Risk is right
In 1976, Ron started a company with two of his friends. Just two weeks after starting the company, Ron became impatient about whether this whole startup thing was worth his time. His two friends were big on ideas but knew nothing about business. Their startup was in a garage, not in a trendy warehouse conversion. Ron was quite a bit older than the other two; he had seen this sort of thing before; before he knows it, he’ll be selling his house to pay debts. Ron had a family to think about. So just two weeks into the company, Ron sold his 10% share for $800, and found something less risky to do with his time.
The name of that company was Apple Computers. And Ron Wayne’s two friends were Apple co-founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Today Apple is the most valuable company in the world. Had Ron stuck with it, his 10% stake would be worth $75-100 billion today! What looked weak and risky to Ron, was actually a great cause, worth giving his life to.
The same is true of Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28. In those few verses, He lays down His great cause for His disciples in every age.
Yes, there’s risk.
- Jesus says, “Make disciples of all nations.” That means regardless of people’s cultural or religious background. Everyone must turn to Christ and live for him. That’s a risky message in a ‘tolerant’ society!
- When churches send out missionaries and church planting teams it is costly for the sending church. They don’t know how quickly they will replenish and find people to step up to serve in gaps that are left.
- Frontline evangelism and church planting and cross-cultural mission are risky. We face the possibility of failure, embarrassment, painful rejection by our families, friends, neighbours and community. In some parts of the world the risks are far greater.
- And there are relational costs even with our Christian brothers and sisters – leaving to another mission field or to a new place to plant a church means missing out on fellowship, distancing of good friendships. And then there’s their kids, who will have to adjust to being in a much smaller Sunday school.
Yes, there’s weakness. Jesus says, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”
- Preaching seems weak. The Cross seems weak. ‘Teach’ is not a popular word. ‘Obey’ is not a popular word. ‘Commanded’ is not a popular word.
- On a Sunday morning, when people could be at a Yoga class, at the Arsenal game or taking the kids to Winter Wonderland, we ask people to gather in an obscure building, with people they wouldn’t ordinarily hang out with, in order to hear the Bible taught. That seems a very weak option.
However, if we are not to do a Ronald Wayne with our Christian lives, we must receive the great commission of Matthew 28 as the great cause for our lives.
A powerful authority
I imagine Ron would have found it much harder to ditch Apple, if the co-founders in 1976, were the Chief Engineer of IBM and CEO of Goldman Sachs. If the Chief Engineer of what was the world’s largest computing company, and the CEO of the world’s most powerful investment bank say, “Ron! This startup will change the future of computing” That carries enough weight to keep you going for the next 30 years.
How much weightier are Jesus’ words, when we consider His authority.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matt. 28:18)
This is the risen Jesus speaking to his disciples. The man who died in the weakness of the cross, has now been publicly vindicated as the risen Lord whom God sent.
Earlier in verse 17, we’re told that when the disciples saw him risen, some connected the dots and began to worship him. If Jesus is not condemned to death but is risen then He must be the Messiah that he claimed to be. God’s promised end-times King over everyone. The one Daniel saw in the vision we read in Daniel 7 - a promised son of man, whom God himself will give all “authority, glory and sovereign power”. A king who will be worshipped by all nations and peoples; meaning that He is equally recognised as God.
It is with this authority that Jesus says, to his disciples back then and in every age, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Here is the great cause that deserves our attention and energy.
A trustworthy friend
Ron Wayne did an interview a few years ago, and here’s what he said about his decision to bail out of Apple:
"I felt the enterprise would be successful, but at the same time there would be bumps along the way and I couldn't risk it. I had already had a rather unfortunate business experience before. I was getting too old and those two were whirlwinds. It was like having a tiger by the tail and I couldn't keep up with these guys." (Daily Telegraph, 23 April 2010)
Very telling isn’t it? “I couldn’t risk it.” I wonder whether, in the end, what Ronald really needed, but never got, was a trustworthy friend to tell him, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll be with you the whole time. It’s worth the risk.” That would have made all the difference for him.
Jesus doesn’t just give us the great commission, and then disappear off into the horizon leaving us to carry all the risk. He backs it up with a promise to be personally with us every step.
Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”. (Matt. 28:20)
Let’s face it, obedience to the great commission will be risky. It’s risky because we do not know what the outcome will be. But against all these risks, we have the promise of the risen Lord Jesus. The Lord who loves us so much, that He left the joy of heaven for the anguish of the cross, to save us for eternity with Him.
We can trust him when he says he will be with us. He’s now risen in glory, and He says with all authority over heaven and earth, “I am with you always.” Christ is with us by the Holy Spirit. He will help us trust in the complete sovereignty of God in the face of risk.
As American preacher John Piper puts it;
“Risk is possible because we don’t know how things will turn out. [But] God can take no risks…since he knows the outcome of all his actions before they happen.” [Piper, Risk is Right]
I don’t know about you, but this is a great comfort to me. We can take risks for Jesus because God isn’t taking any risks. This frees us up to boldly get on with evangelism and planting churches in the power of the Spirit.
Zim Okoli leads New Life Catford with Remi Adedire.