By Rick Warren
Part of leadership is taking risks. Wise leaders ensure they take wise risks. We have been looking at how to be sure your risks are wise. Let’s review. If I’m going to take a wise risk, first I get the facts. Then I count the cost. Then I plan my steps. Announce your goal. And, of course, throughout every step, you pray. This month we will look at the final two steps in taking wise risks. So far, we have looked at the first four steps. Get the facts. Count the cost. Plan your steps. Announce your goal. Let’s look at the final two.
5. Launch out in faith.
At some point you have to stop dreaming and you have to start working to make that dream come true. Dreams are worthless unless you do something about them. I hate to tell you this, but every dream involves work. One time I was speaking to 350 African American pastors in Philadelphia and said, “Martin Luther King said I have a dream. I’m here to say to you, I have a To Do list!” Because any dream has to eventually be turned into something you do. You launch out in faith.
I love this verse, Exodus 14:15 “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Quit praying and get the people moving.’” I love that. And I think God would say that to some of you. Stop praying! Get on with it. If you are not careful, you can use prayer as an excuse to procrastinate. There comes a time when you must not only pray, but also begin taking action!
My dad used to tell me, “Remember that turtles only make progress when they stick their neck out.” So for thirty years I’ve been sticking my neck out. As a ministry leader, part of your job is taking risks and sticking your neck out.
Let me tell you the most difficult part of that. The most difficult part is letting go of the old. It’s kind of like when you are on a trapeze. You are swinging on this trapeze bar and you have to let go of one bar to grab the other. You always have to let go at some point.
When you’re on a trapeze and you swing out on the trapeze there is a split second when you let go of one and before you grab the next one. There is a split second when you are hundreds of feet in the air and you are hanging on to nothing. During that millisecond you are hanging onto thin air.
Some of you are there right now. Right now in your life you’re hanging on to thin air. You’ve already let go of the old but you haven’t grabbed on to the new yet. That is the most difficult part – the moment when you need to make a decision and take action. Like 25 years ago when God told Kay and me to leave Texas and drive 1500 miles to start a church where we had no money, no members, no building and didn’t know a single person. That’s hanging onto thin air. We needed to let go of the familiar and reach for our dream. That is a moment of faith. And that’s exactly where God wants you to be. Because when you think you are suspended in thin air, what you don’t realize is right underneath you, God is your safety net. He’s there holding you up.
Courage is not the absence of fear. It is moving ahead in spite of your fear. If you’re not afraid, you don’t need courage. Courage is when you do the thing you fear the most. I’ll be honest with you. In the last 30 years of serving as Lead Pastor at Saddleback, every major accomplishment we have made was accompanied by a great deal of fear. But I also knew God would be there for me. So, I stepped out in faith and did the thing I was afraid to do. Never let fear manipulate your life. You might be afraid, but follow God’s leading and make that dream come true. Acting in faith will always be rewarded.
So where do you get that kind of courage to launch out in faith in your ministry when there’s something you always wanted to do but you’ve been afraid to do it?
Here’s how you do it. When you launch out, you look up. You don’t look at the problem. You look at God. And He will give you that courage to do the thing you are scared to death to do. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:5 that our competence comes from God. If we will step out in faith and take action, God will give us the power.
A while back, I was in a bookstore in England signing books. A little old lady came up to me and said, “Your book has changed my life. I’m 73 years old and I’m a member of a little church of about twenty, twenty-five people. Our church decided to do 40 Days of Purpose. We read about small groups and decided we’ve got to get small groups. We heard this thing about exponential faith that you add a zero on it, you stretch and you try something you know you couldn’t do on your own power. We decided our church of twenty people we would start six small groups.” I’m thinking this is incredible.
Then she said, “Then we decided they had to have leaders, they had to have a host. I remembered on the video you talk about what is a host. You don’t have to teach anything. You’re just a host. And host is H-O-S-T which stands for Have a heart for people, Open up your home, Serve them some coffee, Turn on the DVD player. So they all looked at me and said, ‘Mabel you be a host’. I said, ‘Me? I’m 73 years old! I can’t do that.’” But she did.
She said, “I’ve got a heart for people, yeah, I could open up my home. I could serve them something to drink. Yeah, I could push the button and turn on the DVD player.” So, at 73 years old agrees to be a host, a small group leader. She said, “I didn’t even know what a small group was! Now my life has been liberated! I’m so free and I’m having so much fun. I’m growing more than I’ve ever grown before.!”
I had mixed emotions when I heard her story. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hug her. Here’s this 73 year old woman who, despite her fear, steps out in faith and takes action. Seventy-three years of age and she’s still taking a risk. She’s still growing. She’s still stretching.
I was so proud of her for being willing to say, I will let go of that trapeze and grab on to the next one. I’ve never done this in my life, I’m 73 years old but I’ll try it. I was so happy and thrilled for her. At the same time I thought, “I wish somebody had told her that fifty years ago so she could have had fifty years of freedom and liberty and joy!”
I hope you don’t wait that long to start doing what God wants you to do. Launch out in faith, walk right through your fears, and take action in leading your ministry.
6. Motivation. Do it in love.
It’s love that motivates us over the long haul. The Bible says there is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out all fear. The antidote to fear is love. What motivates a father to run into a burning building at his own risk of death in order to grab a child? Love. When the love is greater than the fear then it moves us to do things we never thought we could do. There is no fear in love.
You want to get rid of the fear in your life? Invite God’s love into your heart. When love comes in the front door, fear goes out the back door. You cannot have love and fear in your heart at the same time. The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” So the more you learn to love God and you learn to love other people, the less fearful you’re going to be. Filling your heart with God’s love will give you the power to do the right thing.
Love is the secret of courage. It’s also the secret of persistence. It gives you the ability to keep on keeping on when you want to give up. The Bible tell us, “Love never fails.” Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Let me ask you two really important questions. Here’s the first one: What is the Red Sea in your life right now? What’s your personal Red Sea? You have a problem in front of you. It seems as if the mountains are on either side and the enemy is breathing down your neck. You don’t see a way out of your problem. There is no way to cross your Red Sea.
Here’s my advice to you. Quit running away from it. Face your fear. Do the very thing you fear the most. There’s only one way to get to the Promised Land. You’ve got to go through the Red Sea. You won’t be on your own. God will be with you. There will be other believers who will be with you. But it will up to you to take that first step in love.
Here’s the other question I want to ask you. What should you quit praying about and just start doing? You know this is what God wants you to do and you are using prayer to procrastinate. If you haven’t surrendered your life to Christ, you will live in slavery and pain. Take the risk. Make the commitment. Say, Ok God. Today’s the day.
The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (NIV).” That’s the greatest risk ever taken. And it was taken for you. God risked His Son. That was a risk motivated by love. What risk is God asking you to take in your ministry? More importantly, what are you waiting for?
Get the facts. Count the cost. Plan your steps. Announce your goal. Launch out in faith. And do it in love. Today is the day.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and author of such internationally best-selling books such as The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.