August 12, 2022
Made One (Paul) Courage To Take Risks
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Acts 20: 17 - 24

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


In the new series, Profiles in Courage, Pastor Philip explores the lives of biblical figures who exemplify God-given courage. From Genesis to Revelation, these profiles of courage will inspire us to take a stand for righteousness and unwavering faith.
Courage is not limited to a select few; it is a quality all believers must cultivate. It involves putting ourselves at risk, sacrificing comfort, and persevering in the face of opposition. It demands a firm commitment to truth and an unwavering determination to do what others cannot or will not do.

More From This Series


Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Acts 20. If you’re visiting with us, we are in a series called Profiles in Courage. Now, the genesis of this is that I was thinking one day about the whole issue of courage and bravery, and I was fired up on a number of fronts. As you turn to Acts 20:22. Bravery and courage is the calling of a man, right? We’re told in 1 Corinthians 16:13, act like men; be strong. So that’s at the heart of what we’re doing here in this series. This is our calling, to be profiles in courage. And the One we love, the One whom we haven’t seen, our Lord Jesus Christ, was a profile in courage.
Don’t forget that the Lord Jesus Christ lived His life as a man, depending upon the Holy Spirit like you and me. Although He was God, remember He set aside the voluntary use of His deity, with all its power, and lived as a man and faced temptation and faced death and carried a cross and died bravely and forgave boldly.
We want to be challenged by our calling as men, the example of Christ. I’m just reading another book at the moment on Christian history and biography, and I’m struck and humbled and challenged and repentant in the light of the bravery and the courage that so many showed before us in global missions, in sacrificial service.
I think we’re aware we’re living in a new day in the United States. We’re living in a cancel culture, where those on the radical left in academia and politics are trying to snuff out gospel light, biblical theology on gender, parenting, complementarianism. It’s going to take bravery for us to stand up and speak up.
And then, my last thought, kind of just coming back over why we are in this series at all, it’s just our context in California. This is a state that, for the most part, is completely godless. We need to be here. We don’t need to run. But we need to be brave.
And so, for all of those reasons, the calling of a man, the example of Christ, the motivation of church history, the cancel culture, and our context in California, let’s pray that God would make us profiles in courage.
Now, we looked at Elijah, the courage to take sides. We looked at Joshua, the courage to step up. We looked at Nehemiah, the courage to keep going. We looked at Joseph, the courage to say “no.” We looked at the apostles and the courage to defy government. We looked at Stephen last month and the courage to die for Christ. And this morning we’re coming to look at Paul and the courage to take risks.
I’m going to recommend you a little book. It’s only going to cost you seven bucks on Amazon—$6.99. Buy it: John Piper, Risk Is Right. It’ll challenge you in the light of what we’re about to look at this morning, to take risks. In fact, you cannot live the Christian life without taking risks. So, let’s come and look at Acts 20:22–24.
Listen to what Paul says. He’s with the elders at Ephesus. He’s on his way to Jerusalem. He’s gone over his past ministry there and given an account for what he did when he was among them. And then he says this: “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
I want to speak this morning on the subject “taking risks.” Just recently, I was reading about a leading LA pastor who was putting his son to bed, and his son asked him not to turn off the lights because he was frightened of the demons he had heard about at this week’s summer camp. He said, “Daddy, Daddy, would you pray that I would be safe?” The pastor thought to himself, ‘I could feel it. I could feel warm blanket Christianity beginning to wrap around him, a life of safety, safety, safety.’ He said, “Aaron, I will not pray for you to be safe. I will pray that God will make you dangerous, so dangerous that demons will flee when you enter the room.”
Now, hold that thought. Jim Elliot—martyred for Jesus Christ in Ecuador—famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
But here’s another quote of his, I would say perhaps even more spectacular or maybe not so memorable. That martyred, faithful disciple of Jesus Christ once said this: “We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are ‘harmless,’ and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are ‘sideliners’—coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!”
Guys, in the light of those two statements, in the light of what I’ve just communicated, God, help us to run fast and hard from warm blanket Christianity that prays and pursues safety, safety, safety. There’s a real danger in pursuing a life of no danger. There’s real peril in wanting security and safety. Generally speaking, emerging out of COVID, do we not need to repent of a lust for security? Christ, in calling us to Himself, called us to a life marked by crosses and losses and a willingness to risk everything for the glory and the good of others. He called us to lose our lives, not preserve them. And in losing them, we’ll find them. He called us to take up our cross and die daily. Eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred.
Risk is part of life, and it’s a big part of the life of faith. In fact, we’re going to come in a moment to look at Acts 20, but just back in Acts 15:26, here’s what we read of Christian leaders in that time and men at that time; probably it’s the description of the apostles at that time in Acts 15:26: “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Remember how Paul described Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:30? “Because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” The word “Not regarding his life,” if you’ve got a marginal reference, will tell you it’s a word that means risk. It even means gamble. It was used of people who kind of went into difficult situations and took care of others, who gambled and risked and put themselves in harm’s way. It spoke of those who went and ministered to the sick with contractable disease and spoke about those going to court and standing up for one’s friend, regardless of the cost of one’s self. It spoke of taking risks.
Guys, look at the Bible. Moses wasn’t playing it safe when he returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. Gideon wasn’t playing it safe when he dismissed most of his army. David wasn’t playing it safe when he stepped up to face Goliath. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren’t playing it safe when they refused to bow down to the image of Nebuchadnezzar. Esther wasn’t playing it safe when she put her life on the line and stood before the king: “If I perish, I perish.” Oh, that men would have the bravery of that woman. Peter wasn’t playing it safe when he stepped out of the boat. Paul wasn’t playing it safe when he went to Jerusalem.
John Piper in the book Risk Is Right warns about “the enchantment of security.” It’s a great little phrase: the enchantment of security. He says it’s a myth. Beyond being temptation, it’s a mirage. Life is inherently dangerous. If you drive the freeways of LA, you know that. Given the unknowns, given the threats of natural disaster, given the nearness of death to any one of us at any time, given the evil of man, given the malice of Satan, given that things are beyond our control, it’s a dangerous thing to live life.
Don’t get caught up in the enchantment of security. It’s a myth. That’s why Helen Keller, the blind poet, said, “Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” That’s why we’ve got to stop slavingly and selfishly praying that God would keep us from the danger that surrounds us. Then we need to pray like the pastor in LA over his son. We need to pursue the sentiment of Jim Elliot. We need to make ourselves dangerous.
Security doesn’t lie in protecting yourself from potential harm. Security lies in putting yourself wholly into God’s carekeeping. This philosophy of risking nothing is to risk everything. So, let’s turn to Acts 20:22–24. Let’s remind ourselves that risk is right. Not talking about testing the Lord; that’s a whole other subject, and John Piper in the book Risk Is Right addresses that. But risk is right for the Christian because of the nature of life, because of the call and cost of discipleship, because of the peril of not risking and entering upon God’s purposes and will for our lives. God, give us the courage to take risks. God, give us the courage to get out of our safety zone.
Remember this, guys, when we come to this passage and just read anything in the New Testament, simply becoming a Christian back then meant risking it all. Christians under Roman law and under Roman rule knew sooner or later that they might have to profess Christ as Lord, not Caesar, and it might bring about the end of their lives.
So, to help us become braver, to take risks, let’s come to Acts 20:22–24, where we find Paul embracing risk, showing courage, remaining unswerving in his commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ despite the threat of hardship and harm. Let me read the text. It’s only three verses. “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things moves me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Three things, guys, will come out of that. But before we look at those verses, let’s just quickly put the text in its context. I alluded to this just a few minutes ago. Acts 20 has Paul calling the elders at Ephesus to come up and meet him at Miletus. And, as they meet, Paul kind of walks down memory lane with them and talks about the three years he spent there, having ministered to them through the day and through the night . He’s clean of the blood of those he ministered to. He held nothing back. He preached the whole counsel of God. He served with tears. He was a burden to no one, taking care of his own needs, even though he could have lived off the gospel. He’s kind of gone back over his ministry, talking about his past ministry. He now pivots to talking about his present ministry and the fact that he’s on his way to Jerusalem.
In fact, you go back to chapter 20, verse 16, and we read: “For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.”
He’s on his way to Jerusalem, if you read other texts, to give a gift to the church there that was suffering and going through a time of poverty. The gifts were from mainly Gentile churches, and he was excited to share this grace gift to them. And he thought, in the big picture, it may be a means of unifying the church, both Gentile and Jew.
He’s going to Jerusalem, but he knows it’s risky. Back in 19:21 he’s being told that, and now again he reinforces this idea that, you know what? I don’t know what awaits me, but I know this. The Holy Spirit tells me, He’s laid this on my heart, maybe spoken through prophets, that I’m going to face chains, imprisonment, beating, tribulation, but it doesn’t move me. I’m going to take that risk. I’m going to gamble because I want to get to Jerusalem. And he would be beaten there. He would be imprisoned there. Two years later, he’d be shipped off to Rome, and two years after that, he’d be martyred for Christ.
Now, the three things that compel him. Taking risks, that’s what Paul is demonstrating here. He’s a profile in courage, the courage to get out of your safety zone. He’s driven by compulsion, calculation, and coronation.
Number one, driven by compulsion. Look at verse 22: “I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem.” Underline those words: “bound in the spirit.” He was compelled. There was a compulsion driving him. And the thing you need to notice about that: he was bound by this desire to go there and share the gospel and give the gift.
Now, the important thing is he was not held captive by fear. He was held captive by the Spirit of God. You see, God has not given us—remember what he said to Timothy—a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. And he’s living it. Paul isn’t paralyzed by a sense of trepidation. In fact, like his master, he had set his face like a flint, like a hard rock. He was just focused and occupied with one thing, to get to Jerusalem. Here’s a man under compulsion.
Now, the word “bound in the spirit” is interesting. It refers to physical chains. In fact, if you go back to chapter 9, in verse 2, this is a description of Paul before he was converted, before he became a disciple of Jesus Christ. And we read in verse 1, “Then Saul [who would later become Paul], still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way”—that’s of the way of the One who said He was the way, the disciples of Jesus Christ—“whether men or women, he might bring them”—did you notice the word?—“bound to Jerusalem.” How ironic. The guy who is going to bind Christians now, as a Christian, is bound, but he’s bound by the Holy Spirit. He’s under the control of the Holy Spirit.
He’s filled and living under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He’s being led by the Holy Spirit. He’s a man driven by compulsion. This is a word that speaks of physical chains and physical confinement. It’s used figuratively, believe it or not, of the strong tie of marriage. Remember when Paul’s discussing divorce, and in 1 Corinthians 7, he talks about, you know what, if an unbeliever will live with you after you’ve become a believer, the marriage is sanctified, the marriage is holy. God can still bless that marriage. But if that unbeliever calls you to make a choice between them and Christ, it’s Christ. And if the unbeliever leaves you, notice the words, you’re not bound. So, it’s speaking about marriage and the strong bond that marriage is, but here it’s speaking about the tie, the relationship between the soul and the spirit, the man and God.
Paul was a man under orders, a man under a compulsion, a man constrained to obey. He had yielded his life to Jesus Christ. He had submitted his life to the will of God, and now he was being led by the Spirit of God. I don’t now have time to trace this with you, but if you go to Acts 8:29, 10:19, 11:12, 13:2 and following and others, it’s all about how the Holy Spirit led. He led Philip to go up to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch. He led the church to separate Paul and Barnabas under the gospel. So, this work of the Holy Spirit is taking place in Paul’s life, and he’s being led because he’s surrendered. He’s yielded.
In fact, he says in Acts 20:19, I have served the Lord with all humility. The word there is “doulos.” I’ve slaved away for Christ. Paul describes himself as a slave. What’s a slave? A slave is a man under compulsion, a man who’s mastered by a master, whose first obligation is to obey. That’s how Paul describes himself in Romans 1:1, Titus 1:1, Philippians 1:1.
John MacArthur says this: “Paul’s sense of duty and responsibility to his Master drove him on his way to Jerusalem.” He was bound in the Spirit. Why wasn’t Paul mastered by fear? Why wasn’t Paul stepping back from the risk? Why was Paul willing to put himself in the way of harm? Because that’s where the Master wanted him. And now bound, imprisoned under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he goes as a yielded man. In chapter 21, verse 13, listen to what he says: “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Why was he willing to take the risk, to be imprisoned, bound, chained, and maybe die? Because he was already bound to the Savior, submitted to the precious work of the Holy Spirit. We know from Philippians 1:20–21, whether by life or by death, this is where I’m at. This is where you’re at, where I’m at this morning. Honestly, whether in life or in death, I just want Jesus to be magnified in my body. If it means my body being bloodied and broken and beaten and bound, if it magnifies Him, count me in.
God was his first love and his first fear. And listen, guys, if God’s your first love and your first fear, then safety is not your first concern. Paul surrendered to the work and will of God explains his risk-taking. When Paul thought about risk, he thought about the risks of disobedience.
Here we are, often challenged by the risk of obedience, what it’s going to cost you to really be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Do you ever count the cost of disobedience? The loss of the Holy Spirit’s power and intimacy in your life? The loss of eternal reward? The loss of God’s favor? The loss to the people you’re meant to minister to, the souls that are perishing? Paul thought about the risks of disobedience. He thought about the risk of disobeying the One who had suffered and died for him. And he thought about the fact that in serving the Lord, there’s no risk to the Lord. Whatever is a risk to us is no risk to Him. That’s why we reject the whole idea of open theism—that God gambles, God takes risk, there’s things that God doesn’t know, there’s outcomes that God has got no control over.
God is working all things after the counsel of His own will. So, whatever the risk is to you, it’s no risk to God, and He’ll sovereignly take care of you and me when we attempt something bold for Christ. See, it’s a risk to us often because of ignorance. We don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and we have no control over the outcome, let alone the process. So that’s a risk to us, right? Ignorance and a lack of control. But God isn’t ignorant, and God is sovereign. So there’s no risk to Him.
So, here’s the point, surrender’s the key. Isn’t it? Surrender’s the key. If you’re going to take risks, you better be completely yielded to the One who might call you to take a risk, who might lead you along the Calvary road in ministry or missions. You need to yield your body a living sacrifice. That’s what we are. We’re living sacrifices. That means every day we’re willing to sacrifice. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians: I’m in jeopardy all the time. Risk’s just part of my life, but that’s okay because I’m a living sacrifice. I can be sacrificed at any time.
We’re back to last month’s study, right? We’re either an everyday martyr, or we’re a martyr. Living sacrifices are always willing to die. Living sacrifices are not about self-preservation. See, if you’re about self-preservation, if you’re about safety and security, you’re not living as a living sacrifice.
Spurgeon. It’s always good to talk about Charlie, right? Don’t you love him? I’m never tired of reading him. I just ordered another book about him the other day. What a man. What he achieved is breathtaking. At the end of his ministry, he had baptized 14,000 people, or at least his church had; they had did an active membership of 5,000. He was working 18 hours a day. He wrote 140 books, and all with some physical challenges himself and his wife later in life an invalid. It so staggered David Livingstone, that David Livingstone said to him one day, “Charles, how do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” He said, “David, you forget there are two of us, the indwelling Holy Spirit.” He loved Colossians 1:29, “I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Have you forgot there are two of us?
Now, given all of that, here’s the quote I want to get to. He once wrote this, and I want you to bear this in mind with the idea of being a living sacrifice bound in the Spirit, yielded to the Lord: “If by excessive labour, we die before reaching the average age of man, worn out in the Master’s service, then glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of Heaven!”
I just read this recently in a book by a friend of mine, Steve Davey, Legacies of Light. Here’s what Spurgeon said, “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot it is to be consumed.”
An awful lot of us are looking very healthy these days. That’s good. It’s a little good. Bodily exercise is good, but if you exercise yourself under godliness and gospel missions and pouring your life out and being consumed for the gospel, better. Don’t be a living specimen of a man. Be a living sacrifice of Christ, bound in the Spirit, running into the fray, unafraid of the battle.
Secondly, driven by calculation. Driven by calculation. Look at verse 24. See, I’m going. I’m not sure how this is going to work out. The Spirit does tell me that I’m going to face chains, tribulations, at least, but none of these things move me. And here’s the part I want to get to: “Nor do I count my life dear.” Driven by compulsion, now driven by calculation. He undertakes a calculated risk. This is a calculated risk Paul is taking. He has calculated that he’s nothing. He’s calculated Jesus is everything, and he’s calculated that losing your life for Christ is worth it. That’s what he’s calculated.
You know, the word “I count not my life dear,” literally in the Greek, it means “not a single word.” He’s basically saying, “I’m so committed to the gospel that whatever it cost me to pursue God’s will for my life, I’m fine. My life isn’t even worth the mention. To put me as a footnote on a page of church history, that would be too much.” That’s where I’m at. My life is nothing compared to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is so precious and the blood that bought me so precious and the promises that He’s given me so great and precious that I’ll surrender anything to Him. I’ll give anything to Him.
There was this sense of expendability, wasn’t there? You get that in Paul’s writings, don’t you? That’d be just an example of that would be 2 Corinthians 4:7–10: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
We quoted earlier, Philippians 1:20–21: “Whether by life or by death.” I just want Christ to be magnified in my body. Like David Livingstone, whom we quoted earlier in a quote about Spurgeon . . . David Livingstone said that he placed no value on anything he had or possessed except in relationship to the kingdom of God. Now, how is that? I’ll tell you how it is.
Let’s listen to Paul. This is his biography. This is Paul describing his conversion. This is how he moves from binding Christians to being bound in the Spirit. Philippians 3:7. He’s already talked about the fact, hey, if you’re going to have confidence in the flesh, let me read my resume as “a Hebrew of Hebrews,” as a leader in the nation; “concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me [socially, economically in friendship and status in the culture], these I have counted loss for Christ.”
That’s the language of estimation, calculation, accountancy. “. . . I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish.” That’s too polite. The Greek word is “excrement”¬¬—“dung,” as the Old King James says. It should have been left. “I count it all dung, that I may gain Christ.” Now, he’s already gained Christ. What he means by that is gaining power, the work of God expanding in his life, and ultimately gaining reward and the “well done, good and faithful servant.”
But it’s all based on what? He has estimated Jesus to be so glorious, so precious, so marvelous, God in human flesh. No one spoke like Him. We saw His miracles. We heard His words. “He died for me,” says Paul. He conquered death; He rose. He’s at the right hand of God. He’s coming back, and all the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and Savior.
Given who He is, given who I am in Him, given what’s coming in the kingdom come—I count anything that gets in the way of enjoying Him, experiencing Him, glorifying Him . . . I count that nothing. Lord, have it. Lord, take it because Jesus is worth it.
That’s where we’re at, guys. Well, how can he say in Acts 20, “I don’t count my life dear”? Because he counts Jesus so dear that to spread His name, to preach His gospel, to build His church, to love His enemies—that’s a price worth paying. Risk involves calculation, and Paul was willing to risk it all, given the value he placed on Jesus. And I want to tell you this, guys, that your Christianity and the impact of your life eternally will rise and fall in the value you put on Jesus, His church, His day of worship, His word, His people, His mission in the world.
C. T. Studd, I think, says it for us. You read his story, a life of selflessness, sacrifice, Africa, China. He was a cricketer, all right? Cricket. Who wants to play cricket? But let you just say this, big sport in the UK, big sport in England. So, he is like an NFL player. He gave it all up. He was born a blue blood; he was rich and inherited an inheritance. He gave it all up, went to Africa, put his health, his fortune, his future, his family in the line of fire. How? Why? Here’s the secret. Listen: “If Jesus Christ be God”—the implication isn’t He is—“and died for me”—he did—“then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” You see the logic? You see the reason? You see the gospel motivation? Jesus is God, and the cross is real, and the gospel is true. There’s just only one path you can take. Then, there’s no sacrifice too great, given His great sacrifice, for me to make for Him.
So, if you and I are not sacrificing, if we’re not risking, if we’re not putting it out there, we’re not gospel men; we’re not cross-bearing man. In fact, we don’t think Jesus is worth it. Scary, isn’t it?
Let’s get to the last thought: driven by coronation. Driven by coronation. Back to verse 24: “But none of these things move me”—that’s the chains and the tribulations—“nor do I count my life dear to myself”—it’s not mine anyway; It’s His, isn’t it?—“so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
As we close, guys, Paul was animated and fortified by thoughts of eternal reward. He wants to finish his race with joy, whatever the risk. And you know what? I haven’t defined risk, but I assume you know what that involves. It’s the loss of something or injury to your body. Whatever the risk—loss to myself, injury to myself—it will be worth it when I, you, see Jesus. Because I want to finish the race, the course that God has set before me, with joy. I want to hear that “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:21).
It’s a great image, isn’t it? This idea? Life’s a race, guys. It’s a race. You and I are in a race, and it’s a race to the finish, which is death and then heaven and glory, millennial kingdom, eternal state, new heaven, new earth. That’s what’s beyond the finish line. That’s the joy that lies beyond. Life is a race that’s got to be competed in and completed with honor and joy. In fact, earlier, that’s how Paul describes the life of John the Baptist. Go back to Acts 13:25, and here’s what we read about good old John the Baptist. “As John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.’”
In fact, in that same passage, we read about David, in one of my favorite verses in the book of Acts, verse 36: “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers.” John ran his course. David did the will of God. I want to join them. I want to run my race right to the finish. I want to fall over the finish line, breathless or bloodied, with my testimony intact, with my commitment to Jesus Christ total and complete. Right? That’s 1 Corinthians 9:24, where he takes that image of running and wrestling and tells us, I run so as to win. Win what? We just did Ephesians 2:1–10. It can’t be salvation he’s trying to win. That’s grace—faith alone in Christ alone, not of yourselves. It’s a gift of God. What’s the win? It’s winning the “well done.” It’s winning eternal reward. It’s winning administration in the millennial kingdom. It’s winning eternal reward.
You realize there’s degrees of glory in heaven, just as there are degrees of punishment in hell? That’s why 2 John 8 talks about not falling short of your full reward. Read Randy Alcorn on heaven if that’s something that’s creating a blank stare in you. Maybe you read my friend Mark Hitchcock’s book on eternal rewards. Get fired up about the fact that you and I can win certain rewards, certain blessings in the life to come. And Paul’s got that in mind. Paul is positive proof that those who did most in this life were those who thought most about the next life.
Listen, if there’s another life . . . Do you believe there’s another life? Yeah, at least in theory you do. What about practice? If there’s another life, and there are rewards to be won in the next life determined by what you’re doing this life—if that’s true (and it is true)—then isn’t risk worth it because of the outcome? Of course it is.
Listen to Romans 8:18: “For I consider . . .” That’s another accounting word again: I count; I estimate. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time . . .” and risk can put you in the way of suffering. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Similar thought. 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing” because we’re putting ourselves in the way of risk.
Paul says, I’m in peril all the time. I’m in jeopardy every day. Not only am I dying like everybody else, but I’m being punished. My body has dealt with shipwreck, nakedness, hunger, peril of robbers, beatings. I’m perishing. My body’s not a living specimen of manhood; it’s a living sacrifice. But I’m not losing heart. I’m being renewed day by day. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (v. 17).
Driven by compulsion. Driven by calculation. Driven by coronation. Short-term losses that come with risk lead to long-term gains that come with faithfulness. He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.
Paul’s focus was not on a long life but a full one. Just pause, guys. We’re wrapping up. I want to drink that in. What’s your focus? I hope the Lord gives you long life. There are prayers in the Bible about that, that you live long enough. It’s one of my prayers to see your children’s children and peace on Jerusalem. But you know what? It’s not really about a long life; it’s about a full one, one dedicated to Jesus Christ, full of love, full of dedication, full of risk. Because either life is one big adventure, like Helen Keller said, or nothing. You can’t avoid risk in life or the Christian life. If you’re not willing to risk anything, you’re going to risk everything. Don’t focus on a long life. Focus on a full one. Don’t come short of your full reward. 2 John 8. 2 Peter 1:11. Make your calling and election sure. Add to your faith. Be diligent in spiritual matters so that you might have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom. God make you dangerous.
Let me finish. Back to C. T. Studd. Right? “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” No. And he made a sacrifice. He left England—cricketer, sporting life ahead of him, blue blood from an elite school. But one day he was in Liverpool, 1908, and he saw this sign: “Cannibals want missionaries.” I’m not sure how I would’ve read that. Yeah, they want us to eat us. But that’s what he saw: “Cannibals want missionaries.” The sign had been put up by a man by the name of Carl Chum, who was burdened for reaching an unreached people in the Nile to Niger region of Central Africa.
C. T. Studd embraced that. He was poor in health. For a time, he’d have to leave his wife. He was getting into a dangerous situation, but here’s what he said in terms of justifying his decision to move forward: “Last June at the mouth of the Congo there awaited a thousand prospectors, traders, merchants and gold seekers, waiting to rush into these regions as soon as the government opened the door to them, for rumor declared that there is an abundance of gold. If such men hear so loudly the call of gold and obey it, can it be that the ears of Christ’s soldiers are deaf to the call of God . . . ? Are gamblers for gold so many, and gamblers for God so few?” And he did it. He did it with an eternal perspective because earlier—around the time when he sold his fortune, gave up his sporting career—his brother had been sick, and he was confronted with eternity and eternal values. And here’s what C. T. Studd said: “What is all the fame and flattering? What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face Eternity?” He also said, “I know that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come.”
That’s why he gambled his soul, keeping, health, and comfort. He gambled it all because it would be worth it all when he saw Christ.
Lord, make us dangerous. Help us to know the difference between testing You and taking a risk. This isn’t a call to self-exalting heroism. This isn’t a call to a martyr complex. But it is a call to not run away from the clear will of God and the clear Word of God when we’re confronted with cost, when going to the mission field involves risk, when standing up for Jesus in the business world is at a risk to one’s self and one’s employment.
Lord, help us to fear the enchantment of security. Help us to repent of the lust for safety. Help us to be driven by compulsion, having surrendered it all. Help us to be driven by calculation, for Jesus is worth it all. Help us to be driven by coronation. Someday we’ll be glad we did it when we are at your right hand, where there are pleasures forevermore. And we’ll say to ourselves, “It’s worth it all,” now that we’ve seen Jesus.
Thank You for these men. Now we’ve heard the Word of God. We’ve got to meditate on it. We’ve got to repent of sin. We’ve got yield afresh. We’ve got to obey. Give us the grace, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.