's hands.
That Is the Risk of Faith!
And three months later, he heard from his girl, and three years later they were married.
Over thirty years ago, when I was pastor of a church in Alabama, a woman, whom I will call "Maggie," came to me and told me her husband, "Charlie," was an alcoholic. She described his behavior. He was an abusive, mean drunk. He had lost several jobs, and the only steady income to support her and her two sons came from her job as a bank teller. And, now, she was about to collapse from physical and emotional fatigue.
After listening to her, and questioning her carefully, I discovered that "Maggie" was a committed Christian who loved her husband and didn't believe in divorce. But she was caught on the horns of a dilemma. She needed protection from the abusive demands and actions of her drunken husband. She couldn't take care of him and hold her job at the same time. But at that time the State of Alabama had no enforceable provisions for legal separation.
Because she was a woman of genuine faith, I made the following suggestion: "Maggie, if you don't find a way to protect yourself from Charlie, you are going to collapse, and the boys will have no home and have to be put in foster home care. Get a divorce. Since you don't believe in divorce you will have to understand that this is simply a legal device to protect yourself. Even though you will be legally divorced in the eyes of the state, in your own mind you know you are not divorced in the eyes of God. This will give you legal protection from his abuse. You should pray for his healing, and the restoration of your marriage. Maybe this will force Charlie to face his problem and seek help for his alcoholism. And if he gains sobriety and wants to come back to you, make him court you all over again before you remarry him."
So Maggie divorced Charlie. And about a year after, I moved to another church in another city, and lost contact with Maggie.
About five years later, as I was walking into the house after the morning worship service, the phone rang. I answered it, and a voice on the other end said, "Clayton, this is Maggie."
"Maggie, how nice to hear from you," I replied. "How are you?"
"Where are you?"
"We are out on the outskirts of town."
"Charlie and me. We're returning from our honeymoon. After we divorced, he went to live with his brother, got help, and about a year ago he came back, started courting me, and we got married last week."
She took the risk of faith. She had to push Charlie away and leave him in the hands of God.
Mary and Martha were two sisters, whose brother Lazarus was critically ill. They sent for Jesus. Their faith led them to turn to the One who had healed many. But Jesus didn't respond soon enough, and Lazarus died. The sisters were crushed. But in due time Jesus showed up, and Lazarus was raised from the dead. Mary and Martha took the risk of faith in asking Jesus for help and they were bitterly disappointed. Jesus could have saved them so much heartache if He had come when they asked. But the risk of faith means also risking disappointment and heartache when Jesus doesn't work on our time schedule.
The risk of faith is letting go to God without guaranteed results ... relinquishing control to God without strings attached.
The risk of faith is putting your job, or your child, or your future, or your problem completely into the hands of our Heavenly Father, and trusting Him to work out His will in your life.
The risk of faith does not guarantee you'll get what you want in the end. It does guarantee peace and joy on the journey, for you put God in the driver's seat, and say Not my will, but Thine be done.
Some of you are standing on the brink of disaster ...
Some of you are flirting with temptation ...
Some of you are in marriages with a difficult partner ...
Some of you are distressed by rebellious children ...
Take the risk of faith. Let go of your most cherished dreams. Put them into God's hands. Learn from the writer of Proverbs: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and don't lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (
Understand the truth of the writer of Hebrews: What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see (
Join that host of heroes who gambled on God ... Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David and far too many to name, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised.
To live is to risk. So risk it all on Jesus Christ.