photo of a shepherd leading sheep with arrows pointing ahead

Risk and the Good Shepherd

Following Jesus is a life of adventure. It is a life of faith. It is a life of risk. I’ve known Jesus for many years now, but it is His ability to lead me that has recently captivated me. Amidst the adventure and unknown and downright scary, I find peace in the knowledge that He is the Good Shepherd.

I love the adventure, the exploration of new territory in life, and the discovery of unexpected joys that come from living life with God. I am moved when I see bold faith, whether in my life or witnessing it in the lives of others. I love the stories of victory, of healing, of transformation, of what my God can do. But embracing risk, that is a bit of a different story.

I’m a little more hesitant with risk because, well, it’s risky. When I take a risk, there is an opportunity for failure. Things may not work out the way I hoped. Risk means potentially losing something of value: money, time, reputation, maybe even life. But the truth I’ve discovered is, like it or not, risk is an essential part of following Jesus. Faith requires action. James pointed to Abraham’s life as evidence that “faith without deeds is useless” (James 2:20). The Danish theologian, Søren Kierkegaard reasoned, “Without risk there is no faith.” “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). Risk is the action of our faith, which pleases God.

Risk: Faith or Presumption?

So how do we know when to take a risk? The faith to embrace risk is based in knowing and following the Good Shepherd. If I have faith that Jesus, the Good Shepherd is leading me into something, I can trust Him in the process. The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 took action based on God’s word and character:

  • Noah built an ark because the Lord told him to.
  • Abraham journeyed to a new land when he was called by God.
  • Abraham offered his son when tested by God, trusting in God’s ability to fulfill his promise.
  • Sarah conceived a child because “she considered him faithful who had promised”.

In the same way, we follow Jesus based on His word and character. He is the good shepherd. He laid down His life for His sheep. We hear His voice. We know Him. And we follow Him.

Following Jesus requires risk, but recognizing him as the good shepherd brings us the peace we need in the process. If we know He has spoken, we can trust where He is leading.

Psalm 23 reveals the nature of our shepherd. In Him, there is provision, there is peace, and there is protection. He leads us along the right path. Even when that path takes us “through the darkest valley” (HCSB), we do not need to fear. He walks with us and His rod and staff, his protection, correction, and authority, bring us comfort. If we are in danger, He defends us. Not only does He defend us, but he actually prepares a table, a feast, a celebration in the very presence of our enemies. Talk about peace amidst risk!

The Power of Obedience

If we head the wrong direction, He uses the crook of his staff to bring us back on course. What comfort is there in knowing our Shepherd will keep us on the right path? At times the risk of making a misstep can keep us from taking any step at all. But we needn’t be immobilized. George Whitfield resisted entering ministry as a young man for fear he would become too proud, but then he had a revelation of Jesus as his Good Shepherd. He recognized that no one could snatch him from his Shepherd’s hand, not even himself. This knowledge gave him the faith to take the risk, and revival resulted. What can God do with us if we are willing to take the risk? If we go the wrong way, trust that He can and will bring us back on course. When we aren’t certain if we are headed the right way, we can be at peace. We can trust that if we follow His voice, we are on the right path, and if we get off the path, He will guide us back.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” — Psalm 32:8

Every believer hears God. The Apostle Paul even says that we can, each of us, prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:31). It’s my inheritance, your inheritance to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and have the power to obey. So when we take a risk, it is a step of faith. That’s why we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. The path may appear to be a dead end, but that doesn’t mean it is. Just remember looks can be deceiving. Imagine what the Israelites felt with the Egyptian army behind them and the sea in front of them. Imagine what Moses felt. Moses obeyed God’s command. He saw God’s faithful miracles. Suddenly they were in an impossible situation. But God made a way for them. The disastrous situation that appeared to be the end of Israel became their greatest breakthrough into freedom. The same God who led Israel on dry ground will lead you in the way He makes for you. Trust Him.

William Seymour’s obedience to the voice of the Lord was a catalyst for one of the greatest revivals and mission movements the world has ever seen. Yet there was a time when it looked like He had missed it. When Seymour received an invitation to move to Los Angeles to pastor a holiness church, his mentor told him he wasn’t ready. However, believing that the Lord had called him, Seymour took the risk and moved to Los Angeles. Within the first week, he was barred from ministering in the very church he had agreed to pastor. Can you imagine what he must have felt? He moved across the country against the advice of his mentor, only to be rejected and fail at his mission. Seymour put his trust in the Lord. He met with a friend daily for prayer, and a short time later the Holy Spirit fell upon a small prayer meeting on Bonnie Brae Street. His apparent failure came just before his moment of destiny.

Next Steps

This week can become a week of forward movement for each of us. Let’s agree to engage with the Good Shepherd this week, allowing Him to reframe our fears of risk, to heal us of any lies we’ve believed about failure, to train us to hear Him more clearly, and to give us a fresh dose of confidence in following Him. A good declaration to make over yourself this week:

In the middle of the storm, He is leading me. In the green pasture, the place of provision and rest, He is leading me. In the presence of my enemies, He is leading me. He prepares a feast, a celebration in a time of war. I do not need to fear. I will not fear.

– Charity Cook

P.S. If this article resonated with you and you’re looking for more, my new teaching “Kingdom Greatness” is on our Store. I’ll also be speaking at Voice of the Apostles and Kingdom Foundations.

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