Friday, November 25, 2011

Faith is Risk Taking

Eli Stanley Jones (1884-1973)
The great 20th Century Methodist missionary to India, E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) is one of my favourite persons I love to quote from. When serving in India, he was one of the key Christian influences on Mahatma Gandhi. He worked with the lowest of the lowest, in particular the Dalits. He wrote with a conviction to wake up the sleepy church. He spoke with passion to rebuke the naysayers. He even influenced major figures like Dr Martin Luther King Jr, who went on to famously start the non-violent human rights movement.

Rebuking the Risk-Averse Believers

The article below is a particularly moving one, and speaks to the modern church that is fearful of taking risks. It rebukes the 'negative' spirit among many Christians, and exhorts all to adopt a 'positive' way to live. I learned that taking risks is not an option. It is a must if anyone of us wants to be a disciple. Maybe, 'must' is a strong word. Perhaps, at least, if any of us are NOT willing to take risks, let us then NOT deter, distract, or discourage others with our own risk-averse or negativity. Let us learn to focus on Christ, and take Him at His Word, His promise to be with us, especially when we take risks for gospel sake. Some of the precious gems I learned are:

  • We are our biggest prisoners.
  • The biggest mistake is the 'fear of making mistakes.'
  • Don't build our spiritual lives around negatives.
  • Don't be focused so much on the small things, that we miss out the big picture.
  • That we can often behave like the Pharisees, who sees 'criticisms' when Jesus sees 'conversions,' and who 'pick flaws' over 'followers.'

Below is a reproduction of Eli Stanley Jones's article printed on a newspaper in Texas. I have highlighted my favourite parts in bold blue. Take my word. The article is worth your time.

(Published: "The Evening Journal," 23 June 1954)
By: E. Stanley Jones

A dentist who was successful as a dentist – he filled cavities with positive remedies – was a failure as a moral being, for he said to himself: “I am a man who thinks all around a subject, but I never make up my mind and act.” Everything for him was 'sickfilled over by the pale cast of thought.' The thought never took legs and began to walk; It remained a thought. Many are so afraid of making a mistake that they don’t make anything else. They have so much tact that they have no contact.

'Any life truly lived is a risky business, and if one puts up too many fences against the risks, one ends in shutting out life itself. Many are prisoners of their own fears of making mistakes. There are many who are afraid to speak to others about Christ, for they are afraid of making mistakes. But the biggest mistake is not to do it. If a man doesn’t make mistakes, he doesn’t make anything else. The biggest mistake is the fear of making mistakes. It leaves on negative, and that is a mistake.

There are some who build their whole lives around negatives. Note: “Now the Pharisees gathered to meet him, with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of his disciples ate their food with common (that is unwashed) hands (Mark 7:1-2, Moffatt). They came all the way from Jerusalem to meet Him, and their life attitudes were so negative and faultfinding that all they saw was unwashed hands. They couldn’t see the greatest movement of redemption that had ever touched our planet – a movement that was cleansing the minds and souls and bodies of men. All they saw was a ritualistic infringement. Their eyes were open wide to the little and marginal and blind to the big. So history forgets them, the negative – forgets them except as a background for this impact of the positive Christ. They left a criticism; he left a conversion. They picked flaws, He picked followers.

There is only one way to live – the positive way. There is only one way to die – the negative way.

O Christ, I thank Thee for Thy awakening, stimulating impact upon my spirit. Thou dost produce life at every touch. Amen.

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am not afraid to make mistakes, for I’m out to make something bigger than the “I's.”


Wow. When we are too focused on the I, me, myself, how pathetically small and limited our world is. When our eyes are focused on Christ, our world expands beyond ourselves. Faith is taking risks by living beyond ourselves, for Christ. We are not called to build a kingdom of 'I.' We are called to build and to be a part of the kingdom of God.


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