Taking risks is a part of life, but some people like to gamble more than others. Some people enjoy the thrill of jumping from airplanes (skydiving) or even rock climbing. Some people get addicted to the thrill of gambling with their finances. Many of us have taken another big risk of falling in love, getting married, and giving our lives away to another person. Love is a risk, and every man has had moments where he had to put himself out there, and be brave just to see if she felt the same way about him. Everyday in our country people take risks: some legal and some illegal, and sometimes they do things against the law and don’t get caught, and other times they do get caught.
The Apostle Paul in the New Testament book of Acts had taken some risks on each of his 3 missionary journeys. It was illegal to spread the gospel in almost all of the places he preached. He had been thrown in jail in many of the towns he preached in. Nine times out of ten the charges amounted to “disturbing the peace”, or “inciting riots”. He wasn’t a violent person, and he never told people to destroy anything or to disrupt the establishment, but the preaching of Jesus Christ will always have opposition.
In the letter he wrote to the Philippians, he wrote, “I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me (his arrest in Rome) has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ” (Phillippians 1:12-13). Paul had been doing more risk taking. He had been witnessing to the Imperial guards who were chained to him under his arrest in Rome. In fact, Paul had a different guard chained to him every 6 hours. As they completed their 6 hour shift, another guard would show up, and Paul would start telling this new one about Jesus. As time wore on, many of those guards probably became Christians, and the word got out: Paul was in prison because of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul in his younger years, had been a ladder climber. He was very zealous for the Jewish faith. He had even killed and imprisoned Christians, but the Lord found him on the Damascus road. Jesus himself, with a bright light, shone down from heaven and confronted Paul telling him he was persecuting and fighting against the very Son of God by doing what he was doing. Paul repented and gave his life to Christ. He became someone who was willing to risk everything for Jesus. His motto became: to live is Christ and to die is gain so that whether by life or death Christ was going to be magnified and glorified in his life. There’s a lot of things that people will live for, and a few things that people will die for.
Paul had found the pearl of great price. He had found the One worth living for and dying for. Paul had also discovered that just because something bad happened to him, didn’t mean that God couldn’t use it to spread Jesus to more people. I recently read a story about the spread of the Coronavirus in the Wuhan province of China, and how the Christians there have become very bold in evangelism. They normally would be arrested for openly evangelizing and preaching Jesus, but they have been dressing up in hazmat suits, and giving away medical breathing masks to any people who will listen to their message about Jesus. As you can imagine many people need those protective breathing masks, and even the police have come to them to get masks and hear the message of Jesus. God is using this horrible virus to save people who would normally never get to hear about Jesus. He is in the business of using bad situations to do good. In the actual Greek language Paul wrote Philippians in, that verse literally says, “to live- Christ, and to die - gain”. There are no verbs. If Paul lived on it would be for Jesus, and the spread of His message. If Paul died, it would mean Heaven was waiting for him. Paul had found his reason for living and dying, have you?
Brian Taylor began his ministry as a young man on the foreign mission field of Togo, West Africa serving with the International Mission Board of the SBC. He spent almost a decade serving as a music and youth minister in the Panhandle of Texas. He loves preaching and pastoring on the southside of Sherman. He has been married to his wife Sarah for 17 years, and they have five children. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.